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Political Communication In Manipur Politics Essay

Info: 5130 words (21 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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Before venturing into nature of political communication in the constituency under study, let us briefly examine the various technique employed by candidates or parties in sharing political information to the electorates in Manipur. There are different ways and techniques to influence the electorates. Political parties and other civil organisation had undertaken the task of political education to the electorates to uphold the principle of participatory democracy. As in any democratic society, the real political drama of the participants is expressed through the electoral behaviour of the mass voters whose decision is generally influenced by the political information imparted to them by candidates or parties.

Research conducted in various field of elections and politics in Manipur have analysed the technique of communication employed during election. [1] Most studies have outlined the major source of political information that witness during successive elections in Manipur. Here we briefly examine some of them.

Party Flags and Posters

the electoral activities in Manipur are associated with the party flags fluttering in different house tops. One starts gauging the popularity of the party or its candidate on the basis of competitive flag flying contest. [2] The supporters of the concerned candidates raise the respective party flags to create a visual impact. The electorates also receive political information through various posters pasted on public places, showing the candidate photograph, name and symbol of the party. The use of flags and posters are an important ingredient of electoral information as these devices “assume greater importance because of widespread illiteracy among the electorate.” [3] 

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Door to door Canvassing

Another communication technique is that “the candidates along with their party workers usually indulge in door to door campaign in order to get votes.” [4] The students and local voluntary organisation play a large part in moving from house to house. This method enables the candidate in fray, in particular and its supporters, in general to convince the voters more meaningfully as he/she has direct contact with the electorates. Participation in door-to-door campaigning is a more specific activity which perhaps indicates a higher degree of political involvement than mere canvassing on an ad-hoc basis. [5] 

Election Meeting

Among the various communication technique, election meetings has the highest impact. [6] For building a public image of the candidate nothing could be compared with well organised and well attended public meeting. [7] It provides a platform to the candidates or party for influencing the voters collectively and informing the same – the ideas, policies, programmes, of political parties as well as of the candidates’ personal aspirations and desire. It is for this reason that “an effort is made to mobilise a large number of people to attain public meeting as possible.” [8] Therefore, it serves as a very effective source of political information to the electorates.

Election Procession or Rally

Election procession or rally is treated as a close ally of election meetings in intent and purpose. It has been an important medium in imparting political information to the electorates especially in the valleys of Manipur and is organized just before a week before the election date. Its main aim is to demonstrate the overall strength of the candidates in fray. In the procession, supporters usually carry flags, festoons, posters, manifesto, etc., of the party or candidate and appealed to voters to vote for their respective candidate. However, the association of the electorates with such processions is “an index or his interest, if not of involvement in election politics.” [9] 

Mass Media

Politician irrespective of party affiliations “communicates to the public mainly through the mass media” [10] such as newspapers, radio, television, etc. These are an important source of political information and have brought political party and politicians closer to the people. Almost every political party has its daily newspapers primarily catering to its clientals or members. [11] For instance, the Congress party propagates its view through ‘Samata Patrika’; the ‘Khalo’ for Communist Party of India; the ‘Ehou’ for Manipur Peoples’ Party, etc. As such political parties and candidates expressed their view points and thoughts through newspapers and serve as a medium of political information to the electorates.

Regarding the use of radio and television as a source of political information in Manipur, it was respectively introduced in 1995 assembly election and 1996 parliamentary election. Of late, both have assumed as an important source of information. Radio is the cheapest and the fastest and “the most popular medium of information in rural areas.” [12] Television brings it all into the living room: the debates, the political advertisements, the daily news from the campaign trail, political discussion programmes, and most recently, political talk shows. [13] These two media try to play a role in civic education; they call on the public to participate in election, without being biased to a specific party. [14] Thus, the mass media have become an important instrument of influencing as well as of informing the voters, the measures adopted as to how government function, its merits and demerits to the electorates.

3.5. Political Communication in Oinam Assembly Constituency

The Oinam Assembly Constituency is predominantly rural. The only urban area in the constituency is the small town of Oinam. Political information in the constituency largely emanates from the informal face to face contact, [15] although with the advancement of science and technology, mass media like radio, newspapers, television etc., have assume as an important source of political information. [16] In order to ascertain the major source of political information in the constituency, four major mode of communication, that is, inter-personal, institutional, election specific and mass media, have been adopted for the study. For this, an open-ended questionnaire was conducted. The sample consists of 398 respondents randomly selected from those who resided in the constituency.

