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Bengal elections: How ‘Khela hobe’ has become a slogan for both TMC and BJP

Over the last few days, Trinamool Congress as well as BJP leaders across West Bengal have been raising the 'khela hobe' slogan. What is its significance and how did it become so popular?

Written by Deeptesh Sen , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: March 16, 2021 12:34:50 pm
During a rally by Trinamool Congress workers in Kolkata, the 'Khela Hobe' slogan is seen. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

With the political mercury rising in West Bengal ahead of the Assembly polls, the bitter rivalry among parties is being played out not just through war of words, but also colourful jingles and slogans. Among them, one that has particularly captured the imagination across the political spectrum is the slogan ‘khela hobe’ (Game on).

Over the last few days, Trinamool Congress as well as BJP leaders across the state have been raising the ‘khela hobe’ slogan and there have been viral videos of politicians dancing to its tune. At a recent event, even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee referred to the slogan.

But what are the origins and significance of this slogan and how did it become so popular in Bengal ahead of the polls. We explain.

What is the meaning of the ‘Khela hobe’ slogan?

The slogan was first used by Bangladesh’s Awami League MP Shamim Osman a few years ago.

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But it was popularised in West Bengal by Trinamool Congress president of Birbhum district, Anubrata Mondal, who at a local political event said, “Khela hobe. Bhoyonkor khela hobe. Ei mati te khela hobe.” (The game is on. It will be a dangerous game. But the game is on and this will be the playground.)

BJP leaders have alleged that TMC leaders have merely borrowed a slogan which was first used in Bangladesh, but it is not clear if Mondal was aware of the coinage by Osman.

However, since Mondal’s first usage, the slogan has become an intrinsic part of the day-to-day political vocabulary of the state, with all political parties using it.

The slogan, through which leaders are challenging their opponents now, likens the political battlefield to a playground. It means this electoral battle has not been decided yet — there is a lot to fight for in these Assembly polls and only time will tell who has the last laugh.

Why did the slogan gain popularity ahead of the polls?

TMC leaders across the state are using this slogan in political meetings and rallies to throw a direct challenge to the BJP ahead of the polls. The slogan has been turned into a song which is being played at political rallies of the ruling party.

The opening lines of the song plays up the ‘insider-outsider’ theme — one of the hot topics of debate in Bengal ahead of the polls — and accuses the BJP of being ‘bargis’ who come on periodic political expeditions to the state: “Baire theke bargi ashe/Niyom kore proti mashe/Amio achi, tumio robe/Bondhu ebar khela hobe!” (Bargis come from outside/And visit the state every month/But you and I remain here/Friend, the game is on!)

The song then goes on to accuse BJP of poaching leaders from TMC, outlines the schemes of the Bengal government such as Kanyashree Prakalpa and Swastha Sathi, and asserts that ‘West Bengal cannot be turned into Uttar Pradesh or Bihar’. The song also touches upon the ‘rising prices of essential commodities’ and ‘growing instances of religious polarisation’.

Since the slogan became popular, TMC has been using it everywhere — from meetings and rallies to wall graffiti — as their political war cry. The BJP, in return, has also been using this slogan, either to assert that they have accepted the challenge or criticise TMC for its usage.

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How have political leaders been using this slogan?

Recently speaking at an event being held on the occasion of ‘Language Day’, Chief Minister Banerjee also used the ‘khela hobe’ slogan. “The game is on and I will be the goalkeeper. Let’s see who wins. Election results will show who has the last laugh,” she said.

Responding to her, former Bengal minister Rajib Banerjee who has recently joined BJP, said, “What do they mean when they say the game is on? Is the field of politics a playground? And Mamata has nobody left and so she has to be the goalkeeper now.”

Criticising the slogan, Bengal BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya has said, “TMC is comparing politics to a game. This slogan is also being used as a threat and it is fast spreading like an infection across the state.”

But BJP leaders have also been using the slogan to assert that they have taken up the challenge. Recently, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “Khela hobe, khela hobe (the game is on) and paribortan hobe (there will be change). Let me tell the brothers of Mamata didi that BJP will form the government in West Bengal… Your game has ended, now we will play and you will watch from the gallery.”

When BJP workers waited for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to arrive at the Dunlop Ground in Hooghly on Monday, there were chants of ‘khela hobe’ from a section of the crowd. The slogan was also raised by Left and Congress workers during their recent rallies in the state. There was also a recent video, which later went viral, of TMC’s Ghatal MLA Shankar Dolai, along with his party workers, dancing to the beats of the ‘khela hobe’ song.

The ‘khela hobe’ slogan has become popular across the political spectrum at a time when slogan wars have heated up in Bengal ahead of the Assembly polls. Another slogan that TMC have recently launched while trying to drum up support for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is: “Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chaye” (Bengal wants her own daughter.)

The BJP in return has released a jingle called “Pishi jao, pishi jao”, which asks Banerjee to leave Bengal. Set to the tune of “Bella Ciao”, a 19th century protest song from Communist Italy, the jingle tries to highlight the “injustices of the ruling dispensation”.

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