By Tirthankar Mitra
KOLKATA: As rural area populace in West Bengal inch closer to July 8 panchayat polls, humour seeks to give intimidation a run for its money in the political parties endeavour to reach out to the voters. Small wonder, humourous and other songs furthering the poll campaign bring a spark of joy to the daily grind of the voters.
Undoubtedly, a song which even if it cracks a joke at the expense of political opponents is far more welcome than a midnight knock to intimidate or receiving a white sari, a pointer to widowhood unless that woman’s husband votes for a specific candidate. A hearty laughter or even a chuckle is way ahead of any intimidation tactic in reaching out to voters.
West Bengal politics is no stranger to humour. And election campaigns are no exceptions. But then it has not been gentle humour. For to bring down a political opponent by a notch or two, graffiti writers prefer to use sharp criticism in a satirical vein. This has been a tradition in Bengal political history since the early days of the Congress. In 1930s and 1940s, the various Congress groups resorted to campaigning through graffiti, and poems to defame the others. Supporters of Subhash Chandra Bose came out with posters and graffiti defaming Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru after Bose lost the battle for the Congress leadership.
In the early years of elections after independence, the united CPI was well ahead in its election posters and graffiti in its campaign against the rival Congress. The CPI had big reservoir of writers and painters who wrote posters on topical themes drawing big attraction from the voters. In the mid sixties, after the formation of the CPI(M). The party cadres coined catchy slogans and appealing posters in the election campaign. The CPI(M) had the upper hand till the Trinamool Congress started dominating the electoral, scene in Bengal from 2011.
The tactic of influencing the voters’ minds via soft campaigning tactics has been put into practice by Left parties in this election. It is a political parody of a Bengali pop hit “Tumpa Shona” (Tumpa darling) about a jilted young man’s offer of love to Tumpa, a girl for whom he is ready to give up some of his bad habits like chewing tobacco.
Synced to a foot tapping tune with tongue in cheek lyrics, it has gone viral over the YouTube. It takes gentle digs at Trinamool Congress and BJP, both political rivals of the Left. It has definitely increased the outreach of the Left parties. As for the digs, they are being talked about and can be influencers of public opinion, come July 8. Comedians are also in big demand as they can easily influence the rural voters through their performances.
Indeed, its presence is a pointer to the fact that election campaigning has come a long way in West Bengal from the drum beating group of tribal people and young men stencilling the contorted face of the first woman prime minister of the country on the city walls. The campaign is highly controlled by the social media and both the BJP and the Trinamool are battle ready with their army of social media activists with the Left struggling to match the dual offensive.
Not to be outdone in the race to occupy the mind space of the people, a video called “Panchayat Bolchay Trinamoolee Thak”(Panchayat is saying let Trinamool remain) released by India Wants Mamata Di (IWMD), a group of Trinamool supporters has been released in the YouTube. It will be shared on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It showcases Trinamool panchayat and government’s development projects. There are photographs and images of beneficiaries of the public distribution system.
The rallies and processions are here to stay. But after the speakers end their addresses and the processionists shouting slogans walk away, the political outfits are unwilling to let go of the process of influencing the minds of the voters. Trinamool candidates are even organizing dramas and yatras after their formal meetings.
The social media has given the political opponents a chance to grab the attention of the voters throughout their waking hours. “Tumpa Shona” and “Panchayat Bolchay Trinamoolee Thak” are here to stay while more of their ilk are on the pipeline. The painters and the struggling artistes are having a field day as there is big demand for the campaign materials from all the contending political parties. Even a pro-Trinamool painter is doing work for the Congress or the Left candidates taking money.
In Bengal, despite the bloody clashes among the political parties supporters, the common voters in general enjoy the environment before the elections, more so in polls for the panchayats. They get a chance after five years to make their choice and to teach a lesson to the candidates whom they dislike. In many ways, the rural polls in Bengal are also a sort of festival for democracy. (IPA Service)