Campaigning 2019: Selling Politics Buying Votes
Social media has become important than ever for political candidates looking to connect to their base. Contemporary times have ushered in a modern outlook to traditional political campaigns
Beating Delhi's heat wave by wrapping his head and face with a white towel Shiv Kiran stood near gate number seven of Rajiv Chowk metro station to distribute pamphlets of a political party for the upcoming parliamentary election. His target of the day was to finish the distribution of about 300 pamphlets for Rs 100. "Now we do not earn much money in distributing political pamphlets unlike earlier when we used to earn around Rs 300 per day by doing the same since political parties now focus on mobile phone-based campaigns more," says Shiv.
He narrates the story of his father who was a master in making political graffiti on the walls for campaigns in Uttar Pradesh. "Now the focus has shifted from such campaign strategy to videos and social media," apprises Shiv.
With the election around the corner, stories of political campaigns in India are witnessing a change of strategy which commenced from the 2014 election itself. Now, modern campaigning has taken over. Months before the election, most of the major political parties in India launched their party's theme-based music videos.
These videos are being played all over social media platforms and televisions as advertisements. The theme songs are regularly played on the radio as well.
Political parties made these videos with the help of notable lyricists, composers and singers. The list includes Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi among others. Some of the political parties even have two different music videos targetting different voter base.
Congress & BJP's Music Videos
On the second weekend of April, BJP and Congress launched their theme songs for the election campaign presenting a contrasting picture. While Congress focused on political economy with basic minimum income and justice for all, BJP had its "Modi-versus-All" pitch with more than a dash of hyper-nationalism.
Ab Hoga Nyay (There will be justice now), Congress's rap-style theme song penned by lyricist Javed Akhtar, is based on the party's famed Nyuntam Aay Yojna (NYAY).
"In the theme song, we wanted to focus on the issue of justice because that is the need of the hour. Similarly, we have portrayed the faith and believe on plurality and diversity of India through the song," Aishwarya Mahadev, national media panelist for Congress tells Millennium Post.
Mahadev explains that the party wanted to bring the concept of diverse India at the forefront and not concentrate on the face of its president Rahul Gandhi. "We all know PM Narendra Modi made a lot of promises in the last election but did not fulfil anything moreover he and his party attacked the idea of India as a whole. To shift the focus from the real issue they have only focused on communal politics, caste atrocities and now on Pakistan," she says.
On the other hand, BJP theme song "Phir ek baar Modi Sarkaar" (Modi government once more), penned by Censor Board chief Prasoon Joshi, revolves around Modi's five-year performance – with a special thrust on national security, honesty, ability to take big decisions – besides targeting the Opposition for its alleged lack of cohesiveness.
The poor, middle class and neo-middle class will be at the centre of BJP's electioneering, party leaders said and took a swipe at Congress for "not even saying a word" on the emerging middle class when it launched its manifesto.
A senior BJP leader says, "Our song is all about the PM because India wants and believes in only one face and that is him. The people know how much he has worked in these last five year for the people hence we have talked about all the scheme he has made. We will fight this election in his name and we do not believe when his face with us the BJP needs anything else. Congress talked about all their lies and the false narrative they want to create but people will not believe in those lies anymore."
The regional parties have been an important part of Indian politics and analysts opine that they will play a major role in making the Prime Minister in the ongoing election. In every state, there have been waves of alliances. While in some states these alliances materialised, it did not go down well in others. But these regional political parties are certainly not less active on social media or lagging behind when it comes to campaign theme songs.
The Telegu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh led by CM Chandra Babu Naidu has come up with a song named 'Sila Mose Gaayale'. The song draws a parallel between a stone and Naidu to describe how the leader has to undergo much hewing before being carved into a fine statue and how the wounds left behind, thus, have reduced people to tears.
Naidu has always talked about a 'behind-the-door' association of PM Modi, K Chandrasekhar Rao and YS Jaganmohan Reddy and accused them of hatching a conspiracy against Andhra Pradesh. TDP has come out with a musical rendition of Naidu's own trials and tribulations because of the "conspiring trio" through a campaign song.
Similarly, his opponent Jaganmohan Reddy has a campaign song, 'Ravali Jagan Kavali Jagan'. The line "Jagan is coming, we want Jagan" sounds like a marching song as it highlights the year-long padayatra by Reddy prior to his election campaign.
Another major regional party, Trinamool Congress has also come out with an official campaign song for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The song titled 'Ma, Mati, Manush' was released by party supremo Mamata Banerjee on her social media account.
TMC campaign song is sung by Somlata Acharya and Rupam Islam. The two and a half minute video song talks of the achievements of TMC government in West Bengal. While Bengal's composite culture and communal harmony is the main theme, the song also targets "riot mongers".
Arjun Harjai is a Mumbai-based composer and is a popular figure in the advertisement world. He has created many jingles for companies such as Amazon, Google and Suzuki among others. Harjai created Congress's song based on Javed Akhtar's lyrics.
"I kept that idea in my mind and approached it with that sort of soundscape, something that's catchy and will leave an impact. The idea was for every common person to feel that he/she represents Hindustan," says Harjai, about the song directed by Nikhil Advani. A drum and bass piece, it has the lines Tum jhoothi chaalen chal ke, shehron ke naam badal ke, noto ko kachra kar ke… Ab dhokha nahi khayenge, Congress sarkar layenge," he was quoted in a media interview.
Similarly, Delhi-based Ankita Singh wrote a song titled Modi Once More, which speaks of bringing Modi back along with synth, drums and rhythmic claps. 'Har qadam ab saath badhaana hai, Saath Namo ke hum sabko aana hai/ Safety ki baat aati baar baar, Humko safe rakhe Army aur sarkaar', sung by Sharvi Yadav and composed by composer Anurag Chauhan. This song is not the theme music video of BJP but it is a song which the party has come out with to target the youth.
From wall graffiti to advertisements on autos to the social media buzz with music videos, political campaigning in India is becoming more colourful each time. The campaigns across the spectrum are technically aimed at the youth because it is the youth who will make the future and the parties recognise this well. But between colours and rhythms, the politics which earlier had a human touch – one-to-one engagement and dialogue – is now missing from the environment. It is now more power, colour and superficial.