DailyPost 2616

Ads and amongst them if consider the hoardings too, are big business during election time. The social media has another dimension to advertisements, which way it has to be considered has to be decided in law, and a regulatory framework has to evolve around it. The quantum of content which ECI has to handle, seems humanly impossible, that is if it decides to do so. As of now, it seems a complaint driven approach. Given the nature of control of the election process and to provide a level playing field in objective and empirical terms, a slew of actions needs to be taken urgently, based on the experience of the conduct of Indian elections.

Currently, it is limited to polling booth, strong room and counting management complimented with a full proof law and order arrangement. The rest of the story on which the actual play happens, remains as nebulous as ever. The affidavit and expenditure imbroglio are a different story altogether. Leaving other issues aside for the time being, the nature of advertisements appearing in the print and the electronic media need to regulated both for the content and the frequency of it. It reaches every single person and advertisement and hoarding blitzkrieg certainly add valuable fuel. The nature of narrative allowed also needs to dictated by law. We have reached a level where anything can published; good, bad and ugly and nobody has any check on it.

There is a need for an Election Advertisement Regulatory Authority (EARA), which would get into the nitty gritty of every piece of content that goes into influencing elections. What appear as facts, are they really facts, from where has it been sourced and authentication of it. Today it a self-certification story and that too by a political party. That is the reason why facts and figures have moved out of our election process and it has got limited to proclamations and achievements which no one can validate, inclusive of the ECI. As a test case, the validity of the content of election related ads and hoardings need to be cross verified with official authentic documents /sources and things would become crystal clear.

The launch of a scheme is declared as the success of the scheme and uniform success across all geographies. There is no repository of what is being published and displayed, so the evaluation if necessary, it has to necessarily be limited to one or a few instances only. How do you get the patterns and patterns are more critical and convey a totally different meaning. And patterns across elections. They would clue to the nature of guidelines. With digital propagandists at their command, they are into playing psycho games too, what does ECI do about it. EARA can fill the gap. All of us know of the Cambridge Analytica story, it can have any number of bespoke versions, and if some are in vogue, we have no idea. Even ads are being published in a news format to deceive people, same things we see on the electronic media at times. Are not the news organizations also a party to it? Has democracy today become a matter of faith?

Sanjay Sahay

Have a nice evening.

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