August 31, 2020

Unlock-4 to ‘strengthen’ Parliamentary practice

New Delhi: Come September-India’s Covid fight, along with the world, will become more ‘stronger’ to brave the pandemic under the Unlock-4 guidelines effective from September 1, that will not only ensure more normalcy but also strengthen country’s ‘Dance of Democracy.’
Among the other measures like resumption of Metro rail services from September 7, the Unlock-4 has also approved gatherings-social, religious and political- limiting it to 100 people from September 21- a boon in respect of physical poll campaign, recently allowed by the Election Commission (EC), with regard to the Assembly Elections in Bihar in November.
After Bihar, the Trinamool Congress ruled Bengal will go to Assembly Polls in April-May,2021.
Even as some political parties had preferred postponement of the Bihar Polls and were having reservations relating to physical campaign in the poll bound state in view of of rising Coronavirus cases, the recent EC nod allowing physical campaign and the Unlock-4’s specification of it with strict social distancing norms have already enthused the electorate in Bihar as well as Bengal.
Interestingly, political leaders in Bihar were found ‘divided’ in the state recently relating to poll campaign,who were echoing the Shakespearean dilemma of “To be or Not…” while choosing between real or virtual?-the New Normal.
According to reports, though the Election in Bihar is less than three months away, the buzz of whirring helicopters, crowds gathering on poster-lined streets and roadshows is missing there.
Instead, political leaders are stuck in their offices trying to woo the electorate through Zoom meetings and WhatsApp messages.
Questions were doing the rounds in Bihar-“Is this the future of Netagiri?Will technology win over personal contact?”
While campaigns and voter connect have been going increasingly online over the years, experts said the pandemic will only accelerate the trend.
Campaigning in Bihar, for instance, has shifted to the digital realm for the most part.
The BJP and the Opposition have already powered over nearing 3000 WhatsApp groups that connect everyone from village-level worker to the state party president.
IT cell members have been running crash courses for party workers so they are able to juggle video-conferences by senior leaders and send pictures and videos to give an account of their political activities.
Virtual rallies like the one held by Union Home Minister Amit Shah could be a regular feature.
Bihar BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said that the party has been working overtime during the Lockdown to iron out initial hiccups of poor connectivity and access to smartphones.
According to Carnegie Endowment senior fellow and India watcher Milan Vaishnav, a fall-out of the digital campaign may be the rise of the campaign consultants.
“The new digital politics will accelerate the creation of this relatively new career pathway but could also lead to a lot of charlatans flooding the space,” he predicted.
In the recent years, political leaders ranging from Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal,YSR Congress’s Jagan Mohan Reddy to Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee have sought the support of political strategist Prashant Kishore and the role of such strategies is likely to increase.
The effectiveness of a unique digital campaign remains to be seen.
As Bihar LJP spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan said “It is the toughest for the candidates who must connect with people.The conventional modes of rallies and door-to-door campaigning are not possible.”
Maharashtra NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto said that interactions on the phone or social media are a temporary phase.
“Nothing can replace person to person interaction.Technology can be used to send a message but feelings cannot be replaced.This change will make politicians digitally aware.But soon politicians will have to go out to meet people to understand their current problems and help them,” Mr Castro observed.
Political scientist Suhas Palshikar agreed on the transient nature of the change.
“Earlier too, ‘leaders’ connected with people only indirectly through mass meetings, but a direct connect existed between people and local functionaries.That connect has now come under threat.But already important leaders have started stepping out and meeting people.So, clearly the present phase is likely to be both temporary and transient,” he said.
Congress’ Sushmita Dev said, “Indian politics is about person-to-person connect and people expect that.”
She further said ” People don’t understand when you tell them you could not visit them because of the pandemic – related bandh. In rural areas, it is business as usual and they expect their public representatives to turn up”.
She also pointed out that “The Opposition suffers the most because the anger and frustration of the people is not visible on the streets. And ,unless there is a crowd you cannot put public pressure on the government.”
Asked to comment on the Unlock-4 guidelines, the generation next welcomed it from all perspectives.
“The Unlock-4 guidelines are indications that we will triumph over the Covid-19 pandemic and go back to our normal lives and processes,” ,an engineering student Rajesh Kumar said.
Mr Kumar’s view was echoed in the observations of a medical aspirant Nalini Mehrotra who maintained “We are already on the normal process as the monsoon session of Parliament is likely to commence from September 14,” asserting -“We shall overcome.”
Meanwhile, India added 78,760 fresh cases to it’s Covid-19 tally in the last 24 hours taking the national caseload past the 3.5 million (35 lakh) mark amid an unprecedented spike in the pandemic numbers over the past seven days.

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