Book Review: When India Votes by Jaishri Jethwaney and Samir Kapur

Book Name: When India Votes, The Dynamics of Successful Election Campaigning

Authors: Jaishri Jethwaney and Samir Kapur

Publisher: Rupa

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 3.9/5

Book Blurb: “Elections have always been festive occasions in liberal democracies, and India is no exception.

Media becomes one of the most important players in elections because of its power of reach and agenda-setting. From one government-controlled television in India in 1984, to hundreds of news channels owned by various interest groups, a burgeoning print media, the coming of the social media and the tiniest and most ‘lethal’ of mass reach weapon, the mobile phone—all these have changed the way elections are now contested! The power of mass contact through rallies and public gatherings, reinforced by the event-driven media channels and the power of digital media to reach out to the young audience, has redefined electioneering in India.

When India Votes looks at the theoretical underpinnings of the relationship between democracy, mass media and election campaigning, as well as representative campaigns of the last three decades of the two major players, viz. the Congress and BJP.”

Review: When India Votes tries to deconstruct the great Indian elections and the role campaigning plays in it.

This a scholarly work but has been written in such a manner that you need not be a sociologist or psephologist to understand whats between these pages. Nevertheless, for serious scholars, a useful reference list is given at the end of each chapter.

2014 elections were a sort of game changer in India as the BJP (which ultimately won and formed the government at the centre) gave it a Presidential feeling. Much of the election campaigning was a direct copy paste from lessons learnt from previous election campaigns in the US.

When India votes opens with the role of media in today’s elections. In my opinion, an entire chapter should have been dedicated for social media or the internet as the BJP or the NDA shifted to social media primarily because it was felt that the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP was being ignored by traditional print and TV media. However, this a a big fail on part of this book and its discussed only as a case study for the BJP at the end.

“It is not uncommon to criticise Opposition candidates in election campaigns, but character assassination and personal attacks have not for long been a tradition in the Indian political discourse.”

The book ends with a discussion on lowering of political discourse in Indian elections.

Overall, this is a good book that provides a good summation of Indian elections and why people vote the way they do.

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