If David Cameron had an election song, i wonder what it would be? I reckon something awkward by a well known popgroup who was unable to turn down the colossal amount he offered – I mean One Direction had Cameron feature in a video by them… something so apparently on trend, it would make half the population cringe with awkwardness (like Eurovision but worse). It would be awkward id DC had a song, but imagine if every local candidate had a song, that they blasted through their potential constituencies by affixing a soundsystem to a truck, a la Notting Hill? And when the trucks met they had a ‘sound off’ each turning their volume up louder…? Imagine that and then you can start to imagine the current state of the election campaigning in Kochi. LOUD. One of the candidates who shall remain nameless for now – now has what appears to be two trucks, blasting two separate songs. One somewhat militant, akin to a football chant; the now one clearly decide to be softer and alluring and more likely to be heard in a bedroom than a football match. It’s both bizarre and combined with the already high humidity and heat causing large percentages of westerners to hide in their rooms after contracting painful headaches.
It’s not just the horrendous sound quality of the jingles; there’s the slashing of campaign posters. Most of India is currently covered in campaign posters for local candidates, in Kerala’s case, all women, as (and don’t take this as wholly 100% correct) every 4 years women can stand and this is one of those years. Some of the candidates appear to have had professional photos taken, some not – but quality of the image aside, most of the posters now feature slashed faces, where opposing party members have gone around and ripped the faces of other candidates?! In a more comedic manner, the supporters of the candidates have then gone around mending the broken faces that appear in prominent positions.
The campaign trail itself is also an interesting aspect of the elections. Whilst in the UK particularly we would call it quite simply intimidation, apparently a support group of 40+ turning up to front doors in normal and happening on a regular basis. The crowds have been growing steadily in recent weeks and now new accessories such as hats, flags, giant paper mache dolls and musical groups are being included in both the campaign trail and door knocking brigade.
Anybody who has read anything about India recently will know there is tension regarding Beef and cows and eating said meat, if not, read this from The Guardian and you start to get the idea. As ahem regular readers, you’ll also know Kerala is a total mix of cultures and beef is regularly eaten due to the large muslim and christian communities… put some elections in the middle and everything gets a bit tense. And angry. Elsewhere in Bihar, a state known for being even more corrupt and dangerous than the rest of India, election time is a time for apparently regular kidnappings and bloody battles… when Indian’s get angry, they get angry. Coverage of the Bihar Battle on Twitter gives a you a vague hint at just what is going on..
Everyone knows India is corrupt, Indian’s know and Chetan Baghat writes brilliantly on the subject in his columns which you can read in the book ‘What young India wants’ where he discusses the inherent need for educating all of India, because as seen on a daily basis corruption in India is as common as rain in the Uk. Everyone’s at it and certain aspects of daily life are more corrupt than others. Alcohol corruption is a good example. Kerala is an enforced dry state and the current alcohol situation in Kerala, is even more dire than it used to be. In summary, alcohol sellers (eg bars, restaurants) bribe the government to give them licenses. The bribe got so ridiculously large that they said they wanted to lower it – what i understand as a couple of months of back and forth between the sides which involved no booze anywhere for a number of days in the midsts of high season – resulted booze came back on the menus (only beer and wine) until March/April, when licenses came up for renewal, new laws were put in place meaning the majority of establishments are no longer eligible to sell licenses due to, I believe, being within a certain distance to either a school or place of religious worship. So Kerala is essentially dry. But it’s not. The government have booze shacks, you queue up with local booze hounds and as a westerner get insanely ripped off and are refused an official receipt (i’d guess 20-30% of what you pay goes into the pockets of the guys working there AND YOU CAN’T STOP IT!) However because of the elections, the government booze shops have been closed, due to the amount of bribery and corruption linked to alcohol, so now it is quite literally dry. Although ironically it keeps raining.
I still can’t work out if the elections are indeed happening all over India, I’m pretty sure they are – as for booze shacks, in Goa, you just walk into the supermarket and buy it… it get’s confusing. A quote of advice we use to help orientate people when they first arrive seems apt to refer to now, ‘ ‘Nobody understands how India works – it just does’ so instead of trying to explain what and why certain things happen, you just have to roll with it. That’s essentially how I’m trying to handle the election fever. And feeling relieved that back in blighty David Cameron doesn’t actually have a home made jingle.
DISCLAIMER: Trying to get factual knowledge when in India is impossible – whether it’s plumbing or politics. It wouldn’t suprise me if large chunks of the content are a bit, wrong, somewhat wrong or completely wrong… however if tried verifying and well, i’m not getting very far, so take this as my opinion based on what I ‘think’ is happening as a british woman/temporary keralan who has no grasp of Malayalam, at all.
Also expensive hotels still sell spirits and beer and wine and i imagine they still will due to the amount of money they pay the government to let them…