In UP, politics for the folks comes in heartland one-liners!

Idioms in native language tell the level of political awakening. It is up to the netas to find the right translation, and fulfill people’s aspirations

trithesh

Trithesh Nandan | March 13, 2014



In an election year, when the decibel level of political cacophony drowns out all other arguments, it is the idiom – or ‘one liners’ – that catch attention. Travel to the Hindi heartland as the elections draw closer, attend choupals, sit at tea and paan shops, or engage with a bunch of people, and you will find people eagerly discussing politics and prophesying about the outcome of the elections.

What is distinct among all these discussions is the people’s comprehension of the political scenario and their attempt at explaining it through idioms and metaphors – sharp and witty, oftener than not they match the understanding of any political scientist.

If one is asked to describe the state of affairs of Uttar Pradesh in English, most he/she is more likely than not to say that the state has degenerated, or is corrupt. And with that ends the description, and discussion. But sample this from a student Sriprakash Yadav in Allahabad: “Yahan ki rajneeti mein to virus ghus gaya hai (a virus has attacked the political system here).”

During Governance Now’s recent week-long journey through the electorally key state, while many spoke about the undercurrents of a Modi wave, Ram Ratan Kushwaha, a villager from Ghazipur district, said he recognised the Modi factor but would still vote for the Samajwadi Party. Animatedly discussing the talk of the town, as the phrase goes, Kushwaha said, “Chowki par aur baat chouka par aur baat” (loosely translated, discussion in kitchen are different from those outside the home).

While western UP may be inflicted with communal tension, eastern part of the state is largely unaffected. At Gangauli village in Ghazipur district, the birth place of renowned Urdu poet Rahi Masoom Raza (who also and scripted the teleserial ‘Mahabharat’), Syed Abuzar Hussain, who claimed to be a distant relative of the late Raza, described communal harmony with a metaphor: "Hum log namak mirch aur masala mein paani dene ka kaam kartein hain" (we pour water if the situation – read communal tension – aggravates).”

The glorification of and myth-making around ‘bahubalis’ are very high in the state. Take the case of Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiya, the independent MLA from Kunda in Pratapgarh and a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet, whose writ runs in the entire district, but is also a character recognised with truth and hope. Since 1993, Singh has won legislative elections from the seat on five successive occasions. So how exactly does he manage that? A local answered that with a counter-query: “Raja Bhaiya harenge to kise marenge?” (who will be killed if Raja Bhaiya is defeated?)”

Such idioms are created to spread fear.

Here’s another, from a hoarding on Raja Bhaiya: “Satya vichlit ho sakta hai lekin parajit nehin (Truth may face difficulty but never face defeat).”

Before withdrawing from the Lok Sabha race in Kanpur – he was fighting on an SP ticket – stage and TV comedian Raju Srivastava came up with a slogan, “Hansi aur vikas ke liye drirh sankalp” (committed for the cause of laughter and development).

Contending that politicians, once they become legislators, rarely have time for development of their constituencies, a student in Allahabad said, "Leader kaam nahi karte hain, kewal publicity ka kaam karte hein" (leaders don't work; they work only for publicity).

At Allahabad’s Naini Industrial Estate, formed by Jawaharlal Nehru as a public sector hub to promote industrial activities in the region, the disappointment and frustration are writ large on the faces of the locals as well as workers’ union members and the few leaders remaining. Claiming that Naini has been “deliberately neglected” since the liberalisation juggernaut rolled off in 1991, with many units either closed down, relocated or sold off, they blame the disinvestment drive, one of the major agendas of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, equally. The Vajpayee administration had a separate disinvestment ministry, which continued under the Congress-led UPA – a cause of much skepticism here.

Talking about the ‘India Shining’ slogan and the ‘feel good factor’ catchphrase that were picked up by the media towards the end of the Vajpayee tenure, Yogendra Shukla, a labour union leader, said he had warned Murli Manohar Joshi, the then MP from Allahabad, that “feel good factor se becho public sector ko” – that this feel good factor is created to sell off public sector units. As he discusses the woes under the UPA, Shukla comes up with another killer line: “Hamare desh ke netaon ki MRI karane ki jaroorat hai” (Indian politicians should be subjected to MRI scans to get to the root of the problem).

And while everyone and his/her friend turns a psephologist in the run-up to the elections, Umakand Yadav, who owns a small dhaba in Etawah, a stronghold of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, has a line of warning: “Cricket aur chunav mein aakhiri ball tak kaun jitega koi nahi janta.” That needs no translation. So, wait till May 16!
 

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