Updated: March 17, 2021 3:58:03 pm
Of late, the ‘Khela Hobe’ slogan has transcended political barriers in poll-bound West Bengal, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other TMC leaders using it as their war cry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also referring to it recently to hit back at the ruling party.
TMC spokesperson and general secretary of the party’s youth wing, Debangshu Bhattacharya, a civil engineer in his 20s who has emerged as a crowd-puller for the party, had originally written the lyrics for the ‘Khela Hobe’ jingle.
The rap version of the slogan has taken Bengal by storm, with the song also being played at wedding ceremonies and Saraswati pujas held by communities. Moreover, in a high-stakes poll battle, the TMC, in ‘Khela Hobe’, has found a slogan to counter BJP’s ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
“My family was completely apolitical and even now they don’t like politics much. In 2011, I opened a Facebook account and started writing on social media in support of Didi. Before the Lok Sabha election in 2019, a couple of slogans I had coined — ‘Mamata Banerjee aar ek baar’ (Mamata Banerjee for one more time) and ‘Dilli jabe hawai choti’ (The chappal will go to Delhi) — went viral. After that, I started getting invitations from TV channels to speak as a supporter of TMC even though I was not formally associated with the party back then,” Debangshu Bhattacharya, popularly known as Dev, tells the Indian Express.
Bhattacharya’s love for Trinamool goes way back to 2008 when he was a student of Class VIII. “The IPL had started then and my friends had huge posters of cricketers in their rooms. But I only collected photos of Mamata Banerjee,” he says.
“I wrote ‘Khela Hobe’ in 20 minutes during various rallies in North Bengal. We shot the video on 6th January and it was uploaded the next day. Then it also got a DJ version, and the rest is history. Now people have forgotten ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and BJP is also borrowing our slogan,” he says, as he performs the rap version for us.
The DJ version of the song on YouTube has 8.5 million views till date.
Bhattacharya, who has seen TMC go through several highs and lows, says he felt let down to see many leave the party after BJP started gaining ground in the state. “I saw TMC come down from 34 to 22 seats in 2019. I felt hurt by that but the worst thing happened when many trusted lieutenants started leaving the party. It is then that I decided I will stick with the party and support it even more. My work also got noticed. TMC formed its media cell and made me a spokesperson for its state unit. That is when I was formally inducted into the party,” says Bhattacharya.
Though Bhattacharya, who calls himself a ‘fan’ of Mamata Banerjee, was trolled on social media after the party did not give him a ticket recently, the TMC spokesperson says he has been taking on the haters fearlessly.
“I am yet to be 25 and so, I was not expecting a ticket. Nor had the party had promised me. I don’t know why it is such a big deal. The party wanted me to campaign across the state. I haven’t even planned a long career in politics yet. I felt I could motivate the dying spirit of the workers through my creativity and I did it. I am a part of the TMC family. So, whether or not I get the ticket doesn’t really matter. Instead of worrying about their own candidates’ list, BJP and CPI(M) and others have trolled me so much that in last 14 days I have got one lakh more followers,” says Bhattacharya, whose ‘Khela Hobe’ jingle harps on the popular TMC theme of BJP being a “party of outsiders” and also touches upon many schemes of the state government.
Bhattacharya has been a bundle of energy leading up to the polls, with multiple videos of election rallies where he has the people grooving to the beats of ‘Khela Hobe’ doing the rounds on social media. TMC supporters have been sharing his posts and videos with the #khelahobe hashtag.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while throwing a direct challenge to TMC from his Brigade rally in Kolkata, had said, “Didi, listen to this. TMC ka khela shesh. Khel khatam, vikas shuru” (TMC’s game is over. The game ends, development begins).
However, Bhattacharya, who is the son of a labour contractor, is happy with his new-found fame and not bothered by the Prime Minister or BJP leaders referring to the slogan.
“I feel happy that this has created such an impact that BJP is forced to counter it. ‘Khela’ is so popular in Bengal. BJP shouldn’t consider this to be a threat,” he says.
He adds, “Some BJP leaders are using the slogan in their own. They are hypocrites. Everybody knows that the slogan does not invite violence. It holds up the sportsmanship spirit. In Bengal, many families are divided when it comes to the intense rivalry between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. But though loyalties are divided, everyone sits down together for a meal after the match is over. ‘Khela hobe’ is our answer to all religiopolitical slogans. It also shows which way the wind is blowing in Bengal now.”