To influence the voters and get the desired election result involves all the components of a communication process as Lasswell (1948) described: “Who says what, to whom, in which channel, to whom, with what effect.” [17] For proper communication between the electorates and the candidates, campaigning is essential in which a political message that the latter wants to share with the former is conveyed. this is also critical to the healthy and democratic society. One of the important elements of the campaign strategies employed by various candidates or parties is to demonstrate the real supporter behind the candidates or parties through engagement and mobilization of the mass electorates.

In the constituency under study, communication process takes on the basis of personal contact between the electorates and the candidates or its supporter or the like, though there is slight involvement of other means. Table 3.1 displays the various communication modes as cited by the respondent electorates of the Oinam assembly constituency. [18] 

Table 3.1

Political Communication: Voters source of information

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid

Inter-personal

130

32.7

32.7

32.7

Institutional

78

19.6

19.6

52.3

Election specific media

95

23.9

23.9

76.1

Mass-media

77

19.3

19.3

95.5

others

18

4.5

4.5

100.0

Total

398

100.0

100.0

The statistics displayed in Table 3.1, shows that about one-third of the sample electorate in the constituency, that is 33% had political information based on inter-personal sources of communication. While election specific media of information had an impact to around 24% of the sample respondent, 19% voters claimed that they had information from the mass-media. Institutional means had also helps in imparting political information to about 20% of the sample voters. The same Table also shows that 5% of the respondent voters failed to specify their sources of information in elections of the constituency. Also, Table 3.2, Table 3.3, Table 3.4, and Table 3.5 presents Crosstabulation by gender, age-group, economic and educational status with respect to various mode of communication as obtained from the questionnaire. In the pages that follow, we shall examine all sources of political information that are prevalent in the Oinam assembly constituency.

