Elections in India are no less than carnivals,” opined a BBC correspondent when the country went to the hustings in 1977 and Mrs Gandhi and her Congress got a drubbing at the hands of the Janata Party. Right from 1952 till the ongoing charade, elections in India have been evoking widespread enthusiasm among the Indian people of all ‘hues’.
A most interesting part of the whole caboodle is slogan-mongering. In the last elections in 2014, The Guardian of England reported that there is a big ‘factory’ (yes, you read it right, ‘factory’) in India which is almost a syndicate for churning out colourful slogans for the parties and their candidates.
Before I descant upon this interesting phenomenon, let me take you back by more than 50 years and remind you that when Babu Jagjivan Ram was a Congress candidate from a constituency in Bihar, the slogan that was coined by a local poet was: Ram naam satya hai. Unfortunately, the veteran minister was defeated! That very slogan was used by a Hindi daily with a punning twist: Babuji ka Ram naamsatya ho gaya! (A phrase used in the Hindi belt when someone kicks the bucket!)
The ruling BJP still screams: Sabka saath, sabka vikaas but the Congress’ slogan-makers have twisted it to: Janta ka saath, apna vikas. This is a subtle slap in the face of the ruling party.
In Hoshangabad, MP, the slogan of Congress is: Haath na dekhe jaat-paat (the hand, symbol of Congress, doesn’t care for caste). This has been made, or you may say, deliberately misconstrued, as: Dhai kilo ka haath, de sabko maat (is Sunny Deol listening?)
Lord Ram is never so much loved in India at times other than elections, when he becomes an electoral metaphor, opined a recent editorial in Pakistan’s The Dawn. Votes are sought in the name of Ram. You perhaps know that the beggars in India often ask for alms with the refrain: Ram ke naam pe kuchh de de (give something in the name of Ram/god). In Varanasi, the cahoots of candidates ask for votes by repeating: Ram ke naam pe amuk ko vote deejiye (Cast your vote in favour of…in the name of Ram).
Recently, Mamata Banerjee (she’s trying tooth and nail to topple Lalu Prasad Yadav as the biggest entertainer in Indian politics) said at Kalighat: Ma kali korbe desh ke BJP hoite khali (Goddess Kali will free the country of BJP). On the other hand, BJP’s candidate at Kalighat constituency is saying: Maar dibbi, aie baar jaabe didi (I swear by goddess Kali, this time, didi, sobriquet of Mamta, will go). Both the parties are using the same goddess to run each other down and this is possible only in this country where the voters are taken for granted by the clowns who rule us.
In Bhopal, Digvijay Singh and Sadhvi Pragya, both are Rambhakt and they are sticking to a common slogan: Ram rajya aayega. It’s to be seen whose Ram wins in Bhopal. Whoever wins, Ramrajya remains elusive to this country and its unfortunate people.
This year as well, many parties from Mahagathbandhan may nose-dive. Readers may recollect the initial slogan of Mahagathbandhan: Ek aisa bandhan, jise sweekare jan-jan (A bond that’s accepted by everyone). But when Shatrughan Sinha called it Thagbandhan (a group of thugs), it got a new slogan from its detractors (Read BJP): Mahagathbandhan, isse trast jan-jeevan (Mahagathbandhan, people have had enough of it).
Psephologists are of the opinion that slogans during election time have a very definite and brief shelf-life and they work only for a few months prior to voting. They can be manipulated, stipulated and strangulated at will. Since election slogans work directly on the psyche of the voters, it’s imperative to know the ongoing trends and tilts to concoct slogans that can be used like double-edged swords. Remember, slogans are slow-guns. They work as effectively as a gun, albeit slowly.
Slogans during elections work on the formula: Apparent truth versus Inherent falsification. So, go beyond the ostensible edifice of a slogan and peel off its patina before you cast your invaluable vote.