The following set of interviews from March 2020 to March 2021 has been conducted by [redacted for safety concerns] who may or may not be a wannabe journalist hoping to get an expose. It is being released to the general insti public as an effort to investigate the inner workings of the institute elections held at IITM. All ideas reflected in these interviews are views of the respective individuals and do not represent the views of T5E or the author. Especially not those of the author.
Interview 1: Setting: Soapbox, Student Activity Centre
After about 5 minutes of small talk, I convinced Nakul to talk to me on record about the Soapbox unfolding in front of us. We could only get a few minutes in before we were rudely interrupted.
ME: Hi Nak. So here we are at the SAC. What can you tell us about the Soapbox and the debate so far?
N: Hi. Glad to be part of this interview. Now, as we can see, the stage is set for Arjun to make his grand entry into student politics. Arjun would become the greatest secretary in the history of IITM, the greatest secretary of all colleges around the world. He is the sovereign of SAC, the Ayatollah of Anjappar, the oligarch of OAT, the VIP of Velachery.
ME: Well, ok. How about the debate though?
N: There is no debate. Chotu’s hands are too small to box with God.
ME: Quite a statement. What points of Arjun’s do you find unique?
N: All of them. Every single one. The sheer suddenness of his rebuttals, the unexpected nature of his responses and the fact that there was no warning to Chotu on how detailed Arjun’s manifestos make him untouchable.
ME: But there are some critics saying that his manifesto is a reincarnation of last years …
N: Critics are dumb. Who would you rather watch in a movie, Rajeev Masand or Ranveer Singh? Arjun is like Salman Khan with the way he motions, moves the entire crowd. Look.
[Arjun points in our general direction. Nakul proceeds to chant a slogan, almost a mantra rather, with language that wouldn’t be encouraged in civilised debate, and everyone follows suit.]
N: See, everyone’s chanting his name. Anna will shoot Chotu down like a Black B….
ME: Woah ok. Point taken. Well it would be irrelevant to ask you about Chotu, I mean Karan, so let me stick to Arjun. Proceeding, how would you sum up Arjun’s relationship with the Dean? Is it true that he once put a proxy in his class?
N: The Dean is cool. Arjun knows the Dean. The Dean loves Arjun. As you can see, he sends us personalized voicemail messages to confirm our proposals. (Points to Arjun trying to convince the panel that the voicemail should be considered as a legitimate part of the parody of a ‘debate’). Chotu cupped the Dean’s course, how he is even considered at all is a mystery.
(Couple of Nakul’s friends head over to create new snappy slogans. One of them goes to the mic stand to ask a question)
ME: Ok. You seem to have some work on your hands. One last question, we normally don’t discuss this but how big of a role do you think regionalism plays in insti elections?
N: Reggie what? Reggae? I don’t know much about reggae but this rap diss track we recorded against Chotu will make his team jump ship. Hol’ up. Look there.
[Nakul’s friend puts forth a hilariously biased question. Karan tries to answer but chokes. Half of the audience cheers. The other half responds with another not so polite chant. Someone yells. Karan stumbles through their sentence. Someone else yells. Everyone laughs. The candidate is left red-faced. A random fight breaks out five feet from us. Everyone cheers them on. Security separates them. Everyone boos. Karan gets some time to recoup and answers in the most unflattering way possible.]
N: Listen da, enough questions now. We need to heckle them more to get some more time out of this debate until we get another question to bomb chotu.
(Nakul’s friends pull him away and the interview ends abruptly.)
Interview 2: Setting: Outside Cauvery Hostel
Arjun’s campaign rolls on in grand fashion. Couldn’t catch him for an interview so I got the next best thing, his right-hand man, Krishna. He seemed a bit annoyed though.
ME: Hey Big K. How is the campaign going?
K : How do you think it’s going? We have to hit 3 more hostels and meet DoSt before the deadline. This bloody guy is taking the time to explain his bloated manifesto to freshies. What a way to waste time, although I am paid by the hour…
ME: You are paid by the hour?
K: Metaphor dude. Backend guys have to deal with all this crap. We hold this whole thing together. Everything from manifesto edits and gathering the inner circle for elections to scheduling meetings and campaigning. Next thing you know, we are getting that guy lunch. [Shouts] ARJUN LET’S GET MOVING. FIVE MORE MINUTES. Bloody Freshies, they don’t get the bigger picture. Look at them, asking questions without any idea of how things work here. We shouldn’t even be listening to what they have to say but unfortunately, they are also the biggest untapped voting base. You know? like new meat. Or freshie green pastures if you prefer vegetarian. Sheep could be influenced, not tired old mules. Ignorant, gullible sheep. Hey, you aren’t a freshie are you?
