On a song

Mar 6, 2009

Some of my earliest memories of election campaigns are of poster laden autorickshaws plying in my city, with loudspeakers blaring. Just like some of the cheap religious song albums, these campaigns also had remixed or rather rephrased and retuned versions of the latest chart busters. So you had songs that went like ‘XX ka raaj bada mast mast’, suno gaur se duniyawalon YY ko hi tum jitao’ and so on and so forth. So it came as no surprise that this time it was going to be ‘Jai ho’. Although for Gulzar fans like me it was almost sacrilege and it didn’t help that the lyricist was upset with the tussle between the Congress and the BJP over the song. Also the fact that the Congress paid around 2 lakh dollars (according to the BBC) didn’t sit well. Does the aam aadmi really need a song more than those 2 lakh dollars, that is a debate for another day altogether.

But all music lovers are hitherto warned of the possibility of listening to some funny, irksome and even out of tune versions of their favourite songs right from Khwaja Mere Khwaja to Pappu to even aapda Himeshbhai na hits. And though most of us don’t as such switch it on, yet let it be known that this is the worst time to watch Doordarshan; for there will be a deluge of subtle (the Congress leader’s picture in the background variety) and not so subtle references to India’s progress thanks to the current government.

But recent history shows that extensive self-praising campaigns on Doordarshan or other visual media generally lead to a defeat. Take the case of P V Narasimha Rao. During the last few months of his tenure, the party started airing around half a dozen specially prepared music videos on Doordarshan, the most popular of which was called. The songs were about hope and winning over life after a struggle. The lyrics did not specifically talk of the Congress. But each of the protagonists in these songs had benefited from one of the many development schemes started by the then Congress government. All the songs had the pictures of Gandhiji, Nehruji, Indiraji, Rajiv Gandhi and finally a poster or a picture of Narasimha Rao himself in a Namaste or classic waving pose. But none of it could wipe out the memory of the various scams during his tenure and the Congress ultimately lost badly in 1996.

The BJP’s India Shining campaign was more spectacular and direct. They took a cue from Rao’s campaign team and flooded Doordarshan with songs and adverts about the ‘good work’ done in the last five years. But the BJP they say, lost because it did not do anything for the poor, the ones who really go out and vote. Unlike most of us who vent out our frustrations at high tea, but become what the Election commission has termed as the Pappus who can’t vote on election day. (The song is the Election commission’s message to apathetic voters.)

So going by this track record, the Congress should know that simply cashing in on ‘Jai ho’s’ popularity won’t get them anywhere. Mandate 2009 is one where the word ‘accountability’ is going to play a major role. The public is simply quite tired of political shenanigans. And if even one percent of the anger that was seen at the Gateway protest translates into a mandate, many of the leaders will be in a soup. But again the leaders are counting on the fact that public memory is short. And in the end it all depends on who will vote and who will remain a Pappu on election day.



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