Battle for Bengal has become a war of bad barbs

We all know the Prime Minister’s penchant for maaro-ing dialogues — he is too good, yaar! Left and right, he can give it back to opponents, that too in so many languages! His clever puns! Those well-aimed barbs! Wah! When Modiji is on a roll, it’s impossible to stop his wrath-yatra. For the past few weeks he has excelled himself! Mamata Bannerjee does that to critics, she inspires them to new levels — high or low, I’m not saying. When the PM addressed her (sing-song style) as ‘Didi O Didi’, people immediately jumped down the poor man’s throat (hidden under the flowing beard), and gave him hell for making fun of a lady (or ‘ooman’ as they say in Bengal). ‘Single lady, that too!” they raged. But our sweetie-pie PM Saab is also single so what about some extra concessions for him, too, please? So much drama! These theatrical Bongs!


Where’s the ‘apmaan’ in that innocent endearment?  Go on, analyse it: ‘Didi means older sister, that’s it. It does not mean she-devil, okay? No insult there. ‘O’ is well — Oh!  And then it’s ‘Didi’ again! Say it a few times yourself, and you’ll see that it is musical and charming. Didi’s supporters look for insults and digs in everything and everyone. Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra just took off on our mild-mannered Prime Minister and taunted him mercilessly for being disrespectful towards her leader, who even Mahua calls ‘Didi’. What is stopping Mamata from retaliating with, ‘Bhaiya O Bhaiya’?’ Can anybody object to such a mishti-mishti line? Why think the whole world is dushtu-dushtu and out to snatch West Bengal from Didi’s stranglehold (oops, that could be taken literally!)?

Frankly, I do think our highly revered and respected leaders are behaving worse than children during home schooling. Didi has no leg to stand on, insist Narendrabhai’s fans. They are technically wrong — she has one good leg at the moment. And she has sworn to be back on both feet when she takes over Delhi. Nobody is advising a three-legged race at this stage, given the volatile situation. Home minister Amit Shah flies in and out of Kolkata as though his team had told him that the puchhkas at Vardaan Market were far superior to the paani puri at Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad. But Amitbhai being Amitbhai retains his soft corner for all things genuinely Gujju. As soon as the BJP comes to office in West Bengal (note : ‘as soon as’  and not ‘when’), Amitbhai is going to ban the word puchhka and change it to paani puri. You will also hear ‘Kem Chho? on the streets of Kolkata which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound all that different from ‘Kaimon Achcho…”

Our Prime Minister is a master juggler that much we acknowledge. He also wears many hats, but looks cutest in a baseball ‘Howdy’ cap like the one he wore during his Amrikan roadshow. His body language has changed and he seems to be in Gurudev Tagore mode but ‘ekla chalo re’ does not suit his style. Him and ‘ekla’? No chance. Didi is not an ‘ekla’ type either. Voters, who were hoping for poetry and flowery speeches during this war of words, are feeling dejected. This time it is a full-on jatra performance. Every major election throws up memorable slogans and a few choice put-downs. Political rivals of yore traded deliciously crafted insults which language students deconstructed and repeated over decades.

But this particular ‘yudh’ has given birth to crass barbs and lowlife exchanges. Targeting Abhishek Banerjee, MP and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, the BJP coined phrases like pishi-bhaipo (aunt-nephew) and tolabaz bhaipo (extortionist nephew). Modi asked whether Didi had started a new tax called ‘Bhaipo’ Service Tax in Bengal while Mamata launched tirades against ‘Gujarati goons’.

Get the level up, guys — attack one another by all means — that’s entertainment. Par, kuch toh standard rakho! This is so pedestrian and unimaginative. Insults should come with a cutting edge of sarcasm that makes our ears burn, even as we gasp in admiration. This ‘tu tu main main’ exchange is not happening. I think the reason why the invectives are falling so flat is because Gen Z vocab is missing from the dialogue. All this is too blah, old world, old hat, buddha-buddhi stuff and boring. Our standup comics come up with brilliant one liners — hire them! Those creative people who churn out amazing memes — get them on board to pump up the tenor. A new generation of voters needs a new language to woo them. A snowy haired PM crooning ‘Didi O Didi’ to a very angry woman in a wheelchair does not quite cut it. Next someone will ask, “Arrey O Samba — kitni auratein thi?”

Get your groove back, guys. The language of hate need not be so obvious and clumsy.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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