Mumbai: Retailers dismayed as election campaign goes digital

Mumbai: Political parties may have a number of differences among them, but, when it comes to the procurement of election campaigning and its materials, they head to a common locality — Lalbaug market.

The crowded South Mumbai market is famous for selling banners, flexes, party flags and merchandises used by national as well as political parties for campaigning.

Once every five years, the shopkeepers look forward to a few months of extra profit and surplus income. But, to everyone’s dismay, the business this year has witnessed a downward trend.

With ever-increasing political campaign through social media sites and digital platforms, the sale of banners and flexes have fallen by more than 50 per cent.

Yogeshwar Patil’s three decades old shop near the Ganesh Galli is a alive witness to numerous political ups and downs in the city. Over the last 32 years, every day just before the elections, his shop would get filled with cadres and workers of various political parties.

“In my 30 years of business, I have seen politicians coming to my shop, who once were party cadres, but now have become MPs and ministers,” said Yogesh.

Since the Lok Sabha poll held earlier in April- May this year, Yogesh’s business has been suffering a huge loss. Soon after the LS election got over, goods and merchandises worth more than Rs15 lakh were left unsold.

He informed nowadays parties only place bulk orders, 20 days prior to the day of the elections, that too in lesser quantity compared to they used to order before.

“After the Lok Sabha election concluded, I thought I would use the surplus materials for the assembly poll, but it seems there is no change in luck,” added an appalled Yogesh.

The sellers said time has changed so much so leaders have become more self-centred. Cadres who often belong to different political parties shared a rapport among themselves. Such situations does not exist anymore.

“Often cadres from different political parties who would come to my shop shared a rapport among themselves. Also, they would often order materials in bulk together just to get discount offers,” said 65-year-old Shankar Rane, owner of a merchandise shop.

As age has taken a toll on him, his son and son-in-law now manage Shankar’s business. Rane stated once upon a time people used to love attending political rallies and gatherings and listen to their favourite leaders, before coming to conclusion as to who they must vote for, besides forming an opinion about another leader.

The rallies and public meetings used to be a platform of political ideologies. Now, there is hardly any ideology left, as politicians have, too, adopted a divide and rule policy.

“There used to be time when parties meant ‘us’, now these have become ‘we’,” added Rane.

Highlighting other things, he said, with the advancement in technology, human beings have become aloof, as most of the time they are glued to gadgets without knowing what’s happening in the neighbourhood.

“It’s easy to woo the present tech-savy generation over social media. One can easily track their issues interests available online,” said Neeraj Menon, a media educator and close political watcher.

Menon further said the political parties tend to go digital now, as they are more personalised and well managed. In a campaign, mostly people who are aligned to a party would only turn up. But, through social media, one can directly target them over media platforms.

However political parties have mentioned, the business with retailers have decreased as there are restrictions being laid down on campaigning expenditures.

Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Surve stated the bulk purchase of campaign materials and materials are replaced by social media posts and e-posters, as it is inexpensive, personalised and effective.