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City elections get global coverage as foreign scribes document poll frenzy

They pushed their way through the crowds on a Sunday at a Mayawati rally at Ramlila Ground,cameras in hand,clutching their notebooks tightly,sweating in their Fabindia kurtas,and smiling at everyone.

Written by Chinki Sinha | New Delhi |
May 11, 2009 2:34:00 am

They pushed their way through the crowds on a Sunday at a Mayawati rally at Ramlila Ground,cameras in hand,clutching their notebooks tightly,sweating in their Fabindia kurtas,and smiling at everyone. For the city’s foreign journalists covering the run-up to the Delhi elections,the heat was overbearing,the people a strange mix of rural and urban populations and the elections a confounding phenomenon,with strange radio ads and seven constituencies,parts of a whole,that were continents in themselves with dominant local issues.

It wasn’t an easy feat. But Delhi was everywhere.

None of the city’s quirks missed their watchful eyes,including the large number of city’s Independents who contested the seven Lok Sabha seats in the federally-administered Delhi. In Chandni Chowk alone,there were 19 Independents.

“Among the Independents in the fray are Delhi’s only female auto-rickshaw driver,a Jodhpur magician who filed his nomination papers dressed as dacoit brandishing a toy gun and a dancer from Gandhinagar. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lambasted such candidates as ‘spoilers’,” the BBC website said.

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On polling day,foreign journalists were combing the narrow lanes of the Walled City,touring the stretches of rural Outer Delhi and queuing outside polling booths in plush localities to feel the pulse of the elections,continuously feeding what they saw on to websites,shouting updates into their mobile phones and clicking pictures. Indian elections are,after all,the biggest in the world,and Delhi the capital,with “high-profile” voters.

A woman waiting to cast her vote,her face covered in bright yellow dupatta,a policeman ducking to get out of a polling station in Old Delhi as the day drew to a close,and polling agents looking through a voters’ list in what was a former slum,were the various faces of Delhi on The New York Times website. Photographer Ruth Fremson’s pictures captured the mood in the city,through shots of Muslim voters queuing outside polling booths and Congress’s Rahul Gandhi with his bodyguards running alongside his SUV.

Jeremy Khan,a contributor to International Herald Tribune and Newsweek,agreed that international media coverage of India’s general elections has increased over the years.

Khan was impressed with Delhi’s voter turnout of 50-plus per cent after Mumbai’s dismal show of 43 per cent. As he toured the Capital on May 7,he said he felt the people here were more politically savvy.

“There are human interest stories; there’s state-level politics. I was impressed as I talked to a lot of people — they had strong opinions,” he said.

On the BBC News website,there were constant updates.

“Few voters are around,no queues at any of the polling stations we saw. Turnout is as low as 25 per cent in some centres. Polling agents said they were disappointed. One said Delhi voters were suffering from election fatigue after the state Assembly polls barely four months ago,” wrote Jyotsna Singh of the BBC.

The BBC invested a lot of money,including hiring a train,the BBC India Election Train,to cover the 15th Lok Sabha elections in India. Though the move was criticised widely due to an enormous amount of funds spent on hiring and painting the train,the editors defended it,saying the next government can have an impact on the global recession.

Apart from the large number of correspondents sent to the cover it,the international media also dedicated a lot of news space to the Indian elections. The Wall Street Journal has dedicated a whole section,termed “India Elections”,while the Washington Post covered the four phases in great detail.

However,for media outlets that did not have huge funding to cover the city’s elections,a comprehensive coverage was out of bounds.

Dinesh Wagle,a reporter with the Kathmandu Post in Nepal,was out early morning doing the rounds of polling booths in Jangpura,clicking picture of voters proudly displaying ink marks on their fingers. But all of it was for his blog.

“Delhi doesn’t really make news for us. There are only seven seats. I filed reports during the first and the second phases. The rest they took from the wires.”

For all the latest Delhi News, download Indian Express App.

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