The biggest democratic exercise in the whole world is well and truly underway. Out of total 9 phases, already we are done with 4 phases. In Bengal, the polls kick off on the 17th. As the countdown starts, parties are pulling out all the stops to attract and impress voters. One sure proof method of registering an effect with the masses is through clever use of party merchandise. Since elections are getting more corporate merchandising is getting jazzier. As parties fight it out, Guajarati businessmen are laughing their way to bank as most of these goods are sourced from there.
Merchandising for connect
Elections in India are about the myriad sights and sound. No matter what the guys in an AC studio wearing Fab India kurta or steel grey suits may like us to believe, in reality it is about the connect politicians make with people. Visit to any rally of major political party will show people literally wearing their affiliations. So in a BJP rally, it is Modi Mask, in TMC gathering often women are seen wearing TMC sarees which have party symbols and face of the chief minister printed. AAP and Congress workers have their topi. Among the modern Left voters, it is a fad to wear Che Guevara T-shirt. There are key rings, mufflers, shawls, t-shirts, umbrellas and even pan masala packet, all of which now bear political symbols to attract voters apart from the usual flex and hoardings. These and much more are available in abundance this election season.
Gujarat the gainer
According to reports, most of the raw materials for saris, flags, etc., are coming from places like Vadodra and Surat. Politically and geographically Bengal may be much far from Gujarat but when it comes to sourcing material, Modiland comes to the rescue of common traders. It is expected too. Manufacturing sector is one of the fortes of the entire Gujarat development story. Nearly 87% of states’ GDP comes from that sector. In a sense, it dominates the entire nation in manufacturing. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee may chide and criticise Modi by saying he has blood in his hands, but the proliferation of Gujarati businessman can’t be merely rejected or undermined. Digitally printed flex and hoardings are procured from outside the state. Not only Gujarat, some borat (order) are also reserved from manufacturers hailing from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Delhi. One of the major fads in this election is satin laces with party symbols embossed. It can be used to carry mobiles or pens round the neck. Those satin laces are imported from China (No Left connection though)!
Distressed local artists
The common artisans of the street are suffering. Earlier, they used to have a field day using their brush and paint to convey political messages in flex and hoardings. Now everything has gone high-tech and digital. It is the undeniable truth of the times we live in and political parties are using technology to the hilt. But surely better use can be done of those talented artisans. Their desperate plea to the government is to help them earn a livelihood. Also manufacturing industry in Bengal wants impetus to improve its infrastructure to match the best. It is a long haul still.
Finally, a sugar coating
In one particular mode of merchandising though, Bengal is the only answer. Paila Baisakh (Bengali New Year) is round the corner. Many candidates will use it to socialise with voters doing mistimukh (eating sweets). Sandesh remains an eternal favourite and now custom-made varieties are available with party symbols and name etched into them. These specially made sandesh are fast flying off the shelf generously distributed among the masses. There is hardly any problem in this world a bite of nolen gurer sandesh (sweet filled with molasses) can’t solve!!