Table 3.2

Voters source of information * Gender Crosstabulation

Gender

Total

Male

Female

Voters source of information

Inter-personal

Count

57

73

130

% within Voters source of information

43.8%

56.2%

100.0%

% of Total

14.3%

18.3%

32.7%

Institutional

Count

45

33

78

% within Voters source of information

57.7%

42.3%

100.0%

% of Total

11.3%

8.3%

19.6%

Election specific media

Count

52

43

95

% within Voters source of information

54.7%

45.3%

100.0%

% of Total

13.1%

10.8%

23.9%

Mass-media

Count

37

40

77

% within Voters source of information

48.1%

51.9%

100.0%

% of Total

9.3%

10.1%

19.3%

others

Count

7

11

18

% within Voters source of information

38.9%

61.1%

100.0%

% of Total

1.8%

2.8%

4.5%

Total

Count

198

200

398

% within Voters source of information

49.7%

50.3%

100.0%

% of Total

49.7%

50.3%

100.0%

Table 3.3

Voters source of information * Age Group Crosstabulation

Age Group

Total

18-25

26-40

41-60

61 – above

Voters source of information

Inter-personal

Count

31

31

49

19

130

% within Voters source of information

23.8%

23.8%

37.7%

14.6%

100.0%

% of Total

7.8%

7.8%

12.3%

4.8%

32.7%

Institutional

Count

35

14

13

16

78

% within Voters source of information

44.9%

17.9%

16.7%

20.5%

100.0%

% of Total

8.8%

3.5%

3.3%

4.0%

19.6%

Election specific media

Count

25

30

18

22

95

% within Voters source of information

26.3%

31.6%

18.9%

23.2%

100.0%

% of Total

6.3%

7.5%

4.5%

5.5%

23.9%

Mass-media

Count

16

31

18

12

77

% within Voters source of information

20.8%

40.3%

23.4%

15.6%

100.0%

% of Total

4.0%

7.8%

4.5%

3.0%

19.3%

others

Count

4

7

3

4

18

% within Voters source of information

22.2%

38.9%

16.7%

22.2%

100.0%

% of Total

1.0%

1.8%

.8%

1.0%

4.5%

Total

Count

111

113

101

73

398

% within Voters source of information

27.9%

28.4%

25.4%

18.3%

100.0%

% of Total

27.9%

28.4%

25.4%

18.3%

100.0%

Table 3.4

Voters source of information * Economic Status Crosstabulation

Economic Status

Total

Low

Average

High

Voters source of information

Inter-personal

Count

56

40

34

130

% within Voters source of information

43.1%

30.8%

26.2%

100.0%

% of Total

14.1%

10.1%

8.5%

32.7%

Institutional

Count

24

22

32

78

% within Voters source of information

30.8%

28.2%

41.0%

100.0%

% of Total

6.0%

5.5%

8.0%

19.6%

Election specific media

Count

30

35

30

95

% within Voters source of information

31.6%

36.8%

31.6%

100.0%

% of Total

7.5%

8.8%

7.5%

23.9%

Mass-media

Count

35

30

12

77

% within Voters source of information

45.5%

39.0%

15.6%

100.0%

% of Total

8.8%

7.5%

3.0%

19.3%

others

Count

5

12

1

18

% within Voters source of information

27.8%

66.7%

5.6%

100.0%

% of Total

1.3%

3.0%

.3%

4.5%

Total

Count

150

139

109

398

% within Voters source of information

37.7%

34.9%

27.4%

100.0%

% of Total

37.7%

34.9%

27.4%

100.0%

Table 3.5

Voters source of information * Educational Status Crosstabulation

Educational Status

Total

Below Matric

Post Matric

Graduates

Post Graduate

Voters source of information

Inter-personal

Count

34

35

41

20

130

% within Voters source of information

26.2%

26.9%

31.5%

15.4%

100.0%

% of Total

8.5%

8.8%

10.3%

5.0%

32.7%

Institutional

Count

21

31

14

12

78

% within Voters source of information

26.9%

39.7%

17.9%

15.4%

100.0%

% of Total

5.3%

7.8%

3.5%

3.0%

19.6%

Election specific media

Count

23

40

21

11

95

% within Voters source of information

24.2%

42.1%

22.1%

11.6%

100.0%

% of Total

5.8%

10.1%

5.3%

2.8%

23.9%

Mass-media

Count

9

27

30

11

77

% within Voters source of information

11.7%

35.1%

39.0%

14.3%

100.0%

% of Total

2.3%

6.8%

7.5%

2.8%

19.3%

others

Count

7

4

3

4

18

% within Voters source of information

38.9%

22.2%

16.7%

22.2%

100.0%

% of Total

1.8%

1.0%

.8%

1.0%

4.5%

Total

Count

94

137

109

58

398

% within Voters source of information

23.6%

34.4%

27.4%

14.6%

100.0%

% of Total

23.6%

34.4%

27.4%

14.6%

100.0%

3.5.1. Inter-personal Mode of Communication:

Interpersonal political communication refers to that episode of political debate and discussion that take place between the non-elite members of a political society. It is well thought-out process, and includes actions like passing on and receiving information on political matters, exchanging numerous view-points about how they are to be evaluated, or attempting to persuade others of certain points of view-points. It is decentralized and uneven, and any particular content can be received by a small number of addresser but at the same time it has the capacity to expose to large number of people.

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Participatory democratic electoral politics requires voters to be informed and aware of the significance and importance of their vote. It is also vital to be familiar with the values of political information generated in the society from the point of view of interpersonal communication. One of the basic reasons is despite the fact of being “word-of-mouth communication that occurs in face-to-face interaction between two or more individuals,” [19] all discussion, either political or social is not the same. Indeed, conclusion drawn from socialization research indicates that inter-personal influence is a product of the intimacy and access within primary social groupings. [20] Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes recognized the power of immediate social circles on the ways that persons perceive and acts in politics:

Not only does the individual absorb from his primary group the attitude that guides his behaviour; he often behaves politically as a self-conscious member of these groups, and his perception of their preferences can be of great importance for his own voting act. Our interview suggests that the dynamics of these face-to-face associations are capable of generating forces that may negate the force of the individual’s own evaluations of the elements of politics. [21] 

Manza, Brooks, and Sauder, have put in a nutshell: “The basic idea is straightforward: Interactions with others enhance one’s likelihood of political participation.” [22] The reason being that the more people talk, the easier life is for them. However, such observation that refers only to the level of conversation may be over-simplistic. It makes a difference whether we chat to our family members or whether we talk to colleagues at work or neighbors across the fence, as the quality of the respective underlying relationships is not the same. Interaction with friends, but especially among family members are usually characterized by “intimacy, trust, respect, access, and mutual regard,” [23] and are, without a shred of doubt, important in the voting act. Naturally the candidates are inclined on conveying political information to those persons, friends, elites, cognate relatives and the like who can both influence and mobilize the electors. Therefore, interpersonal media of communication assume as an important mechanism in informing the electorates. It perhaps represents “the traditional culture framework and idiom” [24] in imparting political information.