ME: Nope. Definitely not. Never been one.
K: Good. Look at him [points at Arjun gesticulating to make his point] talk to these guys in their language and they basically start worshipping you. It worked for the Soapbox and it will work again. That’s all you need. A pretty smile, comprehensible manner of speech and a serviceable memory to remember manifesto points chipped in by your team.
ME: But don’t you think being secretary is a big responsibility to take on?
K: Lol. Ask some real questions, I don’t have time. [shouts] ARJUN TIMES UP. Next time, we are doing a proper procession. Get a jeep and some speakers so we don’t have to walk everywhere. Funds are looking good. If you sail on a boat fit for a bond villain, you better play the part.
ME: Hey, one last thing before you go. How confident are you about winning?
K: Ha. The winner was decided long ago, right at the time of nominations lol. Right from choosing the right dummy as our punching bag, everything is sketched out. Campaigning is just the face of it, there are much more important things happening in the background. Things I won’t tell you. This isn’t getting published right? We are just talking. Bro to bro.
ME: Of course not, why would I publish this?
K: Cool. So, we have a spot open next year as part of the election package. We need someone like you to go through past year manifestoes and recycle some points. Reword them with fancy jargon. Guaranteed 5k plus next year assignments in all core courses. Add some stuff too if you feel like it. You up for it?
[Voice Recording stops abruptly]
Interview 3: Setting: Virtual Zoom Meeting with Candidate
Fast forward to March 2021, insti elections are taking place virtually. I got a chance to catch up with Panchali, candidate for cultural secretary. We had a pleasant conversation (for the most part) about how online campaigning would change the insti election scenario. :
ME: Hi Panchali, welcome to our first virtual interview. Congratulations on the nomination. How is the campaigning going for you?
P: Hi [redacted]. Thanks for having me. Campaigning is challenging especially because there is no face-to-face interaction. You can’t criticise your opponent effectively online. Fortunately, we have our social media wing helping us with that.
ME: The memes are great by the way.
P: Haha, thanks. I mean, we do not have any sort of official affiliation with any sort of page you just mentioned. We do appreciate the support though.
ME: There is talk going on about one of the memes hitting too close to home for your opposition. Talking about his height for example. How would you respond to that?
P: I am aware of that and I promptly issued an apology on part of the errant meme page owner. I forwarded the link everywhere so that Chotu doesn’t miss it.
ME: Yes, I am aware of it. He’s ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ after that touching apology. Moreover, allegations are sprouting up about your role in the excessive negative campaigning and rumour mongering against Chotu, sorry Karan. Would you like to address them?
P: I separate myself from any instance of negative campaigning against Chotu. Besides, if you are going to hold a public position, you should be able to take a joke right? Especially if you are running for the same position for the second time. No one likes a try-hard. Remember Hit Chotu Up? We don’t want that to trend again, do we?
ME: That’s quite an answer. In most of my other interviews, especially with my nominee departmental legislator, we also discussed the drowning of useful information with noise and drama. What do you think about it?
P: All of my posts on social media are completely informative in nature. But, we do depend, passively might I add, on these other pages on social media to propagate our message. It’s capitalism baby, we give consumers what they want. I have simply extended my influence over social media. You own the media, you own the eyes of the voters. And as it turns out, if you stare at copper long enough, it starts looking like gold. You eat at Anjappar enough for its food to taste like Zaitoon. That’s a good question, you shouldn’t have wasted that on a departmental legislator. Better than those pesky tongue-twisting T5E questions.
ME: Sure , sure. Not sure you know which organisation I’m representing but ok. You also mentioned about promoting cultural unity in the campus? How would you go about to achieve that especially considering the way votes are solicited in elections?
P: I have some very simple and elegant directives for promoting cultural unity. See , we [voice breaks off] and the different sections of insti populace [heavy background noise] and assimilation and digestion [crow crows coarsely] what do these management kids think of themselves [screen freezes] the Weeknd was definitely robbed [loud beeping] don’t worry that always happens to the generator.[loud crash] I will let you know at the time. I will give you my decision about conceding the election in the highly implausible scenario where I lose. I heard Chotu’s got hacker nerds ready to change the vote. We need a paper ballot. Mail everyone’s votes in. I’m sure we have enough money unless you-know-who already piggy banked it all for himself….
ME: Ok enough thanks. Even with those disturbances you were still more coherent than profs. Thanks for the interview. Hope we can — [call cuts]
DISCLAIMER: This article is purely fictional and intended to be humorous, satirical. No harm or disrespect is intended to any and all individual(s) or organisation(s). Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental. Readers are advised not to confuse them with real incidents.