Ka ba, Sab ba, maangat ba Akhilesh ke and Maya bahin ke jitiyaha

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IIt is impossible to have an election in Uttar Pradesh without the accompanying song and dance. With the rise of social media, we are witnessing a sophisticated fusion of propaganda and parochialism. Between articulation of distress and hope, adoration of leaders and the ‘jai shri Ram’, and evocation of Bharat Mata and Jyotiba Phule, electoral songs fight to find a place in the crowd space of democracy, of literature, performing arts and resistance. By Neha Singh Rathore UP me well done at Ravi Kishan Sab baall have a target audience.

the UP mein ka ba the song sparked various socio-political issues ranging from Covid deaths to the Hathras affair. And the opposition seems to reiterate the song of this independent artist stronger than his own manifesto. There is something unique in its composition. The song raised some of the most pertinent issues that received substantial attention, including Covid mismanagement, religious polarization, unemployment, law and order. Above all, it brings the temple vs development debate to the electoral table.

That the song’s message seems to have gone home is evident in the ruling party’s response. Besides the trolls, the folksinger has received numerous versions of her rendition in the form of parodies widely shared on social media. But it’s Ravi Kishan UP mein sab ba song who vocalized the BJP and counted the achievements of the Yogi Adityanath government.

As the political protest through the songs adds to the electoral fervor, it will be interesting to see what such compositions have meant for the Dalit-Bahujan community in the state.


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Reading election songs

Election songs in a democracy are an important way not only to capture the mood of voters, but also to reflect how political ideologies are shaped by conflict and social pressure. Political symbols are powerfully used in these songs and it is through them that public memory is created.

But as the 2022 elections approach, the songs of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) betray their first original Bahujan approach and project leadership over ideology.

With an unlimited datapack comes power as alluring as the right to vote itself. And that’s the power to make an election song go viral.


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Songs and social movement

Uttar Pradesh has a history of “mission songs” pioneered by Kanshi Ram in the 1980s. The word “mission” is a vocabulary of singers and local audiences with songs dedicated to contemporary anti-caste social movements. The term “mission” was also used by Kanshi Ram to refer to the Bahujan movement of the 1980s. These songs are sung especially by artists who have achieved a degree of professionalism in music or who are culturally associated with such performances.

Parties dedicated to the Bahujan mission such as the BSP and the Azad Samaj party openly use the symbols and icons of the anti-caste movement in their election songs. Behind the making of symbols and icons, there is also a lot of social history. One of the veteran Bahujan singers of BSP, Kishore Kumar Pagla is famous for singing Kanshi Ram Mission songs. In fact, the election songs of the 90s and 2000s were one of the popularization supports of the Bahujan mission. A former member of Lalit Kala Academy, Kishor Kumar Pagla is best known for his songs ‘Sarv Samaj ke liye do kadam’, ‘Ambedkar Babasaheb ke pujela’ to name a few, devoted his entire life to promoting the idea of ​​Bahujan.


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Symbolism in election songs

Election songs contain strong symbolism. BJP’s UP election song 22 mein Yogi ji 27 mein bhi Yogi jI by Dinesh Lal Yadav begins with the invocation of Bharat Mata. In the video, an image of Jai Shri Ram buzzes occasionally. Even Ravi Kishan’s song UP mein sab ba depicts Brahminical grandeur with tilak, Bharat Mata chanting and saffron visuals. The symbolism of Akhand Bharat is deeply intact in all BJP election songs. Ideological commitment is a force with which the party has not compromised.

Ironically, Ravi Kishan’s image of dinner with a dalit family has also gone viral on social media. It would have been great if such an image had also been part of the election song.

For the Congress, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has become the face of the UP election and its Ladki hu ladd sakti hunot song reflects the issue of bringing women’s issues to the center of the UP electoral agenda.

Recordings of old Bahujan songs – part of public performances – are not archived, but singers such as Malti Rao, Kishor Kumar Pagla, AR Akela from the older generation of BSP recall the carnivalesque solidarity that was visible during the campaign rallies of the 1990s and early 2000s. Although these songs had a flavor of appeasement, strong anti-caste and Bahujan solidarity remained major themes.


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Party Election Songs

Recent songs reflect new realities and this is evident across the parties. The songs of parties based on the Bahujan ideology have focused more on the cult of personality than on the ideology itself. In the election song of the SP Janta Uttar Pradesh ke, mangat ba Akhilesh ke, button dabiyha cycle keby Samar Singh, the idea of ​​Bahujan seems to have been relegated to the background, and the composition has instead relied on the image of leader Akhilesh Yadav:

Akhilesh Yadav Jindabad, (*5)

Bhayia-Bauji Chacha chachi sab milke, (*2)

Jake Button Dabihiya, ride a bike”

No anti-caste bahujan icon is used. Even icons belonging to the OBC and Yadav community such as Periyar Lalai Singh Yadav or Jyotiba Phule are absent. If a song aims to challenge national parties and invoke public memory, it should bring anti-caste icons from previous social movements. Praising the faces of leaders is not enough to make voters emotionally attached to parties.

Similarly, in the BSP election song, Maya bahin ke jitiyaha by Umesh Chakravarti, misses the iconography of anti-caste rulers and instead overtly focuses on the image of Mayawati. However, the BSP cadre did not miss anti-caste icons such as Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Jyotiba Phule. It should also be mentioned that BSP’s cultural base is so diverse and strong that through UP, executives, supporters and singers have come up with party songs even though they have received little support from the senior party officials.

For parties that have Lohiaite or Ambedkarite ideology as their origin, openly relying on personality cult rather than ideology can be a disadvantage, as the cadres and voters attracted to these parties have an emotional and an ideological commitment.

The newly formed Azad Samaj party in its election song gave enough space to Kanshi Ram’s struggle and Bahujan’s idea. This is a welcome step to reassure the ideological foundations of the party. Nisha Buddh song, Sansad mein bithyegi Bharat mein Bhim Army, sings:

Manuvad Mitayegi, Bharat mein Bhim army

Sansad mein Bithyegi Bharat mein Bhim Army

… tufaan ye nikla hai Sarkar banae ko

Samvidhan bacheygi, Bharat mein Bhim Army »

Bahujan icons are very much intact in the song and there is a resonance of social justice in invoking images of the Constitution, Parliament and Ambedkar. It is also encouraging to see young voices finding space in campaign songs.


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Adopt the folk style

While all parties aim to show their best side in these songs, the compositions ignore ideological genesis and developmental discourse. UP me ka ba succeeded in bridging this gap. In all his familiar taste and Bhojpuri accent, he brought the audience together. Rathore says that through her singing, she wants to take the vulgarity out of Bhojpuri songs and echo developmental issues in them. Ravi Kishan’s response failed to strike the voter’s mood in the same way, because for an election song to be popular, it must be true to the spirit of democracy – that is- that is, of the people, by the people and for the people.

Rathore also popularized his jan-kavi image, an artist who carries the voice of the people. His choice to shine a light on issues concerning people’s daily lives has become the most encapsulating voice in the electoral cacophony and resonates with the aam aadmi.

So, instead of countering, copying or trolling Rathore’s song, parties need to rethink the ideological and developmental paradigm that may have a calling in the minds of voters. There is a need to have a real connection with voters rather than just focusing on creating the brand value of the faces of leadership.

Kalyani holds a Ph.D. Fellow in Sociology, Center for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She tweets at @FiercelyBahujan. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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