“What are you doing here?” “I couldn’t sleep, so I am counting sheep” “But this is Anjappar.”
Imagine you are scrolling through Instagram and randomly come across a post with information about the past wrongdoings of a particular person. To a fresher, it could be pure nonsense and they might choose to continue their scrolling journey, or perhaps they stop to read it because it’s about someone whose name they heard in passing. Whereas, a senior is likely to end up thinking, “Oh no, here we go again.”
Usually more active during the election season but present throughout the year, there are ample meme pages out there that will give you access to sizzling hot “insider info” about the elections. Be it a diss about the standing candidates or details about secret supply chains you either know about or won’t believe exist within Insti, you will find it all there. Even the elected council members are not out of their scrutiny when the nearing elections aren’t the sole thing they are focusing on; personal lives be damned.
At a glance, they are extremely passionate about the welfare of the GSB. Given a chance, they would probably present a speech in the OAT with thoroughly researched insider info on a PPT to ensure that each and every voter makes the “perfect choice”. Fortunately, they can’t do that. But that doesn’t stop them from sharing their opinions veiled as neutral facts on social media. No matter how deep they have to dig or how many extra miles they need to go, they will put out detailed proofs on how so and so is an absolute good for nothing and shouldn’t even stand for a certain post. As a fresher with almost no clue about what’s going on, you are in the perfect place to learn what every other conversation keeps getting steered towards. Right?
Sure, at the end of the day, the ones giving you all the ‘deets’ are people from within insti. But I suppose, in this matter at least, we should remember what we were told about not trusting strangers on the internet.
All the admins of these pages are fully anonymous and they keep changing over time. So, one wouldn’t normally know whether they are trustworthy or not, unless you know them personally or at least have a vague idea about who they are. Even then, a lot more is happening behind the scenes than what’s apparent from this side of the screen. With all the blatantly intolerant memes on some person or the other, floating around for no real reason, the campaigning students need to over-write a biased and often extremely negative public image and convert it into a favourable one to get the position they are aiming for.
Now, of course, no one will admit it, but there’s a common notion regarding the competence of girls. Even if they have proven themselves to be capable, it is quite obvious that girls have a much harder time campaigning for the elections than boys. Metaphorically, if a girl and a boy are standing for the same post, and end up being abducted by aliens, the girl would get shamed a lot more harshly for it. She will even get harassed online more frequently and easily as compared to her male counterpart. Even her front-end supporters (only the girls, mind you) will be at risk of being harmed by the opposing male candidate’s supporters. If this was the case just for one candidate or two, you could say I’m an exaggerating fool for calling this sexist. But that’s not it. Every woman contesting for the institute elections has been judged for the smallest of mistakes committed by her.
Some believe that the unfavourable gender ratio is to be blamed for it. With fewer girls in campus, a female candidate needs to obtain the support of a significant number of guys to secure a majority in the vote count. This unfortunately makes them dependent on men and they need to get help from ‘influential’ guys to prove their worth as a candidate hence in general, they are seen as comparably incompetent. Statistically speaking, there aren’t many girls in the core teams of the PoR verticals which in turn, strengthens this internalised sense of misogyny. Still, such an internalised feeling should technically be irrelevant on a large scale. Unless … this hate and misconception can be spread amongst the GSB without being too obvious about it. This is where the open secret that no one fully understands comes into the picture: the existence of the backend.
With as much linguistic diversity within insti as it boasts of, the formation of social circles based on languages or regions is inevitable. Frankly, nothing is wrong with that. We should all be able to have a group of people we are comfortable hanging out with. And if that friend circle happens to consist of people from our regional community, then what’s wrong with that, right?
The issue is, the extremely social people in these regional groups are looked up to by others around them and are in general, ‘respected’. These people have the ability to influence the opinions people have about the candidates contesting in the elections. Thus, a few self-proclaimed or genuine “gawds” influence the decisions and opinions of those people. This leads to a significant number (often going up to 400 or so) of students blindly casting their votes in favour of a single candidate. For a voter, it may not mean too much. But for a candidate, such a huge chunk of support born from this twisted pyramid scheme of influence becomes very valuable.
