Election fever is building up again and TV channels are flush with political coverage. Perhaps for the first time, the
corporate world is reworking their image to actively participate in the election process.
For instance, the Tata group of companies, usually lauded for their philanthropic ideals, has taken on political apathy in a big way with their ‘Jaago re’ campaign. With their clever wordplay “Har subhe sirf utho mat, jaago re,” the advertisements urged the public to become more aware of their rights as citizens.
The campaign has since evolved into ‘One billion votes,’ a forum which keeps registered members’ updates on election related news and voting days.
Information is power
Anand Tiwari, the TV face of the campaign, admits he was a member of the politically indifferent club prior to his starring in the campaign. “It was only after I began shooting for the ad that I realised how important it is,” he says.
“Initially it was just a job, my political views were not a part of it. But after seeing how people responded to the campaign, the gravity of it really hit me.” Tiwari is proud that he is now able to answer citizens’ questions as his own knowledge has increased.
“Instead of blindly voting, I want to understand the promises of each party and track their progress over the next five years,” Tiwari says. “I want to be an informed voter.”
When the terrorist attacks of 26/11 happened, Zarine Mehta, CEO of Bindass channel, was struck by the outpouring of emotions that ensued. She recounts, “While it was exhilarating to see people come together to protest the event, it was frightening to see how many people were on the wrong track. They were chanting hate slogans and becoming aggressive.. it was shocking to see how misdirected the energy was.”
Winds of change
The event had hit too close to home and Mehta decided to join hands with Janagraha, an NGO that incidentally was the same group behind the ‘Jaago Re’ campaign. A line from Mahatma Gandhi resounded with her — Be the change you want to see in the world. That line transformed into a full-fledged campaign, ‘I Change, India Changes.’
“We decided to pursue voting as that is the first step towards better governance,” she explains. “With a focus on six metros, we will research the history and achievements of every politician standing for elections and make it known to the public via our website.”
Mehta realised she would need to rope in a youth icon, and that’s when John Abraham stepped in. “John was very enthusiastic from the word go,” she recalls. “He completely believes in the cause.”
Abraham stepped in to front ‘Ungli Uthao,’ an initiative to encourage non-registered youth to exercise their political franchise. “I want more transparency in the system,” asserts Abraham who has big plans for the campaign.
“Our first step would be to publish all the available information on the candidates so that their entire history is out in the open. After looking at their criminal history, achievements, assets and performance, we would want to recommend a candidate that we feel is relatively better than the others.”
Abraham is quick to point out that he is not using his celebrity status to promote a personal agenda. “This campaign is not about enforcing choices, but about making the public aware of what their choices are.”