The UPA's paisa vasool campaign


Like Kancherla Gopanna, whom we hail today as Bhakta Ramadas, did long years ago when he was pushed to the wall, the United Progressive Alliance of...

Like Kancherla Gopanna, whom we hail today as Bhakta Ramadas, did long years ago when he was pushed to the wall, the United Progressive Alliance of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the government of Manmohan Singh have turned to 'Ninda Stuti'. While Ramdas asked Lord Rama in chaste Telugu, 'Ikshvaaku kula tilaka ika naina balukavu Ramachandra nannu rakshimpa kunnanu rakshaku levarinka Ramachandra' (Oh Ramachandra, the noblest person of Ikshvaku dynasty, if you don't protect me, who else is there for me?), Sonia-Singh combine is asking their Lord, the people of India "If you don't protect us, who else is there for us?"

In his 'Ninda Stuti', Gopanna listed the valuable ornaments he got made for the Lord, His wife and His three brothers, elaborated his labour of love in building the ramparts around the temple ('Chuttu prakaramulu somputu gattisti Ramachandra") spending thousands rupees ('aa praakaaramulaku batte padivela varahalu'), and implored His Lord to not treat him as a stranger (nanu krottaga choodaka).

Taking cue from Gopanna, the UPA has gone to town listing out how it reached out to people and changed their lives with its flagship schemes. And like Gopanna, who taunted his Lord and demanded that He should come to his aid saying ''neevu kulu kuchu tiri gedavu, yevarabba sommani raamachandra' (You go about in all pride. Do you think you inherited all this treasure?), the UPA-II is demanding 'paisa vasul' with its Rs.30 crore plus media blitzkrieg.

There is one difference between Gopanna of Tanisha regime and Gopanna of UPA rule. Yesterday's Gopanna lamented for his 'scam' in his own humble way, telling his Lord 'sarkaru paikamu trunamuga yenchaka Ramachandra, debbalu tinalenu appu teerrchu Ramachandra', (I did not consider that the government money was so valuable, while spending it for you. I cannot bear the lashes any more. Oh Rama, please clear my debt), Sonia-Singh are silent on specifics and scams in their 'sales pitch' to showcase their nine-year-long successful feats.

So, it is doubtful whether their plea will be heard by the Lord who had heard Gopanna's lament: 'Kroora karmamulu neraka jesiti, neramulenchaku, rama, dridryamu pariharmu cheyave daiva sikhamani Rama' (Please don't find fault with me for the evil acts committed due to ignorance. Please eradicate my poverty. Oh Rama, You are the supreme gem!)

Frankly, I have no hesitation in admitting that the analogy I have tried to draw is patently unfair, and that it may border on blasphemy. It came easily to me because I was brought up on an idiom that refuses to go away from memory. Also because of the fact that in a democracy, for the rulers people are the gods who need to be worshipped once in five years or as often as the political shenanigans make it necessary.

Having seen this 'public worship' over four-decades of my life on the periphery of a ring side seat, I have developed my own theory. It is that the ruling party, which turns to the in-house media managers in Shastri Bhavan and Akashvani Bhavan, does two things. One, it exposes its feet of clay. Two it expects the media to deliver the vote. This happened with Indira Gandhi. It happened with Rajiv Gandhi. Also with PV, who introduced the practice of presenting to the nation a progress card on the achievements of the government.

All the three tried to counter Opposition criticism by flooding the print, film and TV with 'success stories'. The mother banked on radio to deliver the message to the rural people turning Akashvani into Indiravani. A During the Rajiv days, a top IAS aide, who went on to become a darling of the middle classes for a short while, used to hold durbar every evening and decree what should go on AIR and DD with what slant and with what intensity.

Media-shy PV did not overtly worry about publicity but his aides, some of them self-anointed media managers, did and worked jealously to carve out a niche for the boss in the visual space. Every frame of the hagiographic act showed how reluctant the subject was, and how there can be no uniform single fit for election-time propaganda.

The likes of Yerran Naidu drew lessons from this debacle, engaged 'right professionals' for their campaigns and benefitted though some of these professionals deserted them mid-way after pocketing hefty fees. The lesson was clear. Politicians and political parties should depend on their cadres to spread the 'su vaarta'. Media cannot be the 'su vaarta vani'. Yes, it can only supplement the party's effort.

The UPA appears to believe that it is the only urban voter, who is 'misled' and that the rural voter is still 'un-influenced' by the Opposition charade. During the days when Indira Gandhi announced elections to end the Emergency raj, the Congress held similar views. Well, the Congress is the core of UPA. The catch line of the campaign, 'Meelon hum aa gaye, meelon hame jaana hai' (we have travelled a long way, we have a long way to go) is a shade different from the India Shining campaign mounted by the NDA government after advancing the poll date on the advice of Babu, the CEO, TDP AP Ltd.

The few 'spots' of UPA that are on TV these days are informal in style and seek to let 'optimism prevail over naysayers'. These spots are well shot � some in a moving train. And all end with the protagonists, speaking simultaneously, and declaring 'India is winning'.

The producers sitting in Shastri Bhavan have reasons to celebrate hailing the 'product' as the perfect fit for the official brief, which, to you and me, is no more than a sterile official propaganda we have become familiar with over years.

This is reason enough to believe that my theory has the potential to withstand another test this year end. I have another theory about Prime Ministers and their Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort. It also stood the test of times. About it some other time.

Taking cue from Gopanna, the UPA has gone to town listing out how it reached out to people and changed their lives with its flagship schemes

[The writer can be reached at]

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