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2019 polls: India's free for all vs Singapore's state controlled campaign, style, content

By Atanu Roy*
In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect do mention about a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability.
In simple words "people who are incompetent are too incompetent to realise, how incompetent they are".
We Indians, resident of Singapore, are keenly following the Indian election campaigns and happenings, in the media and observing how this Dunning–Kruger effect, is being manifested in its crudest form, and has thrust the election of the 'largest democracy' in a sorry state.
Speeches after speeches, rallies after rallies, the posturing of the political leaders, in whom 900 millions electorates have put their hopes, are distinguished by a spectacular lack of emphasis on the burning issues of the electorate.
In fact, listening to the election speeches underway in the Indian news channels, an outsider might get the impression that India is singularly lacking in any problem. The only problem it seems, is that political leaders cannot get along with other opponents.
There is no sign of introspection, no serious attempt to hunt out the root cause of farmers’ distress and suicides, a climbing rate of unemployment, crumbling urban infrastructure, unchecked air pollution across cities, some of which is among the highest in the world, growing economic divide, an exploding population, the state of secular health, women’s welfare and safety.
Hate speeches are everywhere, at all political party levels. Off late, whipping up jingoistic passion, seems an easy way to win over electorates.
Film personalities so long sitting on the fence are joining the queue for election tickets in the last hour of filing nomination.
Narcissism is the common ailment of all parties, in power or not in power.
Humility has taken a back seat, question arises, why is it that some leaders are carrying with them an intense hate and arrogance that creates a corrosive impact on not just their opponents, but also on those who expect a decent society
The necessary condition for being humble is to respect differences and dissent, and tolerate plurality of opinion. We expect a political culture, of engaging in robust debate on issues that matter more to the people than to the leaders. We don't expect spats, but expect a true political discourse.
The seven phases election is now in the last phase, the voting percentage is encouraging in most of the states, but along with this comes the news and dismal pictures of poll violence, and booth captures, in some states like West Bengal, in spite of heavy presence of Central Security Force.
Now let's have a quick look to the Singapore election process and controls exercised in structured transparent framework.
In 2015 Singapore Parliamentary Election, out of 89 seats, the People's Action Party (PAP) contested all and won 83, with the other 6 seats won by The Workers' Party of Singapore (WP). Voter turnout was 93.56%.
Casting vote is mandatory in Singapore, and there is no NOTA (none of the above) option. Voting still happens through ballot papers, unlike Indian EVM.
Its interesting to note on how the election campaign takes place. The Singapore Police Force publishes a list of sites available for electoral meetings, and election rallies can be held during the campaigning period of around 8 days in only these notified locations. All rallies are held between 7 pm and 10 pm, and lunchtime rallies are held between 12 pm and 2 pm.
Political parties fielding at least six candidates are allocated airtime for two pre-recorded party political broadcasts in radio and television, one on the day following nomination day and the other on cooling-off day. The amount of airtime granted depends on the number of candidates each party is fielding.
Is there a limit on campaign cost? Yes, the maximum amount which a candidate or his or her election agent can pay or incur for an election campaign is SGD 4.00 for each electorate.
Election campaigning styles and contents are also controlled rigidly in a pro-active manner.
Candidates should conduct election campaigning in a responsible and dignified manner that is appropriate, to the seriousness of the election process.
They should steer away from negative campaigning practices based on hate and denigration of opposing candidates, and should not make false statements that allege corruption or commission of criminal offences, or statements that may cause racial or religious tensions or affect social cohesion. Egregious acts of negative campaigning could also be in breach of the law.
Every duly nominated candidate is required to declare to the Returning Officer the particulars of every Internet election advertising platform (e.g. podcasts, video casts, blogs and social networking sites like Facebook) on which election advertising is or will be published by or on his behalf during the campaign period.
The display of posters and banners advertising for a candidate or group of candidates during the campaign period must comply with the conditions listed in the Returning Officer’s permit for such display of posters and banners. No person is allowed to display or cause to be displayed in any public place election posters and banners without authorisation by the Returning Officer.
A copy of each of the posters and banners must be lodged with the Returning Officer before they are displayed. All posters and banners displayed must bear the official stamp issued by the Returning Officer.
Posters and banners must be removed within the period stated in the permit after the polling day and the failure to do so is an offence.
Other permitted campaigning activities are restricted to conducting house-to-house visits, food court visits, and distributing pamphlets.
We don't see any fake news, we don't hear any hate speech, poll violence and booth capture if beyond imagination and never happened since the birth of Singapore in 1965.
It may not be fair to compare point-to-point of election process of a large country like India with 900 million electorates, with a city-state like Singapore with 2.5 million voters, but if we get carried away by mere numbers and size, we will miss the essence on how election is held in a 'decent' society.
Let's focus on the essence and governance, and we have a lot to learn, for our own good and follow these in India for the sake of fairness.
---
*Chartered Accountant based in Singapore, regular contributor to "Straits Times" and "Today" published from Singapore

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