There is no better time in Sri Lanka to see grins and smiles on glowing faces everywhere around you than Election season. Despite being called an island of smiles, election seasons always beats our own previous records of smiles present at any given moment. Every wall, tree and rock now has a glowing human face with a supernatural smile. Fair and Lovely and Signal should consider sponsoring some of these politicians’ posters and cutouts. The viewership is massive after all. But I am sure no company wants to be scorned at for covering every surface in posters.
I understand back when I was young that posters and cut outs presented the only real way to announce one’s candidature to the general elections. TV did not have as much of an audience as today and there were fewer channels. There was also no Facebook and Twitter to advertise on. Today it is totally different. Yet the number of posters and cutouts only seem to have increased compared to the past.
But what really confounded me on the marketing campaign of today’s politicians was when I saw a prominent young politician travelling in a vehicle rally with him sitting on the sunroof of an expensive SUV. Firstly political vehicle rallies are banned. They are illegal because they are a nuisance for civilians on the road. Secondly it makes no logical sense as to how the rally would market the politician in a positive light. The nuisance will only make people lose respect for the man and swear not to vote for him.
I would not vote for any candidate who is violating a law right in front of the electorate. If he/she can do that out in the open imagine what they might do behind closed doors. Even if it was a legal mechanism of election propaganda what logic lies behind it? Do the marketing experts advising them think that people see these rallies to be “cool”? When I saw the rally I was confounded as to how anyone still thinks people like such rallies.
To me the rally represents the ego of the politician and his close supporters. They want to roam around town showing off their power and monetary clout through the brand news SUVs and Sedans. The idea might be that by showing off the ability to muster such a large rally of vehicles and people, proves that he/she has a large base of support. Which again is the ego trying to reinforce itself. It gets worse. The politician is travelling on the sunroof of a very expensive SUV, while wearing makeup in a brand new national kit. The only result the rally had was me to easily decide to have one less person to consider for adding a preferential vote.
Cut outs that appeared before even nominations were given clearly violated municipal regulations. Public areas were used to put up large hoardings with metal structures for support. I highly doubt the municipalities had given permission and taxed the hoardings. It is just political power that holds those cutouts up. If a non-profit has done the same to create awareness about climate change, it would have been taken down within 24 hours, the organization sued and the people running it put behind bars. Ironically, all that the cutouts have to fear are gusts of wind.
When it comes to posters I am glad the Colombo Municipality regulations were tightened during the last few years. But the moment you step out of the City limits the poster supermen and superwomen bombard you with grins and smiles. In Malwana I saw the same face on either side of the road for about a kilometer. I just simply lost all the respect I had for that politician. Politicians might not be ordering where to and how to put up these posters and cut outs. But they still allow their supporters to do it. Only the Prime Minister has asked to not put up cutouts with his face on them.
This General Election has the potential to create a political revolution in the country. How you and I will vote on August 17th can alter the way politics will be done in Sri Lanka in the future. We can’t be voting for people who think having the most number of posters and cutouts in our line of sight is a vital criteria to become a MP. The ones that have the most to hide conceal it behind the biggest and brightest smiles. Can we think of voting for those who think exhibiting their parade of expensive SUVs gets them more votes? I would want a simple MP who drives his own simple vehicle and whom I would be able to go have a casual chat about the problems that need solutions. I don’t want to have to be hustled through by henchmen to talk to the person I voted for and that too while he/she is in an AC vehicle burning petrol on a V8 engine maintained by our tax money.
Lets ensure that we vote for the right candidates with the right policies. Candidates who are not pumping up their egos with SUVs and makeup. Candidates who we can approach easily and would not have an army of henchmen about them all the time. Thus, lets ensure the only purpose the posters will serve is to provide an alternative diet for the cows and goats that roam our streets.