'Vote Out Politics Of Hate'

Ahead of the first phase of polling in Lok Sabha election 2019, some prominent citizens have begun a ‘vote against hate’ campaign highlighted by a section of the media. They have made video appeals, issued statements and staged marches asking voters to guard their vote, vote for change and vote wisely. The message is to vote against divisive politics for a secular and inclusive India.

Studying media behaviour in the world’s largest election (#LokSabhaElections), the IMPECT Study (#IMPECTStudy #WeAreWatchingYou) has found that Scroll.in and The Hindu have in particular given significant coverage to the campaign. In the period between April 1 to 10, Scroll.in published 9 stories while The Hindu published 4 stories in its Chennai edition and 10 plus stories in its web version. Over 300 academics, 150 scientists, 200 writers, 100 filmmakers, 600 theatre artistes, 100 visual artists and several prominent women from around 140 cities have participated in the campaign.

Both in The Hindu and Scroll.in, the stories were marked by headlines and phrases like ‘vote for change’, ‘vote sambhal ke’, ‘choose wisely’, ‘vote against bigotry’, women’s march against ‘casteist culture’, need to defeat ‘saffron agenda’ etc. The appeals underscored the common theme to safeguard India’s diversity and vote against the brand of politics which stirs up hatred and violence. In both The Hindu and Scroll.in, reporting has also been done separately on writers, theatre personalities, filmmakers and others. However, as the stories have a common theme i.e. appeal for ‘vote against hate’, a sense of repetitiveness can be observed in their reporting and writing styles. A write-up published in The Hindu on April 3 states, ‘100 film-makers from across the country issued an appeal to the public against voting for Bharatiya Janata Party’, while an article published in Scroll.in on April 9 states, ‘Over 100 visual artists on Monday issued a joint statement appealing to Indians not to re-elect the Bharatiya Janata Party’.

Another common element in these stories is the listing of signatories of the petitions, though ‘mainstream’ Bollywood celebrities are mostly silent and therefore missing. The stories question the governance of ruling BJP and blame the saffron party for playing a major role ‘in creating an atmosphere of fear and hyper-nationalism’ across the country. The thrust of the campaign is to hold up this election as a now-or-never opportunity to vote out an ideology that sows division, creates inequality, censors free speech, intimidates and foments violence.

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