In less than a year, India will have gone through the next general election. What are the trends that are shaping the discourse? What do the non-political trends tell us about where our society is heading and what matters to us as a people? PRmoment India maps the top trends of 2018.
General Elections 2019
Rahul Rakesh, senior communications professional says that the polls next year itself are a meta-trend that will give rise to other issues, "We are in for some very interesting times ahead. From a general perspective, the biggest attention would be drawn by ensuing elections, both the general elections 2019 and various state elections. Even while the incumbent government seems to be in a comfortable situation for a comeback, the drama is far from over. It has already started unfolding and gradually it will peak towards 2018 year-end. All political parties would turn mad (intolerant-with all pun intended) in wooing the electorate."
A more vocal Dalit voice
Dalit politics in India have entered a new phase where they are trying to fight their older definition of being a vote bank for the national, often upper caste dominated parties, to capitalise on. Early signs of this were manifest in the sharp outcry over the tragic death of Rohith Vemula in January 2016, after a month-long struggle against the authorities. The anger over this and the clumsy handling of the issue by the university authorities and the government at the centre led to protests in JNU as well. Another separate development has been the entry of Gujarat's Dalit leader, Jignesh Mevani, the assertive stand by Bhim Sena and the Bhim Koregaon protests. And now, a fresh development is the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, to which BJP has promised to restore stringent provisions. This, in turn, has drawn the ire of upper caste groups, especially from key state election-bound states such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. While caste politics have always been a very key factor in India, the current phase shows a more assertive, often young, Dalit voice no longer willing to be dictated to mainstream party politics.
Accountability and Transparency
Social media has made everything transparent. While an institutional push to this was given by the path-breaking RTI Act, we are also seeing the rise of a more assertive consumer class. Suheil Merchant, communications professional says that "People will demand accountability for every issue that is usually brushed under the carpet. Asking for transparency from custodians of all service providers and governments authorities which fail to deliver on promises."
Article 377 and LGBTQAI rights
Last week the Supreme Court of India delivered an unprecedented judgement, removing homosexuality from the grasp of Article 377, a Victorian-era law that was used to persecute same-sex relationships in India. Vidhi Mala, head PR for Brand-Comm PR in Delhi says, "It is amazing that after so many years of fights, fear and pain, the LGBTQ+ community has received such a positive verdict. This verdict will go a long way in building India and creating a country that believes in acceptance and tolerance." The judgement also helped to demonstrate the independence and outlook of the honourable Supreme Court, which events this year had called into unprecedented scrutiny. It was also a breath of freedom in the current environment where intolerant violence against communities often hit the headlines. LGBTQAI activists outside the Supreme Court
Mob violence has hit a new low in India with self -appointed ' Gau Rakshaks' erupting in extreme violence and lynchings. Says Shringesh Vyas, VP-product, Kanalytics, " The mob lynchings shows the extreme influence of intolerance."
This is likely to be a major election issue, feeding into the overall Hindu identity mega-trend as an issue. The Hinduism meta-trend is playing out in developments such as the Congress party experimenting with 'soft Hindutva' and BJP and right-wing social media army attempts to explain right-wing violence. In a bid to project a pro-Hindu image, Congress party president, Rahul Gandhi, ( right) undertook the Mansarovar Yatra.
The #MeToo movement has ensured that there is greater attention and focus on women's rights than ever before. This could be a tipping point for India as well, though only an indirect impact on elections. Women's rights, tragically, are never a mainstream election issue unless framed in violence against women.
Open Mic Culture
India is becoming much more outspoken. Amrit Singh, PR associate, Bandwagon Communications says, "The millennials of today are ready to be blunt; this is the culture where every citizen has a platform for their freedom of expression. Reciting slam poetry, stand-up comedy or storytelling in an open-mic session is the new black and this culture is a trend for 2018-19. These platforms have a chance for every individual to express their emotions in form of a creative recitation. The milieu for open-mics is set in such a way that it feels like home where every face has a scent of an acquaintance. I believe, We, as PR professionals should pick these hints and build a campaign around such ideas. It's better for us to be a part of connate trends and help our clients to fetch better."
Online trolling and Fake news
Expect the trolls to sharper their virtual knives ahead of the elections, some with humour some with vitriol. Says Pratishtha Kaura, manager, Text 100 says, "Anything that happens today, there is a community of online trolls who are ready to make a laugh out of it. While the posts by AIB and EIC on Instagram are hilarious offering a light-hearted laugh, the hateful trolls are something to worry about. We are aware of how badly Rana Ayyub and Gurmehar Kaur and others have been trolled in the past. While Facebook and Twitter are struggling to fight the menace of fake news, this is something that needs to be urgently addressed as well by social media platforms."
BJP's 'Atal' legacy and Modi's performance
In an effort to claim a more acceptable legacy, BJP has coined the phrase, " Ajay Bharat, Atal BJP". This signals BJP's approach to general elections 2019. Modi will also be on the mat to explain his government's performance through filters such as demonitisation, GST, rupee's performance, oil prices, non-performing assets in banks, job creation and flight of billionaires committing large sale financial fraud. Already this week, the controversy about Vijay Mallya alleging a meeting with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has put the BJP on the mat. However, many of these issues are not immediately saleable to a mass audience. Economic issues, unless massively simplified, are notoriously difficult to present as an election issue.