Vote For Calf And Cow

Catchy Slogans Reflect India’s Electoral Journey

Slogans are the essence of an election campaign as they project personalities and issues. In throes of its 17th Lok Sabha elections, India votes for those that carry a balance of wit and sarcasm.

Simple, black-and-white posters with the slogan “YOU can defeat S K Patil,” appeared in the summer of 1966, inviting voters of South Bombay, India’s principal hub of businesses and corporate headquarters. Trade unionist George Fernandes was challenging a powerful man of the rich. He won the “David vs. Goliath” contest and became “George, the Giant Killer”.

Slogans are the essence of an election campaign as they pithily project personalities and issues. Now in throes of its 17th polls, India votes for those that carry a balance of wit and sarcasm.

Meant to capture imagination of the masses, the slogans aim to be everything to everybody. It is difficult to impact a billion-plus people of varying age and income groups, of different faiths and castes.

No wonder, for the best of ideas to emerge, millions are spent in conceptualizing, then pushing them. It’s serious business for the parties as well as the advertising and PR firms. Who is engaging whom and the campaign content and strategy are kept secret.

The first general election in 1952 had “self-reliance” as its slogan, reflecting aspirations of a newly-independent nation, bearing Jawaharlal Nehru’s signature. For the next (1957), it was industry, the “temples of modern India.” The focus in 1962 was on India’s place in the comity of nations. All along his Congress party’s symbol was a pair of bullocks, symbolizing the farming India.

Change came post-Nehru, in 1967. Considered weak, Indira Gandhi found competition from the political right and the left. Bharatiya Jana Sangh, earlier avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought to take its thunder away with the slogan “Har haath mein kaam, har khet mein paani” (job for every hand, water for every farm), both lighted by ‘diya’ (lamp). Its party symbol underscored this reality even as the country was getting electrified, urbanized and industrialized.

Congress projected itself as the face of development with Progress through Congress campaign in the 1960s. But he Left, of varying hues, challenged it. Socialist Fernandes and Communist party of India (CPI) chief S A Dange were among then Bombay’s opposition candidates. A telling wall painting asked the people, reversing the Congress slogan, to choose between “Congress Or Progress.”

With that election, the Congress’ preeminence ended and that also ended the era of innocence, if there was one.  “Vote for calf and cow, forget all others now” became the Congress symbol after it split and lost the pair-of-bullocks symbol. Critics mocked at its quasi-religious touch and likened the new pair to Indira and younger son Sanjay.

In those times of frequent shortages and price rise, Jan Sangh coined a funny but telling slogan about sugar and edible oil: “Yeh dekho Indira ka khel, kha gayi shakkar, pee gayi tel”.

But there was no stopping Indira, who sprang a surprise election. She fought the opposition’s “Grand Alliance” in 1971 with “Garibi hatao, Indira lao, Desh bachao.”  Shiv Sena’s Balasaheb Thackeray, known for biting political cartoons, caricatured Indira ceremonially riding an elephant, promising end to poverty.

The opposition said she actually wanted “Garib Hatao” — banish the poor. But “Garibi Hatao” worked, and to date remains the most effective slogan ever coined in India.

But when she announced snap elections again in 1977, after 19 months of internal emergency with media gagged and the opposition leaders jailed, Jaiprakash Narayan coined the slogan “Indira Hatao, Desh Bachao.” People heeded him.

The most emotive slogan came after her assassination in 1984. Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Indira tera naam rahega (your name will endure like sun and moon). The sympathy it generated caused a landslide victory of the Congress.  

By the end of the 1980s, India was in throes of a movement to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya city where 16th century Babri Mosque once stood. The BJP and its affiliates’ slogan for the 1991 polls was “Bachcha bachcha Ram ka, Janmabhoomi ke kaam ka”. But in a repeat of 1984, the Congress gained sympathy after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

Post-Babri demolition in 1992, the 1993 election in Uttar Pradesh witnessed the BJP’s surprise debacle. Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and Kanshiram’s Bahujan Samaj Party had forged a winning alliance. The slogan was Miley Mulayam-Kanshiram, hawa ho gaye Jai Shree Ram. The alliance had snuffed out the temple issue.

It is significant to recall it because the two otherwise competing parties have again forged what seems the most potent alliance to defeat BJP.

Confronted by caste and communal combinations in 1996, the Congress sought to adopt a secular high-ground with Jaat par na paat par, mohar lagegi haath par, seeking vote for hand, its symbol. But it lost to the BJP slogan, Bari bari sab ki bari, ab ki bari Atal Bihari.

Vajpayee did get his turn and ruled for six years. But in 2004, he lost in an election advanced by over-confidence amidst “India Shining” slogan. In many ways, Congress President Sonia Gandhi was its architect. The slogan in 2009 was “Sonia nahi yeh aandhi hai, doosri Indira Gandhi hai”.   It worked. Five years later, a listless party, without a worthwhile slogan, touched its nadir in 2014. Now, the mantle has fallen on daughter Priyanka,who resembles her granny.    

