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Limericks and good old Graffiti are still a part of poll campaigns

10 March, 2021 12:51:07
Limericks and good old Graffiti are still a part of poll campaigns

As cars whoosh past the upscale and old neighbourhood of Ekbalpore and Remount Road, the walls around stare at you in glee. At first you pinch and ask yourself, is it some Sao Paolo roadside adorned in hues of graffiti art? A closer look throws up our childhood poll campaign strategies ---one wall adorned with a 'chowkidar' sitting idle while industrialists loot banks, while another shows the power of the humble Hawaii Chappal with that famous tagline ‘Khela Hobe.’

Despite a new law that says walls can only be taken for poll graffiti with the permission of the house owner, it seems polls in Bengal is incomplete without graffiti and satire limericks. After all, Bengalis are known worldwide for their creativity that gets reflected in everything they do --- be it food, attire, or even poll campaigns. Thus in an age of cut throat social media and electronic media campaigns, the good old poll graffiti still rules in this state. 

But there is a twist in the history of such graffiti art. The tradition of poll limericks and graffiti go back to Bengal’s elections in 1952 when the first election of independent India was held. Due to high cost of paper, both the Congress and the Communists had then started using the walls to put forth their agendas and ideas. Since then, the graffiti and limericks - some witty, some satirical and some thought provoking - have been an inseparable part of any elections in the state.

But there is a twist in the history of such graffiti art. The tradition of poll limericks and graffiti go back to Bengal’s elections in 1952 when the first election of independent India was held. Due to high cost of paper, both the Congress and the Communists had then started using the walls to put forth their agendas and ideas. Since then, the graffiti and limericks - some witty, some satirical and some thought provoking - have been an inseparable part of any elections in the state. To add humour to those messages, graffiti artists started drawing cartoons and writing catchy slogans and limericks which became instant hits during the polls. Many of them were Art College graduates and students, whose political identity started with drawing graffiti on the walls. During the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s, Bengal saw the Naxal movement involving meritorious students of leading colleges and they too used graffiti as a means to spread their messages.

As veteran TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee says: ‘Graffiti and limericks are an integral part of poll campaign in Bengal. Canvassing is incomplete without them. Social media undoubtedly has a wider reach, but the visual impact of graffiti can never be denied.’ In an interview to the PTI he also mentioned that during the ’60s and ’70s when he was in the Congress, he would with the party's workers regularly whitewash walls and write on the walls and paint the party symbol, as he found this work of art very relaxing during the hectic campaign schedules.

The importance of wall writings can be gauged from the fact that reports of clashes over wall writing are quite common in rural and semi urban areas of the state during poll campaigns. Different parties still are over-zealous in their attempt to capture the walls. As veteran TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee says: ‘Graffiti and limericks are an integral part of poll campaign in Bengal. Canvassing is incomplete without them. Social media undoubtedly has a wider reach, but the visual impact of graffiti can never be denied.’ In an interview to the PTI he also mentioned that during the ’60s and ’70s when he was in the Congress, he would with the party's workers regularly whitewash walls and write on the walls and paint the party symbol, as he found this work of art very relaxing during the hectic campaign schedules. However, the Left parties have always been way ahead of their rivals in wall-writing and graffiti. They always had a dedicated team of workers and student activists who involved themselves in penning catchy slogans.

As the cars start again with the lights going green, one cannot miss the cartoon of Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding a cow in leash with a message below ‘Come let's make you a BJP candidate.’ Whoever be the target, the charm and lure of wall graffiti has remained the same in Bengal down the ages with the hint of humorous creativity added to it. 

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