May 14, 2009

Hoarding war in Kolkata ahead of polls

May 12th, 2009 - 3:58 am EST

Kolkata, May 12 (IANS): Don’t be surprised if you see a giant Mamata Banerjee swallowing the entire Nano factory. And don’t feel scared if you find late Trinamool Congress leader Ajit Panja towering above you to bless a party candidate.

These are two of the numerous colourful hoardings put up by the political parties in West Bengal to make their points ahead of Wednesday’s poll. Besides hoardings, big cut-outs and witty posters are dotting the walls, hanging from trees and roadside boards to drive home political messages.

The ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) hoarding about Banerjee devouring the Singur factory in Hooghly district is aimed at keeping public memory fresh about her party’s anti-land acquisition protests, which the Communists allege forced Tata Motors to move the project out of the state.

Trinamool Congress counters with a hoarding that has a picture of Banerjee surrounded by the farmers of Singur and Nandigram - the spot in East Midnapore district where the state government’s abortive bid to set up a chemical hub triggered violent protests and caused much blood-letting.

Banerjee, the face of the anti-Communist opposition in the state, figures prominently in the cut-outs and hoardings put up by her party.

One such hoarding at Bhowanipore in the southern part of the city depicts Banerjee as a ‘lady with the lamp’, showing the way to the people of Bengal to get rid of the CPI-M.

“Bangla jure CPI-M-er atyachar, amabashyar nisha, andhakar banglai pradip jaliye mamata dekhaben disha (Whole of Bengal is enveloped in darkness like a new moon night due to the CPI-M’s atrocities. Mamata will show the way by lighting the lamp in the darkness),” it says.

The CPI-M has made fun of the Trinamool Congress chief’s slogan of “Ma, Mati o Manush” (mother, land and the people) and also mocked the role of the pro-Mamata intellectuals christened Sushil Samaj.

A hoarding calls Banerjee’s slogan a folk-opera produced by Agnikanya (firebrand - Banerjee’s sobriquet) Productions and publicised and directed by Sushil Samaj members with several Trinamool Congress candidates being assigned various roles.

Another CPI-M hoarding takes on Banerjee for her irregular attendance in the Lok Sabha saying: “When crucial decisions on the nation’s economy, employment generation and foreign policy are taken, she is in hibernation. What good will be served by sending her to parliament?”

Yet another CPI-M poster calls Trinamool Congress a “Goebblesian stable”, referring to Hitler’s propaganda secretary Joseph Goebbels, regarded as very adept at spreading misinformation.

Basudeb Acharya, CPI-M leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha, says his party did not hire any professional agency for designing campaign material.

“The hoardings are not centrally designed though there are guidelines laid down by the central authority, which all of them follow,” Acharya told IANS.

But the hoarding which takes the cake for innovativeness is the one with a picture of former union minister Ajit Panja in the new Kolkata North seat in support of Trinamool Congress candidate Sudip Bandopadhyay, who is fighting CPI-M MP Mohhammed Salim.

“I am Ajit Panja speaking from heaven. Sudip, you will win. Salim has not spent Rs.80 million from his MP fund. You must spend this money,” says the hoarding, attempting to use Panja’s goodwill while publicising the CPI-M MP’s alleged failure to utilise the local area development funds.

Leader of the opposition in the state assembly Partha Chatterjee says the contents of all campaign materials of the Trinamool Congress are decided by the party leadership.

“In the hoardings, we have talked about various movements that we took up. We have tried to answer many queries put forward by the opposition through our hoardings like, ‘Are we against industrialisation?’” Partha told IANS.

State Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya concedes his party has put up fewer hoardings this time.

“I must admit posters, hoardings, festoons are part of the poll decoration, without which the campaign looks incomplete,” he said.

“Some of the hoardings are really nice and relevant,” Souvik Misra, executive creative director of BATE Advertising, told IANS.

He particularly referred to the hoardings put up by the pro-Mamata intellectuals saying “Paribarton Chai (We want change)”.

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