Joke candidates keep elections real AF. Also known as protest candidates, these guys adorn alternate, often fictitious personas. They have proper manifestos, campaigns and are legitimate in every other technical way, but what makes them ‘joke candidates’ is the way they satirize the politics of the people they represent. This makes them invaluable. Because they could potentially steal votes from the serious candidates, the serious ones have to try much harder to capture votes with real and valuable policy promises. Since joke candidates don’t need to worry about actually losing the election, they can openly criticize policies presented by other contestants and bring up touchy topics without worrying how it might affect their own campaigns. Having joke candidates in Indian elections would improve the quality of election time narrative and the policies candidates pitch to the people.
Here are 5 joke candidates from other countries that could add some much-needed masala to India’s elections.
1. Lord Buckethead (Suggested Desi Version: Sardar Baltiwala)
Lord Buckethead of the Gremloids Party most recently contested the 2017 U.K. Election in the same constituency as current PM Theresa May. Even though May won, Lord Buckethead was considered May’s most formidable candidate. His manifesto was to provide a ‘strong, not entirely stable, leadership’, and this platform actually won him 249 votes. In point 7 of his manifesto he presented, “A firm public commitment to build the £100bn renewal of the Trident weapons system, followed by an equally firm private commitment not to build it. They’re secret submarines, no one will ever know. It’s a win-win,” exposing how politicians frame ambiguous policies in an attempt to appease everyone, without taking a strong position on either side of the debate. Kind of sounds like how the NDA is treating all the Hindutva vigilantism in India today. PM Modi says he wants to take action against it, but he also kind of shrugs ‘Hindutva’ responsibly when he says, “We cannot say there were this many rapes in our government and that many in yours.” Maybe we need a joke candidate to present something like this – ‘A firm public commitment to penalize cow vigilantes, followed by an equally firm private commitment not to do anything. They’re faceless mobs, no one will ever know. It’s a win-win.”
While we’re on the subject of Lord Buckethead, point 10 in his manifesto was, ‘Legalisation of the hunting of fox-hunters.’ Maybe we should have, ‘Legalisation of the hunting of blackbuck-hunters’ considering how easily Salman Khan seems to get away with it.
2. The Monster Raving Loony Party (Suggested Desi Version: Party Sharty Party)
One of UK’s oldest joke parties, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party has been contesting elections since 1983. In the 2017 election, the party’s leader Alan ‘Howling Laud’ Hope also contested in the same constituency as current PM Theresa May and won 119 votes. His campaign was ‘free woolen hats for all, so we can pull the wool over people’s eyes”. If India had a Party Sharty Party their platform would be ‘Muft, muft, muft dhool! Aankhon mein jhonkne ke liye’. And just like their platform, some of the points in their manifesto could work perfectly for India too. Considering the lack of infrastructure in Indian schools, this one – All schools would have a jumble sale or fete or another fundraising event at least twice per month to help raise funds for those little extras such as desks, books, paper, pens etc. – could be applied almost word for word. Even this one – Nationalise all political parties so if they don’t keep their manifesto promises, we will sell them off – reflects perfectly both the obscene funding of political parties and the shambolic state of public companies like SAIL, BSNL, MTNL and Air India. Plus, considering our increasing crime rate, the second half of that point – We will nationalize crime to make sure it doesn’t pay – works great too.
And where austerity is concerned, MRL’s ‘Due to the fact that the Government has made cuts in almost everything around. the loony party proposes to cut the letters of the alphabet… Starting with the letters N. H. and S.’ could world for India if we changed the letters to L, P and G.
3. Ljubisa “Beli” Preletacevic (Suggested Desi Version: Sant Rang Badlu)
Beli is a joke candidate who ran for municipal elections in Serbia and actually won 20% of the seats there. Then in 2017, he and his party Sarmu probo nisi (rough translation: You haven’t tasted the cabbage roll) participated in the Presidential elections, in which they came 3rd with 9.44% of the votes. His platform is very different from the previous two. Instead of criticizing the politics, Beli satirizes the politicians themselves. He rides on a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Mladenovac, promising jobs and cash to anyone who would give him their votes, with the conscious intention of not following up with his promises, depicting most politicians, who he claims are ‘sleazy fraudsters’. His name literally means, ‘the man in white who switches political party for personal gain’. Doesn’t all this sounds like Beli is satirizing any one of our Indian politicians, coincidently, most of our guys wear white kurtas too. Seeing as how often MPs and MLAs seem to switch parties and allegiances for personal gain and how widespread the concept of ‘cash for votes’ is in our country, Beli would fit right into our political system, some might even think he’s a legitimate candidate.
Another thing Beli wants to bring to notice is that Serbia doesn’t have a strong enough opposition. With 11% votes in the opinion polls leading up to the Serbian Election, Beli was 2nd! Some might say India doesn’t have a strong enough opposition too. Maybe a candidate like Beli is just what India needs to wake out opposition parties up.
4. István Nagy (Suggested Desi Version: Amar Akbar Anthony)
István Nagy from the Hungarian Two-tailed Dog Party is a joke candidate from Hungary and has been around since 2006. The party’s main platform is ‘anti-anti-immigration’, countering the growing racism and xenophobia due to the influx of refugees and immigrants. Often dressed as a chicken, gorilla or even Santa Claus, the idea behind this candidate is that he could be anyone. Even his name, István Nagy, is the ‘John Smith’ of Hungary – a combination of the most common first and last name in the country.
Such a candidate in India would be invaluable considering that all our elections and party campaigns seem to only boil down to vote banks. Candidates are fielded based on the cast and religion of the electorate rather than on merit. And it’s not the party’s fault because even the people are more likely to vote for someone belonging to their own community regardless of his policies. A community-less joke candidate in such an environment may be exactly what the country needs to realize how polarised we really are.
5. Tiririca (Suggested Desi Version: Sonu)
Brazil is one of the countries in the world that hold compulsory elections and as a result has developed a tradition of having a lot of joke candidates that people who otherwise would not have voted at all can vote for. One such joke candidate goes by the stage name Tiririca. IRL he’s Francisco Oliveira Silva, an actor, comedian and singer-songwriter, but when it comes to his politics, he’s known to be a ‘clown’. The 2 main things he addresses in his platform are the lack of transparency and corruption, both problems that are severely crippling India as well. To combat the transparency issue, his message when standing the federal deputy seat of Sao Paulo was, “What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don’t know. But vote for me and I will find out for you.” This message actually got him elected to office with a total of 1.3 million votes. And against corruption he said, “If elected I promise to help all Brazilian families… especially mine,” and “It can’t get any worse, vote Tiririca.”
Honestly, haven’t you ever watched a primetime election debate in India and thought, “It can’t get any worse”?
India already has the NOTA (none of the above) option for the people who want to abstain from voting or have simply lost faith in the country’s elections and joke candidates are nothing but a more entertaining version of NOTA. But at least with these ‘protest’ candidates, NOTA can have a voice, an opinion or criticism, that people can stand for.