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UP Elections: Political parties fight it out with songs as Election Commission prioritises digital campaigns and bans physical rallies

The upcoming assembly elections have made the campaign a bit musical as opposed to the gruff and grating speeches of the local and regional leaders in the public meetings.

The election commission of India had declared the schedule of the upcoming assembly elections in the five states earlier this month. As the number of COVID-19 cases in India surged in January 2022, the election commission has also laid down the guidelines for campaigning. According to the guidelines, all rallies, public meetings, etc are banned. Even door-to-door campaigning is allowed with a limited number of party workers in a group that too only after keeping social distance and abiding by all other COVID-19 norms like masking and sanitization.

UP election campaign songs

Naturally, the political parties are bound to go digital for campaigning due to restrictions on physical campaigning activities, thereby making this election to be the first of its kind in the history of the Indian republic. Along with graphical designs, content on the images, and short viral audio and video clips, it is the songs from various parties and their supporters and workers which have prepossessed the poll-bound states, especially Uttar Pradesh.

Election songs have been a part of the campaign for many years but as the campaign for the current election is a digital-only kind, at least until any further notification by the election commission of India, the importance of the election songs has suddenly doubled, and thanks to the social media platforms, these songs are now not limited only to Uttar Pradesh.

Folk tunes, experiments in music arrangements, star singers, popular issues addressed in lyrics, glorification of leaders, and local accent – more than just another campaigning tool, the election songs have become a perfect entertaining recipe for a common Indian election enthusiast. Let’s see from the examples of a few songs, how these tunes are setting the mood and tone of the election, if not the entire discourse and vote swing.

Bahujan Samaj Party

Most of the election songs of the Bahujan Samaj Party revolve around the party icon Bahan Mayawatiji only. But in one of the recent songs, the one made by BSP supporter Shashi Bhushan, the party seems to be promising things like putting a check on mafia dons, ensuring law and order, making expressways, etc. which the Yogi Adityanath government is already delivering continuously for last five years. Making “Maya bahanji ke sapno ka UP” is the theme addressed in most of the songs made for BSP.

The party has hired singing services from eminent Bollywood singers like Kailash Kher, Shaan, and this year’s Padma Award winner Sonu Nigam. Most of the songs still rely on the sentiments revolving around Mayawati’s personal charisma and the schemes implemented in her first full tenure as the chief minister of the state from 2007 to 2012. No song is complete without visuals of BSP founder Kanshiram, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Gautam Buddha. The iconic elephant statues built by the BSP supremo in her tenure are also seen.

Another BSP song is sung by Udit Narayan. The song expressing hope from Mayawati is made in July 2021 but still trending for BSP. But barring the sweet and smiling voice of Udit Narayan, nothing in the song actually assures hope.

The party has made songs on both folk tunes as well as popular tunes. Some of them are original too. But it is very naive to think that people will vote for this party listening to the songs based on the tunes of Hindu Bhajans, when they already have Yogi Adityanath as the CM of the state. For example Sonu Nigam’s song for BSP with lyrics “Ab karo vijay ki taiyari, nishchit hai jeet hamari” is based on the tune of “Badi der bhayi Nandlala, teri raah take brijbala”. Though the song is trending currently for BSP, it was made three years ago.

Yogi Adityanath has already said that flowers will be showered on Karsevaks when they will reach for Karseva next time, implying the work to be done at Mathura’s Shri Krishna Janm Bhoomi. On this backdrop, making an election song on the tunes of a Bhajan of Lord Krishna is certainly not a clever move. However, it will become only after the election results that what chunk of the voters is allured towards BSP by such efforts.

Samajwadi Party

Known for its appeasement policy specially focussed towards Muslims in the state, Samajwadi Party has launched multiple songs for the upcoming election and SP songs are certainly better than BSP songs at least in appearance. Kailash Kher has also sung a song for SP. Of all the songs released by the party so far ‘Janata pukarati hai Akhilesh aaiye’ is leading the charts for the party. The song is written by Bilal Saharanpuri. Bollywood singer Altamash Faridi has sung it in his voice resembling that of the Pakistani singer Atif Aslam.

