chapter  7
Fun with democracy: election coverage and the elusive subject of Indian politics m. madhava prasad
Pages 16

Election studies are normally a sub-field of political science and sometimes of sociology. Elections are about political power, interest groups, parties and manifestoes. The results of any election can affect policy, causing significant shifts in the direction taken by the economy and society. What interest could Cultural Studies possibly have in such a recurring phenomenon of the political process? No sooner is the question posed than it becomes obvious that the general election as an instrument of reproduction of the modern political order is an event of great cultural significance. When the topic ‘Elections as Popular Culture’ was proposed for the conference, it immediately provoked in me the response: ‘But of course! It’s a cultural event!’ Especially for an Indian, the idea of the popular cultural dimension of the electoral process needs no justification. The most obvious evidence for such an approach to the study of elections in India is provided by the well-known phenomenon of film stars’ widespread induction into politics, that has been going on for several decades now.1 During Indira Gandhi’s years in power, the country witnessed mass mobilization of an unprecedented extent and depth, powered by a quasi-religious fervour (captured in M.F. Husain’s tribute to the prime minister in the form of a series of paintings depicting her as the goddess Durga, the fierce enemy of evil and protector of the good and, in songs that deified her and celebrated her power: Indira ke do haath nahin uske to karodo haath hain (Indira has not two but scores of hands)).