Shimla: Congress and BJP are laying claims and counter claims to having won the Himachal Panchayat elections at various places but in a poll that was not fought on any party symbol, the unquestioned winner during the campaign has largely been the media and liquor lobby of the state.
For its large tele-density of smart phones, with many subscribing to mobile internet services, an intense campaign was witnessed over Facebook, Whatapp and other social media networks.
Many ward member candidates, panchayat president, block samithi aspirants and zila parishad candidate reached out to their voters using the new medium to run free campaigns.
However, it was the traditional vernacular print media that made a killing during the poll campaign.
Marketing head on a leading vernacular daily disclosed, “the advertising spend by so many candidates was even better than what we get during assembly election campaigns.”
“We surpassed our quarterly targets and not just our monthly target during the poll campaign days,” he claimed.
Taking fancy to the assembly election campaign styles, quarter, half and full page advertisements in vernaculars were a regular feature.
With there being no mechanism to report poll expenditures for candidates in panchayat polls, it is hard to project an overall expenditure but one can gauge the amounts involved as one candidate was noticed to have put out 16 full page advertisements on consecutive days during the run up to the polling date.
Even after the results were declared, winners had booked large advertising spaces to thank their voters or express their party affiliations after having come out winners at the rural hustings.
Because of its poor reach and circulation in rural areas, the English media largely lost out the opportunity to cash on it.
To win over voters many candidates, which include women candidates, held regular liquor parties for the male voters of their constituencies during the campaign days.
One voter in Shimla district was honest enough to confess, “this has certainly gone over the top. On the eve of the poll day, regular drinkers had even asked their candidates to send the whiskey with a poster of the candidate pasted on the bottle case, for by day break and at the time of voting one forgets which brand of whiskey was offered by which candidate.”
Liquor vends under the state’s excise policy are contracted out from one financial year to another, with the year starting in April and ending in March of the succeeding calendar year.
The 2015-16 financial year heading for a close in March, most contractors of the liquor trade are reported to have made brisk sales in December – January months.
“Our company is sure to make a hefty profit this year,” said the salesman of one liquor vend.
Panchayat polls, like assembly and parliamentary elections are a one time business opportunity in five year for both the media and the liquor businesses.