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Needling political rivals with graffiti, slogans in West Bengal polls

By Sahana Ghosh | PUBLISHED: 02, May 2016, 16:50 pm IST | UPDATED: 02, May 2016, 17:23 pm IST

Needling political rivals with graffiti, slogans in West Bengal polls Kolkata: The peppy 'Thanda thanda cool cool' may remind you of the prickly summer heat but in West Bengal, such saucy limericks, pick-ups from advertisements and matching graffiti are being rigorously channelled by political parties to needle rivals as graffiti meets the digital age in the ongoing assembly polls.

A major chunk of these slogans and graffiti focus on controversies and political upheavals (Narada sting, Sarada chit fund scam, Kolkata flyover collapse, atrocities against women) while a substantial percentage tap into core human values (farmers' suicide, healthcare and the like).

No matter how pre-occupied, your eyes are sure to crinkle at the corners at some of the spicy taglines and eye-catching caricatures on walls. Glancing at others (those based on Kolkata flyover tragedy) may bring a lump in your throat. Many of them have been shared on social media.

Taking the lead in the slogan department, Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee harped on the "Thanda thanda cool cool, abar aschey Trinamool" (Stay calm and cool, again coming to power is the Trinamool) mantra to drive home the message among her workers and the electorate of the party's bright prospects in the midst of the Narada sting doldrums.

Used by Banerjee in plenty in her rallies and on posters, the catchy slogan was amply visible on social media as well, besides the Trinamool's 'ajora-phool' (twin flower) symbol.

Opposition parties such as the Left Front (which is fighting the polls in a tie-up with the Congress) minced no words. The compelling slogan was twisted and hurled back at the Trinamool: "Thanda thanda cool cool, jele jabe Trinamoola (Stay calm and cool, Trinamool will go to jail)".

As if rhyming wasn't enough to sizzle the slogan battle, the parties turned to films.

Borrowing heavily from iconic songs such as "Paye pori Bagh Mama" (I kneel down at your feet, Tiger Uncle) from Satyajit Ray's "Hirok Rajar Deshe", the Trinamool's lampooning wall art version "Paye pori Buddhamama, koro nago raj mama, tumi je ei maha jot e ke ta janto" (Mercy mercy Budddha uncle, spare us your rule, who knew Buddha uncle, you are in this alliance of ridicule) takes a rib-tickling dig at former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, for being the architect of the CPI-M-Congress "unholy" alliance.

Still not your ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing moment?) Try some visuals.

A sketch of an old, ailing CPI-M leader lying in a hospital bed in an ICU unit, blanketed with red with the party's hammer and sickle sign, adorns a white-washed wall in south Kolkata. It reads the Left Front has a new slogan, 'Doctor lao, CPI-M bachao' (Fetch a doctor, save CPI-M).

Another shows a bus with the number 420 traversing through Narada, Sarada via Kalighat, the residence of Banerjee. The message: "Trinamool is so corrupt, no one will buy it even on OLX".

Add to it the BJP's chants of "Waste Bengal" and "There is no change in Bengal, only decline" and its bright pink and saffron lotus symbol splashed across walls right beside the Trinamool's jora-phool, Left Front's hammer and sickle and the Congress's hand symbol as if to assert its space.

There's still more to the killing-two-birds-with-one-stone trend.

A giant blue and white slipper, depicted as a portion of a flyover, falling flat and squashing people, accompanied with the tagline "Taka kheyechey Trinamool, bhengey porechey uralpool" (the Trinamool has taken money all over, So collapses the flyover) not only makes a mockery of Banerjee's well-showcased austerity and penchant to don slippers, it also hits the Trinamool's sore spot, the Kolkata flyover collapse that killed 26 people.

According to noted painter Jogen Chowdhury, the ebbs and flows in art forms will also be part of its evolution.

"Graffiti is cheaper and it flourished under the Left Front regime. I feel it has lost a bit of its appeal in comparison to its heydays as people are more tuned in to social media, television and newspapers these days," the Rajya Sabha MP of the Trinamool Congress said.

Another eminent painter, Samir Aich, was aghast at the "very low" standard of slogans and graffiti used by political parties.

"They are tasteless, and ugly. I didn't find any of these slogans or posters presentable or remarkable. It seems to me either people are becoming low on intellect or intelligent people are losing interest in politics.

"In comparison, there was much better stuff on social media like Facebook and Whatsapp," Aich said.