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‘Game is on’, ‘aunty go’, ‘bring back red’… TMC to BJP, jingles bring alive Bengal’s poll season

With the eight-phase polls starting March 27, the “Khela hobe” rap, penned by TMC state spokesperson and youth wing general secretary Debangshu Bhattacharya, was among the first to make a splash.

Written by Koel Banerjee | Hooghly |
Updated: March 17, 2021 11:49:08 am
Trinamool Congress workers taking out a rally in Kolkata with Khela Hobe cutouts. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

In India, every election has a background score — the jingles of parties in the fray, with raucous vocals, copycat tunes and thumping beats. But in West Bengal this time, it’s the stinging lyrics that are drawing the crowds for TMC, BJP and CPI(M).

Among the several jingles that have created a stir this poll season are TMC’s “Khela hobe (The game is on)”; BJP’s “Khelar mathe lorai hobe (The battle will be fought on the playground)” and “Pishi jao (Aunty, go)”; and CPI(M)’s “Tumpa, toke niye Brigade jabo (Tumpa, I will take you to the Brigade) and “Laal pherao, haal pherao (Bring back red, bring back stability)”.

With the eight-phase polls starting March 27, the “Khela hobe” rap, penned by TMC state spokesperson and youth wing general secretary Debangshu Bhattacharya, was among the first to make a splash.

The lyrics highlight state government programmes such as Kanyashree, which offers money to girl students, and Swasthya Sathi, a health scheme. It also challenges the BJP, slamming it “for poaching party leaders” and the “price rise”, and rakes up issues such as “communalism” and the Hathras incident in which a Dalit woman was killed after being allegedly gang-raped.

“You are disintegrating the country in the name of Ram… but know that Ram worships Durga,” goes the lyrics.

According to Bhattacharya, the key words “Khela hobe” were coined from Rabindranath Tagore’s song, “Moder jemon khela, temoni je kaaj (We work like we play).”

TMC state spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya works the crowd with his Khela hobe rap. (Express photo)

“The soil of Bengal doesn’t identify with the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan. So, I felt that Trinamool needs its own ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Besides, there was a need to boost party workers’ morale after Suvendu Adhikari (the former TMC minister who joined the BJP in December) quit and started poaching other members. The slogan has defeated Adhikari’s purpose. Now, even the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) himself is countering the slogan,” he said.

During a rally at the Brigade Parade Ground on March 7, Modi had said: “Khela khatam, vikas shuru (The game is over, development begins).”

It’s not just different versions of the song, the words are being used by TMC leaders in their speeches too. During a recent rally, party leader Anubrata Mondol 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.)”

Those lines drew a sharp response from the BJP. “Those giving threats to play the ‘bhoyonkor khela’, will get ample time after the polls to sit in their drawing rooms and play ludo with their grandchildren,” said former MLA and the party’s chief spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya.

But then, the BJP is not far behind either. The party’s “Pishi jao” is a parody of the late 19th century Italian protest folk song, “Bella Ciao”. The lyrics target the ruling dispensation, blaming it for lack of industries, employment and safety for women. The song ridicules the state’s health scheme as a scam, claiming “corruption” in cash compensation, and calls attention to violence.

“Our party members have composed the songs. Campaigns are conducted in different ways and usually in sync with new trends. Something is written spontaneously, then the opponent comes up with a counter, and this goes on… (This time) people are writing their own poems and songs and posting on social media. If people come up with more creative compositions, we will release them officially,” said Bhattacharya, the spokesperson.

The CPI(M) gives credit to its “young, talented party workers” for “Tumpa, toke niye Brigade jabo” and “Laal pherao”. While the first song is a parody of the popular Bengali song, “Tumpa shona”, the second is based on the Bollywood track, “Lungi dance” from Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ‘Chennai Express’.

Both the songs have been written by Rahul Paul, an active party worker. “The final product is a collective effort of several people. I wrote the first parody ahead of the party’s Brigade rally on February 28. As it gained traction, I thought of experimenting with a second track and came up with ‘Laal pherao’,” said Paul.

According to him, there are several “revolutionary songs of the Left”, but the party has tried to bank on contemporary music. Former state minister of information and culture Anjan Bera said the public’s acceptance shows they agree with the lyrics. “It’s not just the tune, but the content that has appealed to listeners,” said the CPI(M) leader.

The Congress, meanwhile, is yet to get off the blocks. “I have written a poll jingle, which has been submitted to the Election Commission’s office for approval. As soon as we get the nod, our party will officially release it,” said Abhisek Banerjee, social media in-charge, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.

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