In 2004, seeking a comeback, the Congress party targeted “aam aadmi”, India’s growing middle-class population. Ironically, it has since been hijacked by one of the key drivers – and beneficiaries — of the anti-graft movement that targeted the Congress. Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal rules Delhi.  

Sadly, this year there is more of name-calling than slogans to galvanize the conducting of an election campaign on issues. The current toxic discourse many jibes hit below the belt. A mix of personal and political malice, they don’t even qualify as slogans.

The Election Commission of India and its state-level offices ignore the good and the bad ones, and curb the ugly ones. Often, by the time they act, the damage is done.

India has been witnessing a sustained campaign in recent years, with or without elections taking place, transcending political and ideological differences, to malign and belittle opponents.

Amidst demonization of the Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’, Sonia Gandhi can never leave behind her Italian birth and her son Rahul remains ‘pappu’, a simpleton. The latest is ‘pappi’, for sister Priyanka.

The Congress responds by launching personal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is necessary to condemn all those muddying polls discourse. But one comes across justification in the way other leaders across the world behave, especially US President Donald Trump who trashes critics, especially women. Who will work for this “climate change” and cleanse the world?  

Un-related to elections, Rahul’s “Suit Boot ki Sarkar” attacking Modi’s sartorial taste had hit the bull’s eye. But the polls campaign so far has not thrown up a positive Congress slogan. That task seems to have been conceded to Modi and the opposition slogans are almost entirely reactive.

Projecting India’s security as supreme, Modi has called himself the ‘chowkidar’ guarding the nation — on the border with Pakistan (China does not figure, though), and within the country from the corrupt and the “anti-nationals” (read all critics). This has been met with sharp rebuttal by the opposition that accuses Modi and his government of corruption, mainly in the Rafale aircraft deal, favouring select business houses, saying “chowkidar chor hai” (the guard is a thief). This is tit-for-tat, perhaps born out of years of Rahul’s belittling.   

Modi has sought to turn this charge to advantage by reinforcing it with “main bhi chowkidar hoon.” Now, his ministers and party leaders are using this as a prefix, a badge of honour. Many acolytes on the social media have followed suite. This has no known precedence.

Among others, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s campaign, also personalized, calls him “Aaccha hai, Sachha hai, Chalo Nitish Ke Saath Chalein.” Its rival Rashtriya Janata Dal is shying away, since its supremo Lalu Prasad is in jail. It has opted for “berozgari hatao, arakshan badhao”, focusing on jobs and reservation.

In 2014, BJP appealed in Modi’s name: Ab ki Baar Modi Sarkar. This time over, it is again in his name:“Modi Hai toh Mumqin hai” (With Modi, it is possible to achieve). ‘Chaiwala’, the humble tea-vendor has yielded place to “chowkidar.”  

“Your Chowkidar is standing firm and serving the nation. But, I am not alone. Today, every Indian is saying-#MainBhiChowkidar.”  The target is 400 seats out of 543: “Abki baar 400 ke paar”.

Two months from now we will know if the gatekeeper gets fresh mandate or some other(s) gate-crash.

The writer can be contacted


Rahul Vows Guaranteed Minimum Income

We cannot build a new India while millions of our brothers & sisters suffer the scourge of poverty. If voted to power in 2019, the Congress is committed to a Minimum Income Guarantee for every poor person, to help eradicate poverty & hunger. This is our vision & our promise.

