Election merchandise gets cold response

- April 19, 2024
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Traders in Sadar Bazaar blame digital marketing and Model Code of Conduct for the low sales of campaign material ahead of Lok Sabha elections

TRUE BLUE: Bhim Army flags have made a significant appearance in Sadar Bazaar ahead of the upcoming elections

With polling to the Lok Sabha elections in the Capital just over a month away, the atmosphere in Sadar Bazaar, the biggest wholesale market in Delhi, is one of anxious anticipation. However, the usual hustle and bustle of customers is notably absent as stacks of unsold election merchandise languish in the cramped, pint-sized shops.

Renowned for the array of election paraphernalia, ranging from slogan-bearing T-shirts and flags to scarves, mobile phone stickers, as well as umbrellas adorned with party symbols, Sadar Bazaar finds itself grappling with dismal sales ahead of the upcoming elections. Bearing the weight of subdued business, vendors are hoping for a last-minute surge in customers.

The British-era market used to draw customers from afar with its colourful election merchandise. Its bustling streets were a visual feast, offering a glimpse of the diverse political landscape through the myriad of symbols and slogans adorning the shops. It was the go-to place for anyone seeking election paraphernalia, a vibrant hub where the spirit of democracy thrived in the form of merchandise.

This year, however, marks a stark departure from the usual scene. 

The streets are now dominated by saffron flags and Jai Shree Ram slogan flags, signalling a significant shift.

It’s only after stepping into the shops that one discovers election merchandise. 

Most of the shop owners are attributing the decline to the rising tide of digitalisation and strict enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct.

“This (slow pace of sales) is due to social media campaigns. We haven’t got many orders until now. The demand is low compared to previous election years, varna ab tak maaramari ho jati (there would have been huge demand if it were like the past),” said Imran Ansari, a wholesale dealer, to Patriot. Ansari, who is co-owner of Zain Enterprises, is feeling the pinch of reduced orders. 

Blame Model Code of Conduct

Anuj, a retailer in Sadar Bazaar, explained to Patriot that the current situation is a result of the Model Code of Conduct being in effect. 

“Displaying flags of any particular party is seen as promoting that party, which is prohibited by the government. As a result, no party flags or items are being displayed, leading to the prevalence of saffron flags instead. The shift is due to the regulations imposed during the election period.”

Anuj also commented on the significant drop in business this year. He noted that many vendors find themselves empty-handed, with only a minimal sale of flags taking place. Unlike previous years when items like printed T-shirts featuring party symbols, badges, and various other merchandise used to sell briskly, the demand has noticeably declined. 

Anuj shared his own experience, mentioning that despite having a big stock of party symbol printed T-shirts, sales have been disappointingly low.

“The best-sellers are AAP’s caps and scarves,” he stated. “These are followed by saffron flags at a distant second. The Congress, however, is nowhere in the picture.”

‘Anil Bhai Rakhi Wale’ have been around since 1984. They supply all kinds of election merchandise all over the country.

“After the rise in digital advertisement, around 20% of merchandise business has fallen. Also, the Aachar Sanhita (Model Code of Conduct) has also had an impact. This strict action started in 2014. So we have decreased our stock by 20%,” Rohit, who has been working for 15 years in this shop, told Patriot.

Fazil, representing Muskan Traders, revealed that they are currently selling products at significantly reduced prices, even below their original manufacturing costs. He expressed deep concern over the complete absence of demand this time around, and is considering the possibility of moving away from selling election merchandise.

Reflecting on this dramatic shift, Fazil recalled the high demand that once defined their operations. Previously, they would keep their shops open from early morning till late at night due to the steady stream of customers. 

Gaining acceptance

Even though there has been subdued presence of merchandise of the main political parties, Bhim Army flags and products are making their presence felt.  

Ranjit, owner of a shop dealing with Bhim Army products, revealed, “We are newcomers in this business and solely focus on selling Bhim Army’s merchandise. While sales aren’t exceptional, we are at least recouping our investments, unlike others. However, profitability remains elusive for us as well.

“Earlier, the candidates used to keep aside a certain amount to procure the election merchandise. They would subsequently purchase it from us. Now, it is the party head office which distributes them,” said a shopkeeper in Sadar Bazaar.

NO SIGN: Saffron flags, many with Jai Shree Ram on them, dominate the shops in Sadar Bazaar while flags of political parties are absent

Chetan Aggarwal of CKS Enterprises, who has been doing business for the past 15 years but opened shop in Sadar Bazaar just a month ago, blamed the wholesale market in Mathura for impacting the business. 

“There is not much profit in this business now, the wholesale market in Mathura has spoiled the business,” he was heard speaking to someone over phone.

“Social media has affected the sales. The advertisement market has shifted to social media — Facebook, Instagram. Also, the margin has hugely dipped compared to earlier,” he said as other friends agreed with him.