(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
A few weeks ago, the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was gripped by anticipation. All the illegal gambling dens selling illicit liquor had their radios tuned into a single station. Somewhere deep inside the bowels of the hinterland, dacoit groups sent whichever member of their group owned a nokia asha to the abandoned safehouse which got the best reception. Teevee channels all over the state interrupted their regular programming for this special broadcast. Laptops given to college students by the UP government automatically connected to the internet and opened their browser window to the homepage of the Samajwadi party. After all, the party’s anthem for the next election was about to be released! Then, as the clock struck twelve, the airways all over the state were filled by words extolling the virtues of one Mulayam Singh Yadav set to the tune of Billy Joel’s We didn’t start the fire.
Yes, that’s right. The Samajwadi Party thought using a song with the lyrics We didn’t start the fire was totally appropriate. What happened, was Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff taken? The day they chose this song, irony died in a fire started by a riot in Muzaffarnagar while the police stood on the side, watching the proceedings, doing nothing. Maybe they confused ‘theme song’ with ‘legal defence?’
Although, to be fair, I think this is a capital idea. Every political party in India should have an official anthem based on a song from the 80’s. Think of the possibilities! The Congress could use Europe’s The Final Countdown as the people of this country count the days until the UPA is sent to the dustbin of history. Nothing describes the BJP’s campaign better than the Aretha Franklin & George Michael duet I Knew You Were Waiting For Me. U2’s I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For seems like it was tailor-made for the AAP. The DMK can hum Whitney Houston’s I Want to Dance With Somebody while looking for somebody, anybody, who will align with them. The BSP should put a small device under Mayawati’s statues which constantly pumps out The Bangles’ hit Walk Like an Egyptian because of their dear leader’s Cleopatra-like obsession with herself. Laloo Prasad Yadav should have used all his free time in the penitentiary learning the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s I Just Can't Stop Loving You while wondering why the RJD still has feelings for the Congress despite being continuously shunned by the latter. Bow Wow Wow’s I Want Candy seems perfect for Ajit Singh’s political outfit as it is perpetually available for lease to the highest bidder. The TMC should start playing Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place on Earth from the loudspeakers they put up next to Calcutta’s many traffic lights so as to remind the people of that city of their luck in being alive during Didi’s glorious reign of peace and prosperity. Nitish Kumar’s version of the Janata Dal should keep Milli Vanilli’s Baby Don't Forget My Number handy in case they change their mind after the election and suddenly find their former ally quite acceptable once again. The left parties should definitely play La Bamba by the Los Lobos at their rallies because just like the current version of the band, they’re a cheap imitation of their former selves.
One may wonder why the Samajwadi Party is trying to reach out to anyone who isn’t into criminal activity. Well, apparently someone told them that all the young people, at least those who aren’t patrolling the neighbourhood in their party issued standard jeep looking for someone to pick on, are spending all their time on the internets. So they made a website to show people what they’re all about. Which is why the website is low on information and high on proving how the party supremo is god’s greatest gift to the people of Uttar Pradesh. Hey, just because they are against everything that the modern world stands for doesn’t mean that they don’t want to at least give the impression of living in the twenty first century.
It’s not just Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ancient tribal council that wants to keep the past alive. Most of our political parties suffer from the same ailment. They imagine that by having a website or twitter account and letting their leaders take friendly questions from internet users will make them appear like they are Y2K okay. Yet, they don’t realize that no matter what the medium, their message remains the same. Like our page on Facebook to receive updates consisting of the same regressive pabulum we always talk about!
You can’t cover up outdated policies and an incomprehensible worldview with fancy gadgets. Leaders seeped in intolerance, misogyny, homophobia and religious bigotry want us to believe that they are ready to face the challenges of the modern world because of their ability to hire someone who knows what email is. Can’t thinkfluence my vote, bro!
Political parties in India are modern like the Khap Panchayats are acceptable of young love. Political parties in India are modern like Iran is a democracy. Political parties in India are modern like “baba” ramdev is spiritual. No matter how much you try to shine a turd, at the end of the day, it’s still a turd.
If only there was some sort of communication network our political parties could use to find out what people really want.