April 26, 2009

Meetings at community space

Wine shops did brisk business on the day of the bandh.
Some shop managers reported that sales had doubled that day.
Many who patronised these shops were political party worker. They had been busy campaigning on a hot day and chilled beer at the end of the day was welcome. Many shops said that they ran out of beer at dusk.
This is a gist of a report that appeared in a newspaper earlier this week. It is election time and April-May is certainly not the best season of the year to run an election campaign. Not when temperatures are in the397 and 39 region, not when the sea breeze refuses to set in and move inland and not when it is tall task to coax people to at least stop and stare.
But then, General Elections are sacred. And some chilled beer for hardworking cadres is certainly not a crime.
This morning an election caravan rolled into our neighbourhood. The accompanying band made sure that its was a trifle louder. If people stood out of their balconies or peeped out from their windows, the objective would have been served. Not many did. But the bandsmen go on with their job.
Rolling caravans and street corner meetings, at least in urban neighbourhoods don't seem to work in elections. Will meetings at community space work?
N. S. Venkataraman, consultant and social worker and a candidate in South Chennai says it does. He has been meeting people in their colonies. 15 to 20 attend and the interaction is lively he says. And if they can go back and influence one hundred then the effect is significant, says Venkataraman.
Over the past ten days, I have seen many candidates making time to attend such small, informal meetings. In Thiruvanmiyur and Mylapore, in K. K. Nagar and Ashok Nagar.
Perhaps then it is an occasion for community organisations to quickly plan and host such meetings for a tete-a-tete with the candidates of their constituencies. We should be able to convince the Chennai Corporation to allow us to hold such meetings in parks and playgrounds, in their community halls and chatrams. Free of cost if they are organised by community groups.
These spaces are diminishing and unless the community regains them they will be lost forever. Such meetings on election eve provide for meaningful debate and discussion and a healthy political relationship. So if or your organisation can play a role this General Election, plan a meeting now.

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