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AP Election Watch (2004)

Lok Satta launched "AP Election Watch 2004" campaign for the Andhra Pradesh assembly and Union parliamentary polls held in April 2004. The campaign was launched with the following goals:

  • To reverse the process of criminalization by trying to prevent the fielding of established candidates with a criminal record.
  • To influence the governance agenda (specifically local government empowerment, right to information,citizen's charters and local courts for speedy justice), irrespective of which party or candidates are elected.
  • Mobilize public opinion in favour of larger electoral and governance reforms and impact political parties behaviour.

In pursuance and support of the above stated goals of the Election Watch campaign, Lok Satta undertook the following activities:

  • Campaign against criminalization
  • Media campaign
  • Voter awareness drives
  • Common Platforms
  • Pre Poll Surveys

The aim of the Election Watch campaign this time around is to reverse the process of criminalization. In pursuit of this goal, Lok Satta constituted a screening committee under the chairmanship of Justice Jeevan Reddy (former chairman Law Commission of India and Supreme Court Judge) and comprising of eminent personalities from various walks of life to screen the antecedents of prospective candidates. The screening committee wrote to all major political parties in AP, informing them of Lok Satta's Election Watch campaign and its goals. The parties were informed of the criteria adopted for screening of prospective candidates and were requested:

  1. Not to nominate any candidates with a criminal record or corrupt antecedents.
  2. To field only clean candidates known for their integrity and commitment to democracy and public good.
  3. Lok Satta informed the parties that a list of prospective candidates with criminal antecedents would be made public prior to the nomination phase, with a call to reject criminalisation of politics.

Campaign against criminalization of politics

Lok Satta launched a massive and high decibel media campaign to solicit information from the public on criminal antecedents of prospective candidates. All major television channels in AP broadcast public service messages produced by Lok Satta, requesting information from public. Lok Satta also produced and broadcast similar public service messages on All India Radio. Campaign advertisements were also put up on hoardings at strategic locations. Tens of thousands of posters with catchy and evocative slogans were pasted all over the state. Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets were distributed through out the state to mobilize public opinion against criminalization of politics. The campaign was hugely successful and caught the imagination of the public at large. Senior leadership of Lok Satta participated in public meetings through out the state urging the people to reject criminal elements in politics, and to hold their elected representatives accountable.
In this day of all pervasive commercialisation, the high impact television campaign, costing tens of millions of rupees provided at no charge by all TV channels is a testimony to Lok Satta's credibility. However, larger campaigns at the national level will require resources to reach millions of households across the country.

Effecting Public Thinking and Discourse During Elections:

The release of the list of prospective candidates with criminal antecedents by Lok Satta has created a political storm in the state, and there was a huge public uproar. For almost ten days, the entire public discourse in the media was only on this topic and nothing else. None of the political parties questioned the authenticity of the information. The parties protested feebly that their hands were tied as they have to field only "winnable" candidates. In 1999 when Lok Satta had released the list of candidates with criminal records, it did not affect their candidature as they already secured nomination of major parties. This time, years of sustained campaigning, and public outcry meant that many could lose party nominations, ending their political careers. Thanks to the overwhelming public protest, the major parties did respond and did not field approximately half the candidates whose names figured in Lok Satta's list. In the final tally, 29 candidates who figured in our list were nominated by the major parties, of whom only 11 could manage to win in elections.



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