DeVito identified a primary principle of interpersonal communication as being that it is transactional. This means that interpersonal communication is “a process, an ongoing event; the elements are interdependent; each participant acts as a whole, not in isolated parts and pieces.” [25] It is one kind of communication that the candidates, the candidates’ assistants, and the voters can use to communicate with each other during election campaigns. Trent and Friedenberg (1995) illustrated the implications of the transactional principle of interpersonal communication for political communication as follows: [26] 

First, interpersonal communication is contextual. This means that actors will change their communicative styles if the context of communication changes. Second, this perspective suggests that each party to the transaction is simultaneously both a sender and a receiver of verbal and nonverbal messages. Third, each participant affects and is affected by the other. [27] 

Such mode of inter-personal communication can either be public or private. It can take place in the course of encounters between strangers, when no control can be exerted over the range of participants that share in the dialogue. Or it can occur between persons who are well acquainted if not intimately related to one another, in secluded spaces that are protected physically or at least through norms of courtesy against anyone entering who is not explicitly invited.

In the constituency under study, over one-third of the sample respondent among which 43% male and 56% female agreed to the fact that they had political communication from the interpersonal sources (Table 3.2). The voter in the age group of 41-60 years and the young voters, or perhaps the first time voters in the constituency are largely got their source of information from inter-personal source (Table 3.3). Also, ‘low’ income voters has the highest source of information from the inter-personal communication while the ‘high’ income voters got the least (Table 3.4) Further, educationally, ‘post graduates’ voters has the least source of communication from inter-personal relationship (Table 3.5). But, more importantly what kind of inter-personal source of communication is prevailed in the constituency is the mood point that needs to be addressed. For this, Table 3.6 displays the various inter-personal source of information as deemed important by the sample voters of Oinam Assembly constituency. [28] 

Table 3.6

Inter-personal Communication: Voters source of information

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid

Family

35

8.8

26.9

26.9

Immediate Relatives

27

6.8

20.8

47.7

Clan and kinship relations

20

5.0

15.4

63.1

Friends

15

3.8

11.5

74.6

Neighbours

14

3.5

10.8

85.4

Local elites

13

3.3

10.0

95.4

Others

6

1.5

4.6

100.0

Total

130

32.7

100.0

Missing

System

268

67.3

Total

398

100.0

From Table 3.6 it is noticed that as to the main source of inter-personal political communication of the respondents, it seems the formal or informal conversation within family members (27%) act as a major source of information during the electoral process. This is because of the fact that the primary group has always been known to be an important source of information, especially among the rural people. The information emanated within the family setting has the highest impact among the sample respondents as, “the family is, perhaps, the universal social institution – present throughout history in widely ranging cultural setting.” [29] It is also a major source of influence on the behaviour of its members in the context of inter-personal communication. The decisions about voting a particular candidate or party in an election are decisions usually made within the context of a family setting. Therefore, the family is also a prime target for candidates and parties or poll campaigner in the constituency’s electoral process. [30] 

In the constituency, close relatives also act as a source of information of about 21% of the sample respondents. That is to say, in election between competing candidates, the most important role of the candidates in fray and political campaigners is to influence their immediate relatives and create a support base of respective candidates before they campaign for other voters. Further, the constituency being a traditional patriarchal society where traditional social structure still predominates, “clans and kinship relations also play a major role in the political life of the people in the constituency.” [31] The clan and kinship provide electoral information to about 15% of the sample respondents.

Moreover, friends also play an important role as a source of political information. Friendships are key components of social networks, generating a series of direct, frequent, voluntary, and purposeful interactions. [32] The same age-groups, colleagues, co-workers and employees of the same office, have warm attachment of ties amongst themselves. Friends variably affect each other’s political preferences by reinforcing or challenging current views on parties, politicians, and policy issues. [33] As such, discussion among friends leads to accumulation of greater amount of political knowledge and it has more impact to the female than the male voters in the constituency. [34] 

Furthermore, about 11% of the respondents obtained their political information from neighbours. The fact that, neighborhoods are places where people hear information and opinions that are likely to be different than those that hear in the family and therefore act as a source of information to the voters. This social environment can affect an individual in many ways, and that societal communication between individuals in relatively small groups, or ‘neighborhoods’ is natural for interaction to take place before and during elections. Huckfeldt (1979) says: “…the neighborhood environment is a relatively constant and inescapable source of political and social stimuli.” [35] In rural societies, neighbourhood has intimate and primary relationship. Its significance in rural community is so immense that persons who have everyday quarrels with their neighbours are generally look-down by the society and it is considered that neighbours cannot be trusted. In the present constituency the bond linking neighbours are so close that what is considered confidential by a particular family today is known to its neighbours in the next day. [36] Also, the local elites like tall government employee, landlords, entrepreneur, etc., in the constituency, though not, as influential as, family or relatives also helps to draw the attention of the voters in a significant way. These elites also impart political information to around 10% of the respondent voters.

From the above observation it is evident that among the inter-personal source of information, the family and their immediate play much more important p

 

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