Mike testing: Calling names
In the hustle that’s our hustings, some make the music while others have to face it. In such no-holds-barred campaigns, nothing is considered off-key. The thought behind this outpouring of partisan creativity is that speeches may come and go, but songs linger forever.
Consider the Congress Party’s exuberant slogan of the 1980s when the BJP suffered major defeats. As they went on their victory march, hordes of haathchhaap-walas loudly sang: “Atal Bihari atak gaya, kamal ka phool latak gaya (Atal Bihari is stuck, the lotus has withered)”. It’s a chant ready to be pulled out even now, with only the leader’s name is changed.
Bollywood and other melodies come in handy for the party poet. When the BJP and Shiv Sena were crowing about Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, the combine’s campaign cassettes blared the Altaf Raja number: “Tum to thaire pardesi, saath kya nibhaoge; tum to thahre pardesi, mauka milte bhaag jaoge.” (Please ask your neighbour for a translation.)
The Sena-BJP cassettes also took a jibe at the NCP’s Sharad Pawar, with the audience shouting responses to the narrator’s quiz: Who is a reader? Sonia Gandhi. Who is a dealer? Sharad Pawar. Who is a leader? Atal Bihari.
Every politician worth his ballots gets to face the music. RJD’s Lalu Yadav’s team had once strung together some universal truths: “Jungle mein bhalu, samosa main alu, Bihar mein Lalu”. But the canny politician also faced a coarse couplet: “Tum to thaire chaara chor, bhains kya churaaoge; subaah doodh waali ke haathon, tum pakde jaaoge.”
And this singsong campaign is nothing if it’s not a competition. When the Congress picked up “Le jayenge, le jayenga, ayda phool udakar le jayenge; reh jayenge, reh jayenge, Atal dekhte reh jayenge,” the BJP retorted with: “Dilli ke angane mein tumhara kya kaam hai…”.
Nothing is considered below the belt too, as one nondescript Maharashtrian politician discovered when he was hounded with: “Ram Rao Kakre, haath paon vakre (Kakre has crooked hands and feet).” The earthiness comes out better in the state lingos. As people wondered whether Karunanidhi would return the compliments to Jayalalithaa by sending her to jail, the song went: “Nee pesittu ponaalum pesama ponaalum , illa onakku bailu; nadichittu ponaalum, nadikkama ponalum, kanji onakku thattil (Whatever you say, you will not get bail; whether you do theatrics or not, you will be given rice gruel on a plate).”
Regional lingos also lend themselves to double entendres. The 2006 assembly polls in Uttarakhand had their share: a compact disc parodying the life and times of ND Tiwari that was in circulation was titled ‘Nauchamiya Narayana’.
The days of training parrots to chant “Vote for so-and-so”, or parading bedecked elephants and dancing horses are over. The song and dance is all that’s left. Wonder whether the tune lingers in the voter’s ears when he presses the button in the booth.