With poll dates for the forthcoming Assembly elections in five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram – being announced, poll activity has heightened. In a bid to being these elections even closer to the people various language newspapers have embarked on pre-electoral campaigns. exchange4media takes a look. Sharing their poll-related coverage were leading language players like Dainik Bhaskar, Rajasthan Patrika and NaiDunia. Comments from Jagran Prakashan were unavailable at the time of filing this report.
Dainik Bhaskar had run a pre-electoral campaign – ‘You Decide’ – in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. It was an attempt to give voice to the people, wherein response was invited from readers about what they wanted included in the public manifesto as well as the criteria they would consider for choosing their candidates and parties.
Sharavan Garg, Group Editor, Dainik Bhaskar, explanied, “The ‘You Decide’ campaign was an innovative step towards understanding the people’s point of view about issues that really affect them or are relevant to them, and the factors that they evaluate their leaders on. We were overwhelmed with the response received and are proud to be the voice of our readers and their concerns.”
Readers were asked to send in their response through an innovative pre-paid inland letter published in the daily’s editions. The responses through this process highlighted seven issues that the reader considers as main issues for election in his state, three criteria while voting for a party and three criteria while voting for a candidate.
The campaign concluded in September in which over 50,000 responses were received. An in-depth analysis of the responses revealed diverse and interesting trends. Respondents from Chhattisgarh voted for education and employment as the most important issues in their manifesto, and demanded a party with a clean image and an honest candidate as their leader.
Sanjeev Kotnala, Vice-President, Dainik Bhaskar Corporation Ltd, said, “This unique process and the huge response to Bhaskar’s innovative differential in news reporting, provided voice to the common man in allowing them to create a public manifesto much in advance of the political parties’ manifestos. This is another example of how print media can share the responsibility entrusted by its readers. We were ready for a huge response, and the level of response speaks of the trust the readers have in the brand to rightly reflect and raise their voice.”
Readers from Madhya Pradesh opted for things closer home – better roads, electricity and adequate water supply ruled their manifesto. On the selection of the candidate and the party, the readers opted for the development policy and national outlook of the party and an educated and honest candidate.
Rajasthan was a revelation. Readers from the state unanimously voted terrorism as the biggest problem on their manifestos and indicated education and a clean image as the key criteria in the selection of the candidate and party, respectively.
The detailed results of the survey were published in Dainik Bhaskar’s editions on October 14 nationally.
Rajasthan Patrika is campaigning on issues such as bringing only people with a clean background for candidature. The paper is also stressing that an election manifesto should originate from the grassroot level and not just decided on by a few people.
Rajasthan Patrika’s campaign started quite early, in March 2008 to be precise. The campaign, called ‘Jaago Janmat’, is meant to awaken voters to exercise their right to vote and elect the right candidates to strengthen democracy. The campaign has been divided into three phases – meeting with grassroot workers and supporters of various political parties; democratising the process of making election manifestos and follow up; and scrutiny of the performance or parties and candidates in the newspaper.
In the first phase, Rajasthan Patrika conducted meetings with major political parties in each of the 33 district headquarters in Rajasthan to ignite the process of grassroot populace, with workers suggesting the manifestos, and advocated that only renowned people with clean background should stand in the elections.
In Phase II, such drafts were worked out and subsequently published in the newspaper. The impact of this phase has been seen in the fact that the political parties, which had earlier used to decide on manifestos sitting at state headquarters, had to go to the district offices to discuss various issues concerning the people and only then deciding on the election manifestos.
In the third phase, Rajasthan Patrika is publishing the ‘MLA report card’ in the newspaper for people to analyse the level of fulfillment of promises made during previous elections.
Bhuvnesh Jain, Deputy Editor, Rajasthan Patrika, said, “Rajasthan Patrika has been working towards strengthening the democratic roots over the years and campaigning rigorously so that only deserving and result-oriented political parties and candidates are given the opportunity to work for the development of the state and the society. The paper has also been reminding people to do justice to their duties as citizens of India by exercising their right to vote in the interest of democracy.”
NaiDunia, too, has its own campaign for the Assembly elections. A pre-poll survey is being conducted on NaiDunia’s web portal, Webdunia.com, as part of the ‘Survey prior to Elections 2008’ drive.
Pankaj Jain, President and CEO, Webdunia, said that this survey aimed to reflect not only the interests of the voters this time, but also help in motivating the young voters to come out and vote. A detailed report for individual states would also be printed on the paper as well as made available on the website after the conclusion of the survey.
Jain further said, “An increased interest has been seen among people towards online surveys. The election survey is meant to collect the views of people on various issues, such as how they rate the present Prime Minister; are people satisfied with the system of the Government; are they satisfied with the MLAs of elected constituency; which political party do they consider to be the most popular in the state; etc.”
Commenting on the trends shown during the survey, Jain said, “According to the pre-poll survey responses received till now – BJP is emerging as a strong party to win majority confidence vote of the people. Congress, on the other hand, remains the second choice for the voters. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh currently have BJP in power, while Congress is the ruling party in Delhi.”
Jain further said, “The survey results have shown that majority of people are looking for single party rule at the Centre rather than a coalition party. These trend results are at the primary stage, and might change as the elections draw near.”