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 28, 2019 Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also termed as “historic” Gandhi’s announcement, saying it will mark a turning point in the lives of the downtrodden. The announcement comes four days ahead of the interim budget to be presented by the Narendra Modi government before the Lok Sabha polls due before June this year. It also follows the NDA government’s decision to give 10 per cent quota to the economically backward section in the general category and a likely announcement of a relief package for farmers grappling with falling prices of their crops and to tackle distress in the farm sector. The BJP said Gandhi’s assurance is like its “hundreds of other announcements” which were not meant to be implemented and an “off the cuff” announcement made “without any preparation or any provision for funding or proper agenda”. “The Congress has decided to take a historic decision…The Congress-led government is going to give minimum income guarantee. This means, every poor person in India will have a minimum income. This means there will be no hungry, poor people in India (any longer),” Gandhi said. Asserting that he gets done what he says, Gandhi added the minimum income guarantee would be implemented across the country. Later, he tweeted, “We cannot build a new India while millions of our brothers & sisters suffer the scourge of poverty.” “If voted to power in 2019, the Congress is committed to a Minimum Income Guarantee for every poor person, to help eradicate poverty & hunger. This is our vision & our promise,” he said in his tweet. “We don’t want two Indias. There will be one India, and in that India, the Congress will give minimum income to every poor person. No government in the world has done this till now. The Congress is going to do that, it will be a historic feat,” Gandhi said at the rally. The BJP-led Union government wrote off Rs 3.5 lakh crore worth of loans of 15 big industrialists but “did not waive the loans of the country’s farmers”, he alleged. Continuing his attack on the Centre over the Rafale figher jet deal, he reiterated the allegation that the government ensured a “benefit” of Rs 30,000 crore to industrialist Anil Ambani in this “world’s biggest defence contract”. Both the Government and Ambani have rejected the allegation. On the contrary, the BJP-led governments cited lack of funds whenever the Congress demanded farm loan waiver, Gandhi alleged. “Narendra Modi and the BJP want to create two Indias — one of loan waiver (for industrialists), Rafale scam, Anil Ambani, Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi and Narendra Modi. In that you will get whatever you want…if you want Rafale contract, you will get it. If you want land, water, electricity, you will get it,” Gandhi said. “The other India is of the poor, the weak, farmers, the youth. You are not going to get anything in that India. There you will only get ‘Mann Ki Baat’, 24 hours only ‘Mann Ki Baat’,” Gandhi said, referring to the prime minister’s monthly radio address. Gandhi also said the Congress had promised to waive farm loans in Chhattisgarh within 10 days of coming to power, but implemented the decision within a day after forming the government. He also distributed loan waiver certificates to some of the beneficiary farmers during the event, which was attended by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and senior Congress leader P L Punia. The Congress posted a massive victory in last year’s Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, winning 68 of the total 90 seats and ending the BJP’s 15-year rule. Garibi Hatao (“Remove Poverty”) was the theme and slogan of Indira Gandhi’s campaign for the 1971 Lok Sabha elections which was won by the Congress under her leadership giving her a second term as the prime minister. “People of India know the reality of Congress and have seen through its games,” BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “Gandhi’s claim to provide minimum income guarantee for the poor is like hundreds of Congress announcements which are not meant to be implemented. His party remained in power for 58 years at the Centre and made thousands of announcement. If they had been implemented, the face of the country, including of the poor, would have been different,” Prasad said. In a series of tweets, Chidambaram, a former union finance and home minister, said 140 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2004 and 2014, when the Congress-led UPA was in power. “Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s announcement at the farmers’ rally in Chhattisgarh is historic and will mark a turning point in the lives of the poor,” he said. Chidambaram said the principle of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been discussed extensively in the last two years and the time has come to adapt the principle to the country’s situation and the needs and implement the same for the poor. “We will explain our plan in the Congress Manifesto,” he said. Chidambaram is the chairman of Manifesto Committee of the Congress for the 2019 polls. The Congress leader said “the poor in India have the first charge on the resources of the country and the party will find the resources to implement the promise of Rahul Gandhi”. “140 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. Now we should make a determined effort to wipe out poverty in India,” he added. (PTI)]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Coalitions Help Democracy’

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Anzar Quazmi (55), Mosque Imam, Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh)   I have witnessed formation of several governments in New Delhi and in states. And I have come to the conclusion that a government with complete majority – be it Congress or Bhajpa – turns autocratic when it has an absolute majority. This is against the grain of jamhooriyat, democracy. It is always better to have a coalition government where the alliance partners keep working as checks and balances in the government and arrive at a broad consensus on policy issue, which is what democracy is all about. Neither Congress nor the BJP has done anything for the minorities and majority alike other than holding them out false fairyland. For decades, the Congress’ main slogan was `garibi hatao’. But the poor remain marginalised even today. Likely, BJP shouted `sabka saath sabka vikas’ from the rooftop in 2014, but this also remained a mirage’ the poor, down-trodden remain as neglected and as oppressed as they were four and half years ago. Political promises, slogans, speeches mean little to us now as they never materialise. Successive governments have done nothing for the upliftment of the oppressed class, religion no bar. I often wonder why the people cannot see through these false promises in all these years. Sixty years after Independence, we are yet to fall into their traps, year after every five years. Mister Modi talked about his humble background but does he realise that the biggest impact of demonetisation was on the poor and I personally experienced it. I have seen small businessmen running from pillar to post to bring their business on track when demonetization happened and later coupled with GST, many lost their livelihood. Who will compensate for their losses? Political parties draft manifestos that only talk about the poor and the down trodden these document remain where they are printed – on paper. Not even 10 per cent of the promises have ever been fulfilled. That is why I advocate a coalition government to rule New Delhi. That will purposely pursue a programme which has a wider appeal and leaves no section of society (call them their respective vote banks, if you like) behind I am not going to press NOTA ever, as I have full faith in electoral politics; my only hope is to find a benevolent and decisive leadership. For me, the Congress and the BJP and ek he thali ke chatte batte (two sides of the same coin).]]>