December 15, 2019
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The Soil Test Chronicles

The BJP’s anthem song, Saugandh, with its belligerent tones, has no place for the neutral Indian

The Soil Test Chronicles
Sanjay Rawat
The Soil Test Chronicles

Jingo Bells, Jingo Bells

Saugandh mujhe is mitti ki
Mein desh nahin mitne doonga
Mein desh nahin mitne doonga
Mein desh nahin jhukne doonga

Saugandh mujhe is mitti ki
Meri dharti mujhse poochh rahi
Kab mera karj chukaoge
Mera ambar mujhse poochh raha
Kab mera farj nibhaoge
Mera vachan hai Bharat ma ki
Tera shish nahi jhukne doonga

Woh loot rahe hain sapno ko
Mein chain se kaise so jaaun
Woh bech rahe hain Bharat ko
Khamosh mein kaise ho jaaun

Woh chaahte hai jaage naa koi
Bas raat kaa kaarobar chale
Woh nasha baantte jaaye
Aur desh yoonhi bimaar chale
Par jaag rahaa hai desh mera
Har Bharatvasi jitega

Ab ghadi faisle ki aayi,
Hamne hai kasam ab khaayi,
Hamein FIR se dohraanaa hai
Aur khud ko yaad dilaanaa hai
Naa bhatkenge, na atkenge
Kuchh bhi ho is baar
Hum desh nahi mitne denge


Something is amiss in Saugandh, the rallying song—or should we say war cry—for BJP’s PM-aspirant Narendra Modi, playing out by the hour in a 24-hour loop since it made its debut on FM radio stations early this week. The chest-thumping number harks back to a time when Bharatvasis took on the mighty British empire, a time when people took a pledge to preserve the Indian soil from being trampled over, when everyone prostrated before Bharat mata and took a pledge to preserve her honour. Clearly, the bugle for battle has no room for anti-pledgists.

You could be forgiven for dreaming about Modi in fatigues after a steady diet of this. As it is, on the evening of March 26 in the capital, he was in his trademark kurta-churidar as the victory song blared in the background. Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics—a pledge not to run the country aground—Sukhvinder’s soaring voice and Modi himself reading out the pledge in the name of Bharat’s mitti (soil) to a crowd that wants to hear more, made it a heady affair. Yes, the man has a dream, and it’s to rid Bharat mata of all evils.

There is no denying the imagery of pride, patriotism and machismo the song seeks to stoke while the visuals play on the citizen’s fears—a young, worried looking woman, more worried, unemployed men and still more worried farmers. Is the song suppo­sed to evoke images of a secure world for women, secure employment for men and rain and more msp (minimum support price), perhaps, for farmers? Can’t say. Only Modi, our desi superman avatar on the warpath, knows.

“The BJP anthem is more like a happy birthday song for Times Now super anchor Arnab. It’s not fit for a PM-aspirant.”
Shiv Visvanathan, Social anthropologist

Welcome to Elections 2014, wherein the people of the world’s largest democracy will lar­gely exercise their franch­ise peacefully. This isn’t supposed to be a war, the BJP’s or anyone else’s. So why all this belli­g­erence? Social anthropologist Shiv Visv­ana­than has a take on this. “The song is more like a happy birthday song for Times Now super-primetime anchor Arnab Gos­w­ami, it’s not fit for a PM-aspirant. Pra­soon has written this jingo-jingo number and it is worrying...for the song comes at a time when the youth is looking global,” he says. Visvanathan also worries that the BJP anthem may become a caricature of certain values—like patriotism and nationalism—foisting a false image of valour, an anachronism in this age and time.

Media commentator Sudeesh Pachauri says “it is curious how a political advertisement is masquerading as a campaign and I wonder whether the EC is taking note of it.” Pachauri points out how the “campaign” doesn’t say vote for Modi anywhere and yet, it is about advertising Modi.

The alarmist 1984 Congress campaign

For Prasoon, chairman and CEO of McCann World Group for India and South Asia, Saugandh is far removed from Nahin Rukegi Meri Dilli, which he wrote barely a few months ago for then Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. That song evoked messages of a state on the road to progress with its vision of roads, potable water and houses for all. It’s another thing that nobody bou­ght into the Congress and Dikshit’s development song. Still, it was a 21st century effort, with political correctness stamped all over it and, most important, an endeavour to include all sections of the populace.

Prasoon says the latest song “is not about taking potshots at others. It basically reflects the DNA of the BJP which is—put the country first—and is an attempt to build a brand from the existing raw material, which is national pride.” The message is—everyone who cares for the country must take a pledge to protect it and put it on the path of good governance. If you care about your country, you will know whom to vote for. Modi cares for the country, so you must vote for him. An underlying focus, of course, is to tear into the perceived weaknesses of the ruling party, the Congress-led UPA.

Now campaigns, mostly, are known for their direct, no-fuss messages. Like, for instance, the Samajwadi Party one which has people cycling away in secular Uttar Pradesh pledging to vote for Netaji again. The Congress campaign emphasises on inclusion with its ‘Mein Nahin Hum’ tagline and one hears there are a couple more coming on Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

In stark contrast is the BJP campaign, somewhat reminiscent of the forgettable Congress one of the ’80s with its stark images of scorpions and lizards (the message to the voter was vote for the Congress if he/she wanted security and peace). The reality struck home later. Nineteen eighty-four became the year the country was mute witness to the worst communal riots of the decade, the massacre of Sikhs following the Indira Gandhi assassination. In an irony of ironies, the campaign appeared to stoke divisiveness. Still, the Congress won and the campaign was forgotten.

Modi’s anthem seems to play on a similar exclusion—exclude the corrupt, exclude those who don’t take the pledge, exclude the ISI and CIA agents. In identifying the new enemies of the country, the campaign excludes everyone except the believers.

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