Polls Work Wonders for National Mission

The elections allow Indian embassies to move beyond art and culture and plug democracy as the latest soft power component

Published: 19th April 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th April 2014 12:42 AM   |  A+A-

The massive election exercise has been a god-send for Indian missions abroad, allowing them to move beyond art and culture and plug democracy as the latest soft power component.

With any mention of India in foreign press preceded by the phrase “world’s largest democracy”, the flaunting democratic credentials is now an easy sell  - unlike even a couple of years back when India was shy of being an evangelist.

On April 7- the first day of polling, Consulate General of India on Shanghai posted on its Sina Weibo account about the largest democratic exercise, with 814 million registered voters.  It was reposted 752 times and garnered 232 comments. The curiosity is not an exception. Apparently, when foreign secretary Sujatha Singh met with Chinese officials for the strategic dialogue earlier this week - most of her interlocutors were interested in the black ink on her finger.

In the opposite part of the world, the Indian embassy in Washington caught the attention of twitterrati when it posted a well-drawn infographic on April 11.

The pop-out graphic emphasised the awe-inspiring numbers of the elections, graphically representing that even the total number of voters in US, Brazil and Indonesia is “not even close”.

“There is a lot of interest in the foreign media about Indian elections as most people are astonished that such a large exercise with voters can be executed peacefully. “We are just cashing on this,” said a senior official posted in south-east Asia.

The Facebook pages of Indian embassies and high commissions are being updated after each phase with pictures of Indian voters proudly showing off their inked finger.

The cover photo on the facebook page of Indian embassy in Jakarta had four rural women displaying their gnarled fingers with ink mark, while the top post on Indian embassy in Yangon was about the electronic voting machines.

To sustain the interest, there has been lectures and workshops to explain how the voting exercise takes place. In Bangladesh, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi held a workshop for civil society activists and journalists to explain the intricacies of the process.

India had of course not always been this enthusiastic about talking on democracy. The turning point was 2005 when PM Manmohan Singh co-launched United Nations Democracy Fund with US President George Bush.

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