Throughout India's democratic history, voters have seen some really weird — if not outright bizarre — campaigning methods that strangeness might as well have become the norm in the largest democratic polling exercise in the world. From bizarre election leaflets depicting leaders as mythical characters, to outright attempts to bribe voters, those who track elections closely believe nothing is unexpected of our politicians.
Yet, this election season, a TRS leader managed to grab eyeballs when he decided to give his voters a close shave, you know just to emphasise how he is ready to do their seva. Madhusudan Chari, a former speaker of the Telangana Assembly decided to deliver his poll pitch at a barber's shop in Bhupalpally while the voters were strapped on to chairs, a razor blade close up to their throat. However, the former legislator surprised many when he grabbed the razor and started giving a shave to one of the people sitting their, while convincing people to vote for him because he was ready to serve them. Another video of Chari, shows him touching a voter's feet is also doing the rounds.
Former TRS lawmaker and party's candidate from Thungathurthi, Gadari Kishore matched his party colleagues strategy. Kishore took his foot march campaign inside a salon and began giving voters a haircut, while impressing upon them the reasons why they should vote him back in power.
The mantra for 'seva' of voters is taken a step ahead by another TRS legislator Shakeel Ahmed who hand feeds voters while seeking re-election on Bodhan seat.
Another TRS leader from Illandu constituency, Koram Kanakaiah helped a voter bathe while visiting his home to appeal for a vote, according to a report in a local news website. "I helped the person take a bath not because I wanted to get more votes. I helped him on humanitarian grounds. One of my supporters must have clicked the photos and posted them on social media,'' Kanakaiah said.
Similarly, TRS candidate from Mahbubnagar, Srinivas Goud, is taking part in construction activities with labourers, knitting clothes on a sewing machine and helping women carry a pot of water while he chit chats about his poll promises and his party's achievements while in power. He was also seen peeling garlic with another lot while on the campaign trail.
TRS candidate from Mahabubabad constituency, Shankar Nayak decided to iron clothes of his voters to smooth over any concerns they may have in picking him over his opponents. When confronted about the reasons for taking on personal chores of voters, Nayak said, "No one insisted that I visit the laundry shop. I went there as part of the my campaign programme to express my sympathy and empathy for the dhobis in Telangana. Our KCR government has introduced many welfare schemes for not only dhobis but also the barber community."
These candidates' party, however, firmly backs their unusual campaigning strategy. Party leader Srinivas Reddy, for one, expressed no qualms in admitting that the bizarre election tactics were indeed a strategy to garner media attention, to ensure greater visibility for their candidates.
"Media will not publish their photos if these candidates do not indulge in such activities. I don't think these types of gimmicks will help candidates get more votes. They are just interested in getting enough publicity during the elections,'' TRS MLC Reddy said.
But newly-minted political party Telangana Jana Samiti's social media in-charge Srinivas Ranabothu calls these cheap election gimmicks.
"The TRS candidates are indulging in cheap gimmicks, as if the voters do not know how to have a proper bath or haircut. I think the TRS candidates know only these gimmicks. They are not seeking votes on developmental works taken by KCR government,'' he said.
According to The Times of India, the trend was not just limited to TRS. A Youth Congress leader was also seen engaging in whatever activity he finds his voter doing. He can be seen frying okra, or making dosa; there are some who are even ironing clothes.
Election Commission, which is toiling to ensure fair play in polls and implementation of Model Code of Conduct, said that political parties are coming up with unique ways to bypass the rules outlawing 'cash for votes'. A report in The Economic Times, states that videos are doing rounds showing villagers in Telangana taking oaths to vote for a certain candidate in return of monetary inducement after the poll. The report also mentions that politicians are also disributing coupons for claiming bottles of alcohol, and 'I owe you' notes that can be redeemed later for cash.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh BJP has yet another out of the way tactic this election season. If appeals, cajoling, and promises don't persuade voters, the party plans to enchant them into casting vote for its candidates with the help of magic tricks. According to a report in The Economic Times, sources in the BJP disclosed that the party will hire six magicians, a couple of jugglers, puppeteers, street play artistes and devotional singers to fuel its campaign in rural and sub-urban areas. The party had, similarly roped in local artistes in the run-up to the Gujarat elections, which it did win. However, whether or not these tactics will convert mob of supporters into voters remains to be seen.
With inputs from Team 101 Reporters
Updated Date: Nov 01, 2018 17:30 PM