Battleground Bengal: How Modi Turned Mamata Banerjee’s 'Khela Hobe' Slogan On Its Head

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Mar 18, 2021 07:31 PM +05:30 IST
Battleground Bengal: How Modi Turned Mamata Banerjee’s 'Khela Hobe' Slogan On Its HeadPrime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • Modi provides a powerful counter to Trinamool’s bid to project the BJP as a party of ‘outsiders’ while nullifying TMC's 'khela hobe' slogan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the wind out of the Trinamool’s khela hobe (roughly translates to ‘game is on’) slogan by turning it on its head and puncturing its credibility.

The Trinamool’s catchy campaign song, written by a young supporter of the party, has been allegedly plagiarised from a war cry often used by one Shamim Osman, a controversial and notorious strongman of the ruling Awami League in Bangladesh.

Osman, who is a lawmaker but faces serious charges like murder, coined the khela hobe war cry (watch it here and here) to warn political rivals of vengeance.

Modi, while addressing an election rally in Bengal’s Purulia on Thursday, used Trinamool’s campaign slogan to attack Mamata Banerjee.

Speaking in Bengali, this is what Modi said:

Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole chakri hobe (Didi says game is on, BJP says we’ll provide jobs),
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole vikas (development) hobe,
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole shiksha
(education) hobe,
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole mahilader utthan (improvement of women’s lot) hobe,
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole juboshaktir sampurna bikash
(all round development for youth) hobe,
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole prottek ghore kol hobe, aar prottek kol a porishkar jal hobe
(every house will have piped potable water connection),
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole grame grame janashubidha (development of villages) hobe,
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole haspatal
(hospital) hobe,
Didi bole khela hobe, BJP bole
school hobe.

The mammoth crowd in Purulia lapped up every word he said and cheered Modi. Amidst loud ‘Modi, Modi’ chants, he delivered the knockout punch: Didi, o didi, khela shesh hobe, bikash arombho hobe (Didi, the game is over, now development will start).

Modi also mocked Banerjee for the slogan and said in Bangla and Hindi that one should not play games with people’s welfare and Bengal’s development.

The Prime Minister, who will address a series of rallies in Bengal over the next few weeks, suggested that Banerjee and her party are only interested in playing games.

Playing the crowds by repeatedly mocking the khela hobe slogan, he asked them if Didi should be allowed to play anymore with the lives of the people of Bengal and with the fate of Bengal.

The answer, expectedly, was a thunderous "No".

Didi is only bothered about khela, not Bengal’s development,” he thundered to the ringing endorsement from the crowd.

There was more. “Didi, aap khelte rahiye, hum Bangal ka vikas karenge,” said Modi (Didi, you keep on playing your games, we will bring about development of Bengal).

And again, to the delight of the tens of thousands gathered at the rally ground, Modi warned: “Didi, chal chorer khela khelte thako, amra khela shesh korbo” [Didi, keep on playing the game of stealing rice (a reference to widespread siphoning of rice meant for poor during the lockdown last year by Trinamool functionaries), we will stop this game of yours].

The crowds, on que from Modi, chanted: “Churir khela cholbe na, cholbe na” (the game of looting will not go on any longer).

Modi, who delivered a substantial part of his speech in Bangla, has turned around the Trinamool’s campaign slogan and war cry on its head.

The khela hobe that Trinamool is promising has been effectively projected as a sinister game of playing with people’s lives, a game of loot and corruption.

Modi’s oratorical skills were on full play in Purulia on Thursday noon.

And among the many catchy phrases he delivered today, one that will make the Trinamool Congress (TMC) wince is Modi’s interpretation of the TMC acronym: he called it ‘Transfer My Commission’, a reference to the widespread practice of demanding ‘cut money’ (commission) by Trinamool functionaries.

Modi also urged people to resist Trinamool's terror tactics. “Atyachar onek korecho Didi, bhoi dekhano tomar ostro, rukhe darabe ebar Banglar manush, Maa Durgar ashirbaad a korbe tomai porasto,” he thundered. [You have tortured people a lot, Didi, now with the blessings of Maa Durga the people of Bengal will ensure your defeat].

Modi ended his speech with an assurance and an assertion: “Dui May (the second of May, the day of declaration of results) Didi jache (didi is leaving), ashol poriborton asche (real development is coming)... bhoi noi (don’t be afraid), hobe sirf joy (there’ll be only victory), Paschim Banglar manusher joy (victory for the people of Bengal)”.

Modi seems to be learning Bangla as is evident from the dramatic improvement in his Bengali-speaking skills.

This is a deliberate move to puncture the Trinamool’s move to project the BJP as a party of ‘outsiders’. There cannot be a more powerful counter to the Trinamool’s attempt to play the Bengali nationalism card than Modi delivering his punches in Bangla.

Hear Modi’s full speech:

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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