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Music and political campaigns

By The Assam Tribune
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Dr Moushumi Bhattacharjee

As the aura of election is prevailing in the air of some parts of the country, almost all political parties are trying to keep abreast with the changing trends of modern times in their campaigning. The respective party jingles, songs and memes are conveying their election themes convincingly with catchy tunes and lyrics in the hope of jingling their way to glory.

In the world of politics, jingles are used to promote a particular candidate or a political issue. The use of jingles and music in politics is not new. Back in 1960, John F Kennedy enlisted the services of Frank Sinatra to sing a rewrite of his hit jingle ‘High Hopes’ for his presidential campaign. In 2012 Barack Obama also made use of a parody of the famous 1960 Kennedy ad in his election campaign.

The new media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc., are also flooded with interesting political comments and messages.

But this time jingles and slogans are somewhat dominating the campaigning ground with their catchy lyrics, peppy music and street-smart vocabulary. Be it Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma dancing to the tunes of Akou Ebar Modi Sarkaar (Once more Modi Government) and Ahise Ahise Himanta Ahise Axare Botora Loi song, the Khela Hobe song of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress or the parody version of the popular song Tumpa Shona released by CPI (M) are signs of the changing political culture of India.

Jingles are influential songs. Music possesses a unique power to inspire, motivate and energize a campaign, so this election season all political parties are brawling on social media with songs, slogans, metaphor and drama. Though songs and slogans have always been a part of Indian politics just like our Bollywood films, this time it is making the political events a much louder colourful marquee. The songs of the Assembly elections 2021 are different with a simple and colloquial lingo borrowed from international tunes presented in the form of a parody.

The BJP in Assam made use of the State’s ancient Bhaona tradition, where the party leaders were seen taking a vow to protect the Assamese identity. But in terms of popularity, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma’s Padajatra and roadshows with the two most famous songs (Ahise Ahise Himanta Ahise and Akou Ebar Modi Sarkaar) being played in the background and him dancing to the tunes are ruling the blockbuster charts. The Akou Ebar song sung by Simanta Sekhar was successful in creating a mark for the BJP back in the 2019 general elections and this time, the party’s star campaigner is seen using it in his unique style in several election rallies across Assam in the hope of dancing the BJP to victory. Sarma’s interactions with the people have provided ingredients to the creative meme makers. The Mama meme during the initial phase of the elections went viral in almost all social media platforms. In the words of his supporters from Jalukbari constituency, “Publicity be it negative or positive is always beneficial. We know and we trust our leader… so such messages only entertain us.”

This time Kerala too has witnessed a clash of slogans for the elections. The background players were concocting musical and catchy strategies for the political parties. The issues highlighted are purely local as the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) spoke of the way they have been battling Covid-19 and floods.

The political battle in West Bengal began between the BJP and the non-NDA parties including the Congress, the Left and TMC, but surprisingly, all the focus shifted to a two-front battle between the BJP and the TMC. Thus a high voltage melodramatic campaign in the State gave birth to some interesting songs and slogans that gave a shape to the poll narrative. The official poll campaign slogan of the Trinamool Congress aimed at the outsider debate was Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chaay (Bengal wants its own daughter). But making waves throughout the country is Debangshu Bhattacharya’s rap song called Khela Hobe (the game is on) who is a Trinamool Congress youth leader.

Another very popular song from the CPI (M) storehouse is Tumpa Shona, Tokey Niye Brigade Jabo (Tumpa, will take you to the Brigade grounds), a spoof of the mega hit song. Apart from this, the Left has another popular song Idhar Ka Maal Udhar Hoga (transfer goods from here to there), with a clip that shows the lotus of the BJP and the three-leaf symbol of the Trinamool embracing each other.

The BJP in Bengal, however, is not far behind either in its campaign which attacks Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for favouring her nephew, the emerging new leader of her party. It has turned the 19th century Italian protest song Bella Ciao into a parody song by referring Mamata Banerjee as Pishi Jao (Go away, Aunt). The slogan used by them in their campaigns is Phutbe Ebar Poddo Phool, Bangla Chharo Trinamool (This time the lotus will bloom, leave Bengal, Trinamool). Asol Poribortan (Change), Jai Shree Ram and Sonar Bangla have also made its presence felt in almost all political rallies of the BJP in West Bengal.

A well-crafted jingle has the power to get stuck in the listener’s mind and might influence a voter’s thoughts long after they have forgotten the words of a long-winded stump speech. Everything said and done, now the wait is almost over as we stand on the day the third phase of Assam elections is being held. In less than a month, all the citizens would come to know whether the various dimensions of the interaction between popular music and politics were able to contribute to our understanding of political thought and action.

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