» News » From tantriks to narbakshis: The war of words in the Bihar polls

From tantriks to narbakshis: The war of words in the Bihar polls

Source: PTI
November 06, 2015 16:05 IST
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An entirely new lexicon of political jibes emerged during the elections

From humour-laced ‘jumlabaazi’ and twisting of abbreviations to cut-throat trading of barbs, the no-holds-barred Bihar polls saw it all even as it threw up a new lexicon of political jibes amidst a game of one-upmanship.

Curtains came down on polling for the high-stakes assembly elections on Thursday and the din and dust of the high-octave electioneering finally began to settle after the hectic campaigning by various parties.

Spread over five phases, the polls saw an amusing war of words among the various leaders who used, by turns, acerbic wit and direct attacks to pin down their opponents in the electoral arena.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and the grand secular alliance of Janta Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress, the main contestants at the hustings, took the high-voltage election campaign to what has been described variously as being both a “new high” and a “new low”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the face of BJP and the party’s star campaigner, held whirlwind poll rallies from one corner of the state to another, and delivered thundering speeches, seeking to woo the voters while inflicting maximum damage on its opponents, who termed his verbal style as mere “jumlabazi” (barb-trading).

Soon after the announcement of the election dates in early September, the daggers were drawn and pitched verbal battles ensued.

Attacking the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, BJP leaders, campaigners and Modi himself often termed the alliance ‘Mahathagbandhan’ or ‘Mahasarthbandhan’.

The war of words was conducted on social media, too, with unflattering hashtags on Facebook and Twitter surfacing along the way.

The members of the grand alliance, in retaliation, often termed BJP the ‘Bharatiya Jumla Party’, charging that it was fighting the elections on “hollow claims” and “negative campaigns”.

As the campaign progressed, in early October, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and BJP chief and the second-most prominent face in the polls after Modi, Amit Shah, squared off.

While Lalu called him ‘narbakshi (cannibal) in rallies in Patna and Jamui districts, Shah charged that the former Bihar chief minister was ‘chara chor’ (fodder thief), prompting the Election Commission to step in to maintain a healthy election atmosphere.

And, if Nitish Kumar made the ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ pitch to woo voters, Modi cleverly played on the ‘jungle raj’ claims to punch a hole in the opposition.

A few days before the third phase of the polls, a video surfaced showing Nitish being blessed by a seer, prompting Modi to use the term ‘LokTantrik’ Nitish, in what was seen as a scathing attack by the prime minister on the chief ministerial contender.

Modi even suggested the presence of tantrik as the fourth key member of the grand alliance, besides Nitish, Lalu and Sonia Gandhi.

At his rallies in Hajipur and Nalanda, Modi said he had “known of only three players in that alliance — ‘Bada bhai’, ‘Chhota bhai’ and ‘Madam’. For the first time, I have come to learn that there is a fourth player, a ‘tantrik’”.

The PM even coined clever coinage to target BJP’s opponents.

In Chhapra, once the pocket-borough of Lalu, Modi said, “Laluji, you are free to sacrifice a black or a white pigeon or blow chilli smoke. If you have to do that, rename your party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, as Rashtriya Jadu-tona Party. And being the head of the party, you will be the biggest tantric in the world.”

Making the ‘jungle raj’ barb, Modi once at a rally even said that RJD stood for ‘Rojana Jungle Raj ka Dar’.

And, while Nitish once used the opening song of Aamir Khan-starrer ‘3 Idiots’ ‘kahan gaya use dhundho’ to refer obliquely refer to Modi as a ‘bahari’, the prime minister hit back at the JD-U, RJD and Congress alliance by likening it to ‘3 Idiots’.

However, the high-decibel war of words, high on “caustic humour” and sometimes downright “demeaning”, did not go down well with all residents of Bihar, who said that politicians should instead focus on issues that concern the people instead of scoring points over opponents.

“Elections are always ‘jumla’ and decibel wars, a bid to prove who can be the loudest on the microphone. The kind of negative campaigning I saw in my city is disappointing,” said 30-year-old Gopal Jha in Darbhanga.

A section of residents in state capital Patna, too, felt that some big leaders, in their bid to attract voters, had “stooped to very low levels” during campaigning, which did not “behove” them given the high office they held.

“Bihar elections are always important and in many ways decide the political fate of the nation. But this time, it was high on decibel but low on substance,” Subash Anand of Patna said.

The Bihar assembly has 243 seats. Results of the elections are due on Sunday.

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