Wooing voters with a whole new spin to “Partywear”
Election fever has the country in its grip. From festoons to stickers, posters to flags, the country is bathed in colours of various political parties. And guess what, these symbols and slogans have now reached the common man’s wardrobe.
A brightly-decorated mini truck, stationed outside the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, is selling merchandise with party insignia, slogans and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name. T shirts, available in various designs, are the hottest selling item, followed closely by caps. “I feel these items do have an impact and are effective tools of marketing. It increases visibility and there are students in my college who are wearing these tees,” says Parul Raj Kardam, a 2nd year student at Zakir Hussain College, who tried on a few items. The amount collected from the sales goes towards the Namami Gange programme.
The story is a bit different at the headquarters of Indian National Congress on Akbar Road. A handful of vendors line the compound wall, selling colourful merchandise. Among popular items such as caps and scarves is the sari, with photos of Indira Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. “The sari is out of stock now as we only had 50 pieces. We take orders for various items, and it is mostly candidates who want merchandise with their photos,” says Lokesh Guraiya, a vendor. He says that on good days, there is enough sale to sustain the livelihood of two people.
While party headquarters are the obvious choices to find party merchandise, India’s biggest wholesale market, Sadar Bazar is a hub for these items. National parties rule the roost, but the shops also stock merchandise with regional party logos and photos of leaders. “There is a lot of demand for BJP merchandise, and we are taking orders in bulk,” says Lakshay Nagpal of Muskan Enterprises.
But do these tools work in swaying the voters? “In urban areas, since people are educated, these marketing tricks don’t work, because at the end of the day, people know it’s elections and they have a responsibility to vote. The craze is more in rural areas,” says Sanjay Kathuria, who works at a shop in Sadar Bazar. Mohammed Chaman of Aaroma Enterprises has been storing and selling merchandise for the last 15 years in the same market. He feels that since social media took over, these items have become redundant. “Now it’s all about internet presence. With the social media, these things are not as popular as they used to be,” he says. However, elections also spell out festive fervour, and just like with other festivals, these items add to the flavour. “Ek festive mahaul banta hai. The merchandise and decoration items encourage people to vote and be part of the celebrations. Plus, it also boosts the morale of the candidates,” says Anil Kumar Gupta of Anil Bhai Rakhi Bhai Wale in Sadar Bazar.
“I remain somewhat skeptical about these things. On the one hand, this is a clear-cut reflection of the deep divide and the intensity with which these elections are being fought. But this also coincides with a different kind of media hoopla. Much of these political battles are done through social media, and this brings out a sort of exhibitionism. I feel this goes against the entire spirit of democracy. Earlier on, people would go and vote and never used to tell. And now we have a different kind of exhibitionism where people feel they must exhibit their political loyalties. But this phenomenon is not going to affect the voting behaviour. Even if you are displaying loyalty to a particular party, it will only make sense to someone who is already loyal to that party. It doesn’t make much of a dent in other people’s loyalties. You are trying to convert the converted. I see a deeper trend, because it began with sporting national symbols, and little bit of that nationalism has trickled down to dividing people on the basis of their political loyalties. It is a by-product of hyper-nationalism. It is a battle of one upmanship,” says Ashok Acharya, professor of political science, University of Delhi.
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