Gandhigiri lased with a doze of realism. That is what it took Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz to persuade his Cabinet colleagues to junk the heavily Sankritised Gribi Unmoolan for the simpler, easily comprehensible Garibi Hato slogan Indira Gandhi so astutely used to capture popular imagination in the 1971 elections.
In the Cabinet’s discussions last Friday on the revised Twenty Point Programme (TPP) that listed anti-poverty measures under the title Garibi Unmoolan (poverty alleviation), Soz focused on reaching the Government’s promise to the widest possible audience. He said the tendency to Sanskritise Hindi and Persianise Urdu killed the message, resulting in “no communication” at the popular level. To drive home the point, Soz invoked the Mahatma’s advocacy of Hindustani, a happy blend of Hindi and Urdu so easily understood by millions of unlettered Hindus and Muslims across north India. With common verbs and infinitives, the languages were almost identical, constituting the lingo of Bapu’s choice, on which he wrote at some length in the Harijan.
But Soz’s pitch for Garibi Hatao also had its political value in the face of the rising rural disquiet. A Cabinet Minister told HT that the Kashmiri leader’s arguments against the use of the word unmoolan found favour with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and were supported by others at the meeting—notably Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi and Law Minister HR Bhardwaj.
In fact, Dasmunshi used Soz’s lines while briefing reporters on the Cabinet’s decision: “Since people do not understand Sankritised expressions like unmoolan, the slogan has been changed to Garibi Hatao.”
Simplicity has been the hallmark of clarion calls and poll-time sloganeering in India. The Quit India Movement’s Angrezon Bharat Chodo moved the entire nation. And in recent years, Raja Nahin Fakir Hai, Desh Ki Taqdir Hai; Abki Baari Atal Bhihari and Amethi Ka Dankaa, Beti Priyanka so beautifully captured popular mood and expectations of the time.