India

What do donkeys and Trump have to do with this Indian election?

Uttar Pradesh children play with propaganda material Image copyright AFP

It's election season in India's most populous state.

Whoever wins the polls in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh will, for the next five years, rule a population that's larger than the combined size of Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.

The stakes are high and in their desperation to grab the eyeballs of the 222 million plus people, some of India's top politicians are indulging in mudslinging and name calling, some of which are very, well, creative.

The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi compiles a list of bizarre barbs and rants the political leaders are throwing at each other.


A very 'grave' matter

Image copyright Thinkstock

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at an election rally in Fatehpur took a macabre turn when he brought up graveyards and cremation grounds.

"If land is given for a cemetery in a village, it should also be given for a cremation ground. If there's electricity during Ramadan, it should be supplied during Diwali too. If there's electricity on Holi, it should be there on Eid also. There should be no discrimination," he said.

The comment was meant to be a criticism of the state government led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav whom Mr Modi has accused of trying to appease the Muslim minority community.

But it was played and replayed on television news channels with his political rivals and many commentators accusing the prime minister of trying to divide voters along religious lines.

His supporters defended him - they said his speech was misunderstood and all that he was trying to say was that discrimination must end.


Animal crackers

Image copyright AFP

For those not familiar with the Uttar Pradesh politics, they would be forgiven if they walked into a rally of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and thought they had stumbled into a conference about animals.

The elephant has been a recurring theme at his election rallies from day one.

The pachyderm is the election symbol of his biggest regional rival, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), led by Dalit icon Mayawati who is a four-time chief minister of the state.

During her last term in power from 2002 to 2007, Ms Mayawati spent more than a billion dollars building concrete parks where scores of elephant statues were erected.

"For seven years, I've been watching these elephants. Those which were sitting, are still sitting. And those which were standing, are still standing," Mr Yadav says at every election rally, pointing out the "wasteful expenditure".

But on Monday, he mentioned a new animal - the donkey.

Without naming anyone, he talked about an advertisement by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan to promote a Wild Ass Sanctuary in Gujarat, the prime minister's home state.

"I request the century's biggest superstar, please don't do any ad campaigns for Gujarat's gadhas (donkeys)," he said.

His comments were immediately described as an "outrageous dig" at PM Modi with many wondering if the public discourse could get any more pungent.

Well, on Tuesday, it did - when colourful politician Laloo Yadav called BJP chief Amit Shah a genda (rhinoceros).

Post script: He also called PM Modi a eunuch.


Acerbic acronyms

Image copyright AFP

In this season of name calling, Ms Mayawati, popularly known as Behenji (Hindi for older sister), also has a new name for Mr Modi.

An icon to millions of Dalits (formerly untouchables), she said the initials in his name Narendra Damodardas Modi actually stood for "Mr Negative Dalit Man".

"I have defined the prime minister's name taking into consideration his work, behaviour and policy," she said.

The name game, however, was started by Mr Modi who earlier said that her Bahujan Samaj Party, which loosely translates as "party of the majority of people", has turned into the Behenji Sampatti Party (Behenji Assets party).

Ms Mayawati said Mr Modi was "indulging in cheap things and petty talk" because he was "perturbed by the rising popularity of her party".


... And Donald Trump?

Image copyright Getty Images

India's Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, who is campaigning for PM Modi's BJP, recently told a gathering in the backward Bundelkhand region that [Donald] Trump and [Vladimir] Putin were watching the Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections.

According to a report in The Indian Express Ms Bharti said: "Trump and Putin are watching; that if India has to become a great power then UP should not be backward."

She also invoked the names of [Karl] Marx and [Vladimir] Lenin while praising the recent government decision to ban high value currency notes to curb corruption.

"One of the biggest economic revolutions in the world was brought about by Marx and Lenin. But their revolution was a bloody one. The one that PM Narendra Modi has brought through demonetisation is a bloodless economic revolution."

Now, Bundelkhand is among the most backward regions in the state and people here are barely literate.

No wonder then, as the Express reported, "Her references to Marx, Lenin, Trump and Putin left many flummoxed in the crowd".

And us too.

Related Topics