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|August 24, 1999||
Politicians make music, some face it too
Sayed Firdaus Ashraf in Bombay
This election, when the biggest challenge before every political party is to make bored voters come out and exercise their franchise, the magic of audio-video is coming in handy.
Every major political party has compiled audio cassettes of songs that either talk about their achievements or attack their opponents. Video cassettes with spoofs on rival leaders have also begun doing rounds of constituencies.
Here's a sample: Suno gaur se Congresswaloh, vote humare tum na mango, Bharat hai Bharatwasion ka, desh ka neta hoga Hindustani. Sounds familiar. Yes, the original number was sung by Shankar Mahadevan for Mukul Anand's Dus. No points for guessing at whom the song is targeted.
This twisted version of the Dus chartbuster is the opening song in Shiv Sena's campaign cassette which quite cleverly is called - Shiv Sena Public Demand.
Check out some other numbers in the album:
Tum To Thaire Pardesi, Saath Kya Nibhaoge
While the opening lines of these two songs, sung by Altaf Raja and Lata Mangeshkar respectively, have been left untouched, the fun starts only in the second stanza where not-so-subtle changes have been made in the lyrics to zero in on, once again, Sonia's foreign origins - the Shiv Sena's favourite theme for this election.
But Sonia is not the only person who has been targeted in this cassette, Sharad Pawar and his colleagues in the Nationalist Congress Party too get some stick. Sharad Pawar also features prominently in Shiv Sena's video cassette where fun is poked at his prime ministerial ambitions.
The video cassette produced by the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party is, just like that of their ally Sena, is a mixed attack on Sonia and Pawar.
The presenter in this cassette asks a gathering - who is the reader? The answer -- Sonia Gandhi. Who's a dealer? The gathering yells: Pawar. And who's a leader? The response: Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
But behind all this fun and banter there is a lot of hard work that goes into conceptualising, producing and distributing these cassettes.
Says Atul Bhatkalkar, general secretary, Maharashtra state unit of the BJP: "There are two kind of voters -- the traditional voter and the one who's undecided. These cassettes are targeted at the latter.'' In his opinion, it is always the floating voters who decide the winner in an election.
But has any study been conducted to find out whether these cassettes actually win any votes for the party they are intended to? ''No,'' says Bhatkalkar, but adds that they would institute a survey after the end of this election.
Subhash Desai, senior Sena leader, however, is confident that these cassettes have the desired affect. "The first time we produced an audio cassette was in 1995. It produced a good result which saw the alliance government coming to power." In Desai's opinion audio and video cassettes are one of the best ways to communicate with illiterate voters.
The Shiv Sena audio cassette has been produced by Raj Thackeray, Sena chief Bal Thackeray's nephew.
For Sena the cassette acquires all the more significance because of Thackeray's inability to address too many election meetings due to his indifferent health. Sources in Sena said he may not address more than 15 rallies across the state.
Considering this, it is important for the Sena to see that the cassettes reach every part of the state, every constituency.
But if everybody is targeting Sharad Pawar, his party -- the NCP -- is also ready to pay back in the same coin. The NCP's audio cassette is called 'Ghadi Ki Pukar' -- alluding to the party symbol of an alarm clock.
Says Vasant Chavan, NCP spokesperson in Maharashtra, "We have formed a new party and the best way to reach people is through these cassettes.''
Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of Chhagan Bhujbal, the NCP state unit president, is the brain behind the cassette. "We have less time compared to the other parties, plus there is the pressing need to take our party symbol to all parts of the state,'' he said.
However, except the BJP nobody discloses the names of the lyricist and the technical people involved in producing these cassettes. ''These are professional people. We don't want them to get into trouble with the rival leaders they spoof,'' said a top party functionary.
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