A cliche has it that a picture is worth a thousand words. In contemporary India, innocuous photographs often create political fear.
Late last week, a picture caused a political furore in Patna. Pictures of Bihar and Gujarat chief ministers Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi were splashed in a newspaper advertisement, something that Kumar found unpalatable. With state assembly elections close at hand, he feared the erosion of a vote bank.
In Gujarat, a different picture turned out to be unappeasing. In this case, an advertisement used a picture of Muslim girls working on a computer in a college in Uttar Pradesh to highlight the achievements of the state government.
In both cases, political leaders had outdated ideas about the political uses of photographs. Indian voters don’t use visual information alone to make choices. There’s more at stake for them than mere pictures.