Congress to BJP, the art of making poll slogans - Hindustan Times

Congress to BJP, the art of making poll slogans

Feb 26, 2024 12:28 PM IST

From Indira Gandhi to Narendra Modi, the art of turning issues into slogans for electoral success continues in Sandeshkhali, Bengal.

Sandeshkhali, a village in Bengal, is now generating headlines. The BJP has made it a poll plank and converted it into an issue between the country’s two major religions. Before each election, the saffron party brings up such issues that benefit it.

 Ahead of the general elections in 1971, Indira Gandhi gave the slogan “Ve kahete hain Indira hatao, main kahti hoon garibi hatao” (File) PREMIUM
Ahead of the general elections in 1971, Indira Gandhi gave the slogan “Ve kahete hain Indira hatao, main kahti hoon garibi hatao” (File)

The Congress and Mamata Banerjee were formerly experts at this.

Sandeshkhali being in Bengal, let us start with Banerjee. You may recall that Ratan Tata had plans to build a facility at Singur to make Tata Nano hatchbacks, the 1 lakh car for the common man that Tata envisioned, in 2007.

At that time, Banerjee launched a movement with the slogan maa, mati, manush, which forced Tata to drop his Singur plans. Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, offered Tata the space and facilities to relocate the Nano plant to Sanand. Who knew then that Modi’s move would propel him towards the country’s prime ministership in just six years?

This method of recognising issues and turning them into popular slogans was originally the style of the Congress party. Ahead of the general elections in 1971, Indira Gandhi gave the slogan “Ve kahete hain Indira hatao, main kahti hoon garibi hatao” (They say remove Indira, I say remove poverty) from Kalahandi, a district in Orissa (now Odisha) that then epitomised starvation and poverty. The symbolism and the slogan proved successful. The Congress won 352 Lok Sabha seats in that election. It is a different matter that Indira Gandhi eventually lost her way and ended up declaring the Emergency. When Jayaprakash Narayan called for “sampurna kranti” (total revolution), another slogan was coined: “Indira hatao, desh bachao” (Remove Indira, save the country). Those words resonated with the already unhappy and furious nation, and Indira Gandhi lost power. After acquiring power, the leaders who supported total revolution began fighting with each other, and their government collapsed in two years. The current crisis of the Indian Opposition is a result of that period.

At the next election in 1980, Indira Gandhi went to the electorate with the slogan, “Jaat par na paat par, Indira ji ki baat par, mohar lagegi haath par” (Votes for the Congress will come not based on caste or creed, but on Indira’s words). People, tired of the lust for power of senile politicians, naturally gravitated towards Indira. She won the election and remained Prime Minister (PM) until her last breath.

After nearly 14 years, the Congress’s ability became visible again. Atal Bihari Vajpayee entered the fight in 2004 with the slogans of “India shining”. Until then, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) organisational structure was not very robust. Vajpayee and LK Advani were not as focused as Modi or Amit Shah. They differed on many matters. This is why the Congress rode back to power on one simple question: What did the common man get? It is important to note that while Manmohan Singh remained in power for the next 10 years, the Congress was beginning to show signs of ageing. This is why, in 2013, when Modi’s name was proposed for PM at the Goa convention, it became clear that the good days of the Congress party were coming to an end.

Modi had meticulously reviewed previous mistakes. As soon as he gained power, he began devising new ways to move forward. He developed plans to deliver benefits to the country’s underprivileged citizens. This new class of voters goes above caste, region, and gender to vote for him. According to a recent survey by the Centre for the Study in Developing Societies (CSDS) and Lokniti, the majority of individuals who voted for the BJP prioritise Modi’s face and personality over the BJP’s ideology. This marks the first time since Indira Gandhi that the Prime Minister’s face has been successful in winning elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. This was not the case until the past elections. Modi is the first such leader of democratic India whose popularity has grown over time.

Despite this, the BJP does not want to leave any stone unturned to win elections. The party and the government are well aware that dynasty and corruption have eroded the foundations of the Opposition. They never let go of any occasion to assault them ruthlessly. The breakdown of the INDIA bloc, the imprisonment of Jharkhand’s chief minister, and numerous Opposition leaders jumping ship to the BJP did not occur by chance.

Sandeshkhali is a stop along this ongoing political journey. Let’s see how effective this messaging is during the election.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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