When the political selfie came of age
Election 2014, for one, has become synonymous with the technological breakthroughs and social media innovations that have been used and abused to the hilt this poll season. If electoral battles have been waged on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, with opinions and counter-opinions, bold questions and their kneejerk answers, itchy arguments and prickly repartees flooding the cyberspace, the latest signature move to join that pantheon of poll-time phenomena is the post-vote selfie. In a sweep that described both the tweeting, texting, up-to-date, breaking-news-obsessed culture’s rendezvous with the electronic voting machine, the experience of partaking in the mammoth exercise that is the universal adult franchise in India, and a dynamic, cross-generational urge to document its moment of pride, the post-vote selfie quickly trumped any other wave that politicians and their parties lay claim to. From the tallest leaders to the richest industrialists, from globe-trotting public intellectuals flying down to hometowns to Bollywood superstars parading entire families, the voter selfie pretty much usurped other modes of digital record and in popular imagination, fused with the indelible indigo ink on the second finger. As India was inked, polling booths extended into cyberspace and the selfie became a holier, more acceptable proof of being a law-abiding citizen who had exercised his/her most formidable right of voting. In fact, the voting selfie became a mataphor of contested ideals of nationalism, patriotism, democratic secularism on one hand, and a reiteration of an India confidently reveling in its staggering size, on the other. Selfie, which started out as a record of an intensely personal moment, has metamorphosed into a political tool of influencing, garnering support and kudos, as well as inserting oneself back into the circuit of electoral gameplans.
Yet, if there’s a trend, then who better than Narendra Modi to take it to its ultimate heights. What will surely go down in history as one of the definitive images of Election 2014, Modi’s post-vote selfie evokes many responses and myriad moods, and somehow manages to capture the throbbing pulse of the election process. While the Election Commission, justifiably enough, has sounded alarm over the selfie, asking how could the BJP prime ministerial nominee hold a lotus-shaped symbol in hand while he was photographed clicking his own selfie, adding that Modi’s action violates the EC’s model code of conduct, we wonder if the leader would allow the ‘technolegal hiccups’ to come in the way of the surge of support that he has swept up as a result. Of course, Gujarat police would file the ritual FIR against the BJP Lok Sabha contestant from Vadodara, yet, ironically enough, the ‘political selfie’ would only end up further galvanising voter and cadre love for Narendra Modi. While the EC is perfectly in its rights to inspect if Modi has violated the election code of conduct by displaying party symbol, addressing the press and having it broadcast by television media, a desecration that must attract the required punishment, it is equally true that the saffron strongman has made the political selfie come of age. Undoubtedly.