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In Chhattisgarh, symbols are all that matter

Jyoti Shukla in Raipur | November 27, 2003 00:16 IST

In Chhattisgarh, you don't have to be well known to win an election. It is your party's symbol that matters. Here you will not find people talking about the prospects of the Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party. They speculate about 'panja chhap' (palm symbol) and 'kamal chhap' (lotus symbol).

To befuddle outsiders, the Nationalist Congress Party has entered the fray with 'ghadi chhap' (table clock).

People also talk about 'chhaps' to lighten up the mood. A shopkeeper was taken aback when his customer demanded an 'NCP soap'. Later, the customer clarified that the soap he wanted had the NCP's symbol on it.

It all comes down to education. Most of the rural and tribal population of Chhattisgarh is illiterate. The state has more than 29,000 primary schools, but there are only 1,278 higher secondary schools. Many villagers cannot read. So parties keep their publicity material simple with just their symbols and their leaders' pictures, so that people have no problems in understanding who is who.

In fact, when rebel Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla joined the NCP in April, he started a campaign to make people aware of which party he represented. Posters carrying his picture and the NCP symbol were put up even in remote villages. By the time elections were declared, villagers in far-flung areas became aware of his new party and its symbol.

So, if you are in Chhattisgarh and somebody asks you how the hand is faring, don't be confused. He would be referring to Ajit Jogi's electoral prospects for all you know.

Entertainment, political style

Chhattisgarh voters seem to have been fed up with all the rhetoric. That is why they are keeping away from political campaigns. To catch the voters' attention, parties are indulging in gimmicks. The BJP has hired the services of a magician, who moves around Raipur and performs shows to attract crowds. At the end of the show he asks people to vote for the BJP. Likewise, the Congress has been arranging dance and drama shows. The NCP is taking the help of famous Pandwani singer Teejan Bai to lure voters.

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