As the city polls draw nearer, candidates are pulling out every stop -- be it composing hip hop music about lack of discipline in the ‘hood, posters on heritage sites, or going on Facebook Live more times than the admin of an average buy-and-sell group -- mayoral candidates know how to tap into the large pool of young voters.
This correspondent spoke with a candidate who claims to be revolutionising election campaigns. Meet Imtiaz S Hasan, 26, a fresh face in the scene, although his family has long been involved in the city’s politics.
This mayoral candidate knows that age is rarely on his side during campaigning. “Everyone says I’m too young for everything. They just make me hold some fake plastic trees and stand still while my second cousin does all the talking,” Imtiaz laments. “This is hardcore politics, you know; they don’t take you seriously without experience,” he tells me while sipping a strawberry frappe.
He appears oddly comfortable drinking this cold milkshake during winter. “Oh Dhaka winter doesn’t really bother me. I studied abroad so I’m accustomed to worse,” he chuckles.
So how is Imtiaz dealing with being the underdog? “I turned my weakness into strength, as every millennial should. Age can be on my side if I just go to the right place,” Imtiaz explains as he pulls out his phone and opens an app that I have only had bad experiences in. “See, this is Tinder. My campaign team worked long hours setting up this profile,” he tells me.
I take a look at the photos of him in a panjabi at a dawat, in a jacket in front of his foreign university, in a T-shirt at a tourist spot; always with a stubble and a dead stare. “Swipe right and this will be OUR city, girl,” says his bio. He has 200 matches.
“Of course, I can’t do all the talking. I have a team,” Imtiaz says, beaming at discovering such a great method of campaigning. “We start with the basics -- you know, what do you like, what’s your favourite colour, etc. Then we slowly nudge the conversation towards the election. I tell them some sad stories about my life. They sympathise with my tales of despair at being the underdog,” he says, “Then I empower them. I give them knowledge. I tell them how they can make a difference by voting.
“Most girls find my charm irresistible. I’m sure I’ll get a few hundred votes,” Imtiaz says. As I’m about to ask him some more questions about campaigning on a dating app, he cuts me off. “Look that’s pretty much it. I’ve actually found someone I like on Tinder amid all this and my cousin has finally let me out of his sight because I said I have this interview… can we cut this short cause I really want to meet her?” he asks.
He starts to frantically check his phone, “I really don’t want to be late, I should go,” he tells me.
“Sure, man. Go get that vote,” I say.
“Well, off to the next one,” I mutter as I head off to meet Fatiul Haq, the 47-year-old mayoral candidate who has taken to TikTok to reach the youth.