Australian election campaigns are missing the masala

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Australia’s election season is lacklustre compared to India’s bold political campaigns

The political battlelines have been drawn; Australia goes to the polls on 2 July 2016. The country’s major political parties have gone into election overdrive, furiously campaigning across the nation, as the people of Australia get ready to elect the federal government for the next three years.

Talkback radio is going wild with political opinions, and prime time TV has political flavour to its programming across all major channels. Australia is abuzz with election fever.

election.Indian Link

Yet, some of us who have had the experience of growing up in India may find this election season in Australia a bit dull. Compared to election campaigning in India, the Australian version of this mega political event is rather bland.

Let’s start with the election slogans of the various political parties. Australia’s current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently began the Liberal Party’s election campaign under the slogan “Our Plan for a Stronger Economy”. That seems more like a statement than a slogan. “Abki baar, Modi Sarkaar” is a slogan. A cleverly crafted, rhyming, social media friendly, hashtagable, contemporary slogan.

Malcolm Turnbull election.Indian Link

Slogan’s aside, the emblems of Australian political parties also lack creative flair. Brooms, lotuses, palms, elephants, sickles, weighing scales, bicycles, arrows, and many such innovative emblems adorn the ballot papers in a typical Indian election. Now, imagine voting on a mundane Australian ballot paper that merely lists the party name, completely devoid of a colourful collection of election emblems. One must compliment the Australian Sex Party for lending some much-needed spice to the Aussie ballot paper.

election.Indian Link

In India, an election campaign is best delivered through a slender loudspeaker, mounted on top of a modest auto-rickshaw that slowly crawls through the city streets. The campaign slogans, and policy manifestos, are deafeningly shouted across the entire city day and night. The only way you can miss hearing these political announcements is if you happen to be hiding in an underground bomb shelter. Arguably, it’s a far more effective way for a political candidate to reach out to people in their constituency. Especially when you compare it with a lonely Australian political candidate braving the early morning cold while handing out election leaflets at a suburban train station, only to be mistaken by commuters as a volunteer for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

election.Indian Link

Then, as 2 July draws closer, political rivals across from the major parties will face-off in prime time television debates. The debates will be strictly moderated, with professional decorum maintained by the politicians, TV hosts, panels and studio audiences. People at home will tune in and listen intently with a view to deciding which way they are going to vote. How boring!

Picture the lively Indian alternative: A prominent city street is dug up and turned into an election pandaal to host an election rally for a political candidate. The adjoining streets and roads are blocked off while the rally is held and truckloads of people pour in to listen to their candidates. In a sea of top-notch security, floral garlands and rousing slogans people welcome the politicians to a lavishly decorated stage for their public address. As soon as they are finished talking, the politicians are briskly whisked away. Over the next few days after this mega event, life in that city slowly crawls back to normalcy – and then, another politician decides to hold a rally. And so it rolls on.

election.Indian Link

Billboards, too, tell a different story between the Aussie and Indian election campaigns. Australian billboards are modest, sparsely placed through cities, often featuring a photo of the relevant candidate with a succinct election message listed underneath. How banal.

Travel through an Indian town during an election and witness the entire city plastered with election billboards of all shapes and sizes. The billboards are colourful and busy led by a smiling photo of the political candidate and a featuring a supporting cast as long as a comet’s tail. The supporting ensemble comprises of the well-wishers of the candidates – their neighbours, children, friends, even pet dogs and cats!

East is East and West is West, as they say, and it seems federal elections are no exception.