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Posters and Election Propaganda About this blog

Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:40PM   |  Add a comment
Web Banner, Congress Party (India) (http://www.congress.org.in)

Elections for the lower house of the Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha, concluded on May 16.

The voters gave the ruling moderate-left Congress Party, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a great victory over the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress Party coalition won 262 seats in the 534-seat parliamentary body; the BJP-led coalition only won 157. (Click here for the results.)

According to Rama Lakshmi, writing in The Washington Post: "For the first time since 1996, India will have a coalition government that is not fragile and unwieldy and that has a relatively strong center. The outgoing coalition government...was sustained by a handful of communist parties that eventually withdrew support over a controversial civilian nuclear agreement concluded last year between India and the United States."

$3 billion was spent on the campaign—about $600 million more than was spent during last year's presidential campaign in the United States, reported The New York Times. Of course, much was expended on TV spots and newspaper ads, but text messages were also sent to many of the 400 million cell-phone users, and priests were even hired to perform rituals in support of candidates and parties. One medium that was used less than in the past was posters, since India's election commission issued a ban on their display in public, if permission has not been granted to put them up, according to The Times. Web sites were also evident—with the BJP emulating Barack Obama's online example.

Previously, posters were rated as the fifth most important medium in campaigns by Indian campaign managers, behind rallies and daily newspapers, public television, and radio, but ahead of private television, direct mail, and magazines. For more on Indian politics and posters, see a previous blog entry and the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:03PM   |  4 comments
Poster of Sonia Gandhi as the Hindu Goddess Durga (detail), Congress Party, India, 2007 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk)

Posters are widely used in election campaigns in India, even though the country is rapidly modernizing, and other media are becoming more common.

Recently, a city court ordered the political parties of New Delhi not to put up posters, leaving them without a viable means of propagandizing in the city's assembly elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Vijay Goel stated: "Before implementing the law, an alternative should be suggested. One cannot go for advertising alternatively, because it is very expensive." 

Some citizens were happy about the court's decision, since they consider posters to be an eyesore. One resident said, for instance: "It is so annoying to see these posters all over the city. They even paste the posters on houses in residential colonies. In Patel Nagar, they covered a public toilet fully in posters, so much that it was beyond recognition. This is not the way a civilised society lives."

Such advertising is evident all over India, with billboards promoting films dotting roads, and posters tacked on walls, taxis, and buses, making these media logical choices to promote candidates during election periods. One solution for the political parties is to display posters mainly in stores and homes. In fact, party headquarters distribute posters, banners, flags, handbills, and stickers to localities to give to owners of private establishments to put in wi. Posters have been prominent in marches and rallies in India, helping gain attention from onlookers, advertising meetings, and attracting media coverage.

Some posters draw attention, but damage the party and its leaders' standing with a segment of the population. Last year, the Congress Party issued a poster that showed Sonia Gandhi as a Hindu goddess. This poster was criticized because the party is secular and some perceived the imagery as insulting to Hinduism.

While candidates are usually featured on posters, sometimes issues are highlighted. The BJP, in 2004, for example, printed posters that included the image of a burning train, in which fifty-nine people died because of terrorism. Many Indian political consultants have reported that there has been a recent increase in emotionalism and negative campaign tactics in the country’s election campaigns.

The street poster is a medium to which many Indian campaign managers turn, so it will be problematic if their use is curtailed by the courts.  A survey found that 25 percent of managers rated posters as “exceptionally important” as a political advertising medium, behind rallies and daily newspapers (both 50 percent), public television (45 percent), and radio (41 percent). Private television (17 percent), direct mail (3 percent), and magazines (0 percent) trailed badly.


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