The Gujarat poll campaigns have been sporting a Chinese look. Masks of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, worn by throngs of his supporters, made their way to the state from a production unit in China.
A common feature in election campaigns in the United States, this was the first instance of masks being used as part of a promotional strategy in an election in India.
Designed by Manish Bharadia, the masks were complete with a grey stubble, creased forehead and receding hairline and were manufactured by a US toy making company with a production unit in China. Bharadia confirmed that the masks were made with non-toxic and biodegradable material.
The identity of the US-based Gujarati who sponsored and supervised the production of these masks, however, remain unknown.
“Masks of American leaders have been used in poll campaigns,” said Bharadia. “They are usually caricatures to lampoon them.” However, the purpose in Gujarat was the opposite.
Official sources of the Bharatiya Janata Party, however, remain wary of giving out any information about the origin of these masks. The only reference to the masks that came forth was from Shabdasharn Brahmbhatt, who heads the BJP’s central Gujarat unit: “Just like the crowds that seem to come out of no where to throng Narendra Modi’s rallies, the ‘Modi’ masks have materialised out of thin air.”
BJP’s reluctance possibly stemmed from apprehensions that the masks may violate the model code. However, Rajeev Topno, district magistrate of Vadodara said: “They do not violate any guidelines. There was no ban or restriction on such campaign material.”