Yadav begins by introducing himself and the members of his troupe, goes on to thank senior Samajwadi Party leaders and then breaks into a song.(HT Photo)
Yadav begins by introducing himself and the members of his troupe, goes on to thank senior Samajwadi Party leaders and then breaks into a song.(HT Photo)

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Biraha singers liven up campaign pitch in Purvanchal

Unlike the alliance rally, the candidate, Virendra Singh is present on the stage and is applauding the singer along with the audience.
By Chandan Kumar | Hindustan Times, Lukhnow
UPDATED ON MAY 14, 2019 08:22 AM IST

Twenty-one-year-old Dharmendra Yadav ‘Bajrangi’ is a busy man these days. A budding Biraha singer of Ballia district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, he performs at least two shows daily for political candidates contesting in the ongoing general elections.

“On an average, we get seven requests for a programme daily, but have to cancel most of them because we are already booked,” says Yadav as he climbs onto a makeshift stage in Vikas Nagar locality of Ballia to campaign for Sanatan Padey, the alliance candidate.

Yadav begins by introducing himself and the members of his troupe, goes on to thank senior Samajwadi Party leaders and then breaks into a song. “Mil gaela bua se bhatijwa..achha hoi sabahi natijwa.. phool kamal ke murjhai ae bhaiya...cycle ke jhanda laharie ae bhaiya.. (The aunt and the nephew have united..the outcome will be great..the lotus flower will shrivel..the flag of the cycle will flutter)” he sings as the crowd applauds in praise, waiting for the candidate to arrive at the public meeting.

In another part of the city, Dinesh Saini Azad, also a Biraha singer, performs at a campaign rally for Virendra Singh who is fighting on a BJP ticket. Like the BJP’s campaign, the lyrics of his song also revolve around Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Bua bhatijwa aur papua ke mai..sabe bhag jai jab modia aai (Aunt, cousin and Pappu’s mother will run away when Modi arrives)”, sings Saini before the gathering mostly comprising youngsters wearing shades of saffron.

Unlike the alliance rally, the candidate, Virendra Singh is present on the stage and is applauding the singer along with the audience. “Ballia aur Biraha ka sambandh bahut purana, yahi karan hai ki yahan Bollywood ke gaanon se zyada Biraha suna jata hai,” Singh explains.

Biraha, a form of folk music, has a huge fan base in the Purvanchal region of the state, starting from Prayagraj till the eastern most districts of UP. While the political campaign in previous phases in the state has been around leaders and rallies, Biraha has become a crucial part of the campaign in the last two phases.

It has provided an alternate medium to the political parties to reach out to their voters while providing a much-needed extra income for the Biraha singers.

Ajeet Nadan, a Biraha singer from Sultanpur says that not only do the elections give these artistes an opportunity to earn well but also a platform to showcase their talent. “Biraha singers can charge anywhere between Rs 2,000-10,000 for a three-hour show. Most singers move with a troupe of four to five people who play instruments,” says Nadan.

While some singers like Nadan work across party lines depending on who pays them more, others prefer to sing for one specific party. Joginder Senger, a Ballia-based political campaign manager says that in eastern UP districts, most of the Biraha singers prefer to sing for the Samajwadi Party. “Biraha is very common in the ahir community and around 80 percent of the Biraha singers are ahir. This is why most of them prefer to sing for the Samjwadi party. They rarely sing for any other party, at least not in their own district,” says Sengar.

Beside the caste factor, another reason why Biraha singers prefer to sing for SP is because of the party’s policies when it was in power in the state. “Akhilesh Yadav launched several schemes for artistes like us when he was the CM, which is why Biraha singers from any cast support the SP,” said Surendra Das Yadav, a singer artiste from Ballia.

“Akhilesh also felicitated Dinesh Lal Yadav, the BJP candidate from Azamgarh, but now he is contesting against SP,” says Yadav with a laugh.

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