Thursday, November 24, 2011

Political Yatras

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

One of the oldest forms of political canvassing is conducting walking tours of the constituencies. Every day we hear politicians undertaking tours of their respective constituencies to promote their agenda, and mostly show up to the people's door step to make sure they are personally representing the agenda being promoted on respective tours. Even before India's Independence Gandhiji made walking very popular form of addressing the issues of people and making them a part of the formal protests he undertook. In those day except radio and new papers there was no 24/7/365 coverage of the events. They were strictly by word of mouth and telegram, and eventually on radio and news papers. They were very effective in involving people to participate and support the causes which were noble and represented the common good of the common man.

The country welcomed the walking tours with open arms and at every step waited to embrace the cause and support the movement. For decades the tours of Indian leaders gamely going from place to place and meeting people has been widely accepted as a fantastic forum for communicating directly with people and interacting with them on localized issues to understand the future agenda of the political parties. It has been a very effective platform for reaching out to various sections of the general population and hearing their concerns and what they would like as the agenda for the party in power.

Walking tours are an opportunity to meet people in person and people will see if you are a real person. There is nothing better than shaking hands and embracing people as personal touch is the best form of communication. Granted that with so many millions of people in each state it will be impossible to shake every hand, but even a few hands in each village or town will help build direct communication with that particular community. Each person you touch or speak to will be the medium to transfer the personal interaction to everyone he or she knows thereby putting a human angle to the interaction. It helps to identify the person and that the existence of the normalcy of an individual you have actually interacted with.

There is little expense involved with walking tours as the locals are willing to host you and your entourage. Food and shelter and refreshments are organized with much care and affection by the locals you visit and very likely they will promote your agenda as well once you visit with them. It is also a great way to meet small groups of people and understand their concerns and listen to their issues. Each home visited becomes a great medium to promote personal relationships and further implanting the personal touch to political canvassing.

Walking for long stretches daily keeps a person fit as it is a great form of daily exercise. Most politicians are disciplined and maintain healthy eating and exercise habits. The benefits of walking are often disregarded with the walking tours, and perhaps should be more promoted for their general health benefits. Walking a mile or two daily will help everyone, and perhaps the politicians adopting the walking tours should promote the benefits of regular walking to everyone.

Walking tours are also one of the best possible ways to communicate with small crowds. Large gatherings and rallies do attract massive crowds but keeps the speakers away from personally reaching out to the people. There is no room for personal interaction with a large crowd, and often the large gatherings are in place to hear you speak of your political promotions, rather than personal attention to local issues. Often politicians promise just about everything that locals wish for and people know that it is unlikely that every idea being put forward to the touring politician will not become reality. But we still ask, and they still promise to deliver and we continue with the cycle every season counts votes.

The political yatras will continue with national and regional politicians for time to come or as long as politics are around. Even with the proliferation of television and internet, it is still good to press hands and walk the local roads to communicate directly with the people. Granted that the media coverage will follow you through the walking tours, and they are kept busy with local idioms and festivities. The politicians remain fit with the exercise, and get to taste the local response for a few moments.

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