Now, other than the sheer kindness of their hearts and their honest to God concern about the future of insti, these backend gods are also driven by the intent to make sure that the people they know win the elections. There are mainly two kinds of reasoning behind this. One, people want someone whom they can easily approach to be in powerful positions so that their own demands, however insignificant, are listened to. They believe that a secretary from a particular region might not listen to the worries of junta from some other region. They will go as far as attempting to remove candidates that they don’t like, for reasons that aren’t even remotely connected to a secretary’s role. One’s cultural roots should have no connection to their credibility and worth as a candidate in the institute elections. But it does anyway, and often candidates do get harassed based on the same.
Two, people want to feel in control of the election scenes. This is the more unreasonable thought process that goes into all this, but it also contributes a lot. Maybe it’s out of insecurity, or maybe it’s for the accompanying power trip. Who knows? Control freaks do exist, after all, and we won’t be dedicating this article just to shaming them. But, the people who “aspire” to be their region’s gods do try to control the election outcomes by influencing and brainwashing as many of their peers and juniors as they can.
Regardless of the reason, the backend can be extremely desperate when it comes to promoting their favourite candidates, and that’s where the whole hating on/putting down of the opposing candidates becomes useful. After all, there’s only so much praise you can shower on your puppet. Sometimes, you just need to let go and “criticise” the opponents as well to put your chosen one in the good books of the GSB.
In fact, there are accounts of harassment where the opposing candidates were forced to give up on their candidature. More often, the backend manipulations involve various deals. Important positions of responsibility in core teams, scholarships, prestige: it all becomes a currency in this barter system involving seats and electoral victory. Sometimes, the deals are based purely on the backend’s bluffs. Though tales of previous elections are beyond the scope of this article, fascinating information on backend workings can be found here.
Ultimately, there are elections where too many posts are contested unanimously, which goes against the very spirit of a fair and square election. There were times when the SEC members, aka the “referees” of the election, faced harassment in the form of vulgar messages and harsh comments. On the other side of the coin, there are various claims that the SEC has shown favouritism towards certain candidates. However, these are not backed by proof, which could mean that such incidents are either covered up cleanly or are hollow allegations. When speaking to a former SEC member regarding these accusations, they stated the following: “People who make these accusations often have an agenda of their own, to muddy the waters by claiming everything is rigged and through that, they gain sympathy for their candidate.”
With regards to the opinion that rules regarding penalties are not as transparent as they are expected to be, they stated that “there is already a schedule of penalties in the election manual. It should be understood that nowhere in the world are punishments for a crime fixed. Only guidelines on maximum/minimums are given and the final verdict lies in the hand of the judge or the jury…It’s also implausible to define specific crimes and the specific penalties. Take a scenario, someone shared a video before the campaign period. How do you punish them? Is it a campaign video? If yes, how many seconds long is it? How many views did it have? How campaign focused was it? Was it posted by him or someone else? You can’t have a system where such hyper-specific scenarios are defined and have punishment listed. It is left to the discretion of the SEC and the FacAds”.
All of this makes one question the true purpose of an election. If you are simply left to choose the bad from a mix of worse and the worst, is it even worth thinking seriously about? It can all be extremely frustrating for someone who is detached from the intricate backstage of an election. Inevitably, they end up not trusting anyone at all since everything seems pretty useless from the voters’ points of view.
If the entire GSB is taught to not believe in the backend ‘currency’ and take part in the spreading of hate, it will eventually lose the grip it has over the Insti junta and its future. It might not make a difference immediately, but if each and every one of us starts taking interest and making informed voting decisions, then I believe that over time, the sanctity of elections can be restored.
Disclaimer: The above article is an opinion. The views are solely those of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the position of T5E.