Polls, Politics and campaign have always attracted me. I have somehow developed a liking for Indian politics (you shouldn't arrive at any conclusions on me!!) and the tricks happening behind the scenes. I consider being a politician in India requires the highest order of courage, manipulative ability, doing double-talk, changing allegiance to groups and many more. All these things are required for a corporate executive as well to prosper and grow. So you can learn a lot from politicians!! No more ridiculing of the politicians!!
Coming back to polls and campaigns, I think with the recent strict rules enforced by the Election Commision of India with regard to wall graffitti has taken the sheen out of campaign. Wall posters and writings is the major medium of communication in Tamilnadu elections, I know of. I remember many elections, when you know of the candidates contesting the elections only through wall writings.
Writing poll campaigns on the walls is a long drawn process. It is not a simple exercise as imagined, it involves booking the wall space, safe-guarding it against encroachers and finally writing the advertisements. Many months before the due date for elections, the local political leaders start reserving the public wall space in the town/city by marking their party's code. For example, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam would book a space by marking it as "DMK 2009 FULL". They will draw a line from one end of the wall to the other. It denotes that the entire wall as been blocked by that party. You can read a Hindu article of 2005 here.
Then comes the "duty" of safeguarding the walls against political opponents. There is an element of gentleman agreement in this activity. If a wall has been reserved by a political party, the other parties dont try to seize that particular stretch. But at times, there can be rivalry and it can lead to acrimonious fight to protect the walls!! There are also some smart cookies here.. As mentioned in the above example, if DMK blocks the wall, they write DMK 2009 FULL. But there are number of instances when before the word D in DMK, ADMK partymen add a "A" silently in the night and try to claim it as their wall. So to avoid that, DMK started writing KDMK meaning Kalaignar DMK to keep away miscreants.
Now after the wall has been successfully safeguarded, then comes the important part of writing the message. The local partymen dont know who is going to contest the elections but they want to emphasise the symbol first. So they draw the images of their leaders like Jayalalitha or Karunanidhi along with the party symbols Two leaves and Rising Sun. They may also sometimes start writing the poll advertisements even before the poll dates are announced. So they make a provision in their wall advertisement for the election date.
The preliminary advertisement is completed, they wait for the candidate's name to be announced by the party. Once the candidate is announced, they then fill up the name of the candidate along with the election date. The advertisement cycle is complete for that election when the local wing's party secretary collects the money from the Candidate.
These poll grafitti would remain on the walls for many months or even years. You can still see 2006 Assembly election advertisements in few rural areas. As the political alliances change after the elections depending on their convenience, these poll advertisements remains as a stark reminder!!
Now the situation has changed. Election commission no longer allows poll grafitti and they even employ people to remove them. They do such a bad job removing them that the walls look uglier than before. Elections are not the same again without wall grafitti.
PS: I was in Kundrathur last weekend and I saw wall paintings and posters for the elections. A big difference between Chennai and its nearby suburbs. There are no restrictions on wall paintings or posters, I guess in these suburbs!!