The SP songs majorly focus on building hope through the image of ‘Akhilesh Yadav the saviour’, whom according to the party, people are calling to lead the state. But the song contains two contradictory lines in two different stanzas of the song ‘Janata pukarati hai Akhilesh aaiye’. The first line says ‘Netaji ke karya ko aage badhaaiye’ meaning that ‘please take ahead the legacy of Mulayam Singh Yadav’. The second one is ‘Samman betiyon ko ab wapas dilaaiye’ meaning that ‘restore the respect of the girls’. It is notable that while reacting to a rape incident, Mulayam Singh Yadav had once said ‘Ladkon see galti ho jati hai’ which means, ‘boys keep committing such mistakes’. Besides, the SP songs overall promise for employment, welfare schemes, etc.

In visuals, it focuses on the old footage like distributing laptops to students and cycles to girls. Tracks like ‘Khadeda hoi be’ and ‘Dhadak dhadak’ bring folk flavor to the well-arranged songs but it will still be a challenge for SP to make people forget the irregular power supplies and bad law and order situations in UP during SP’s regime.

Bharatiya Janata Party

The incumbent giant in the state is leading the digital campaign through both official songs and fan-made songs. Through various songs, BJP is leading to set the direction of the discourse as well as the party is effectively answering the allegations and questions from the opponents and critics through the songs which are creatively written and designed. The official campaign song was launched by CM Yogi Adityanath at a press conference.

The song does not name the CM candidate Yogi Adityanath in any line of this song. It just reiterates ‘UP bhar me shankhnaad se sunai padti hai yahi pukar, UP fir mange bhajpa sarkar’. The party goes on to count various development works done in the last five years of the double engine government as it is popularly called. Even visually, the faces of popular party leaders like PM Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are seen for the minimum possible time. Contradictorily, the songs of SP and BSP contain the images of their supreme leaders almost in every frame of the song.

BJP is often accused by its opponents to be the party that relies on communal polarization and being inclined towards Hindus and against the minorities especially the Muslims, but the campaign song of BJP is underlining a different story. The party is emphasizing more on the close-ups of happy faces of common men and women rather than focussing on the theatrical gimmicks that the party could have portrayed with its iconic works at Kashi and Ayodhya. The song covers them as well, but the center of BJP’s narrative still remains on what the people are thinking this time, according to the party.

Despite this prime campaign song BJP also has some other songs for the upcoming elections. The one based on the tune of the famous Sinhala song ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ is most popular among the others as it contains lines like ‘Yahi Yogi, Yahi Modi, Upyogi, Sahyogi’ which are directly drawn from the popular punches from Modi’s speeches given in the public rallies held in December 2021. Interestingly, even this song does not focus on images of leaders but revolves around the happy faces of common people.

The game changers

Apart from the official songs of the political parties, there are a few other songs that are either made and posted by fans and followers or made by critics and opponents and posted by everyone else willfully joining their bandwagon. While the Congress party is still lingering around ‘Mera job mujhe milega’ song, the fan-made songs are showing the reality of the aspirations and demands of the voters.

One such popular independent song is that by Kanhaiyya Mittal. The lyrics of the song have gone so viral that even BJP is using those lines on their campaign material like sarees. It is ‘Jo Ram ko laaye hain, hum unko layenge, UP me fir se hum bhagwa lahrayenge’ which means ‘we will bring back to them who have brought Ram back (of course into the grand temple), we will wave the saffron flag once again in UP’. Kanhaiyya Mittal has shared an exclusive disclaimer before starting the track. He says, if you agree with me, share this song the maximum and if you disagree with me, then kindly ignore this stuff. The song has gained astronomically high popularity in and even out of the state. So much so that even wedding planners are inviting Kanhaiyya Mittal to perform this song in the wedding functions.

Another such example is a question and answers series that has appeared through the medium of songs ‘UP me ka ba?’ and ‘UP me sab ba’. The Bhojpuri dialect in the songs intentionally used to connect with the rural masses of UP especially the Purvanchal area seems to have played its role very well. The ‘UP me ka ba’ song was made and posted by Neha Singh Rathore. In this song, she has attempted to ask so-called tough questions and speak the so-called truth to the power.

In response to this, actor and singer Ravi Kishan has come up with a song ‘UP me sab ba’ in which he has very well explained in detail the works done by the Yogi Adityanath government and what it plans to do in the future if given an opportunity again in the upcoming elections.

Overall, the upcoming assembly elections, at least in UP, have already made the campaign a bit musical as opposed to the gruff and grating speeches of the local and regional leaders in the public meetings.

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