Candidates look to win battle of the ballot on their mask appeal

Bangalore: Narendra Modi’s mask became popular in the 2007 Gujarat elections; Barack Obama’s in the 2008 US presidential polls.

Now, in the run-up to India’s general election that starts in two weeks, a company based in the city is looking to make money by selling masks of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), president H.D. Deve Gowda.

Events House, possibly the only national supplier of cardboard masks of various political leaders, claims to have received orders from the Congress, the BJP and the JD(S). “Even the Bahujan Samaj Party and independents have expressed interest,” said S. Yeshwanth, business head, Events House. News of the company’s growing business from the sale of masks of politicians was first reported by The Hindu on 25 March.

Each mask costs around Rs5-6 and is made from thick recycled paper. “Since this is worn on the face and touches the skin, we use good quality recycled paper which is both environment friendly and also skin-friendly” said Yeshwanth. Some masks sport a string; others have an elastic band (these are marginally expensive).

On Saturday, K. Siddalingiah, a BJP party worker sporting an Atal Bihari Vajpayee mask, said the mask was a good way to remind people about India’s former prime minister and BJP leader who isn’t campaigning because of ill health.

Workers of at least three political parties also say that with some constituencies having become larger, it might be difficult for politicians to meet every voter. Masks are a good way to reach out, said Putta Swamy Gowda who works for the Congress. “Who reads those dense manifestoes? At the end of the day it is the leaders and candidates who matter.”

A recent rally of Sonia Gandhi at Davanagere in Karnataka saw brisk sales of her masks. According to Yeshwanth, masks of politicians such as Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Advani, Deve Gowda and Vajpayee are likely to be perennial favourites and best-sellers unlike those of lesser-known candidates. Still, several such candidates have also ordered masks. For instance, the JD(S) candidate N. Cheluvaraswamy, who is contesting from Mandya, has ordered a few thousand masks.
Yeshwanth said the Election Commission’s guidelines has crimped the amount parties and candidates could spend.

Events House itself, Yeshwanth added, doesn’t have any political affiliations. It sells pamphlets, booklets, flags, party symbols, and even offers “standard A3 size printed cards with slogans”.
None of these, he said, guarantees success at the polls. “Ultimately, the people decide.”

Venkatesha Babu


One response to “Candidates look to win battle of the ballot on their mask appeal

  1. Who Will be India’s Next Prime Minister?
    Scheduled Caste Queen

    MayawatiPolitically vital, U.P. has thrown up many a prime ministerial candidate given the maximum share of Parliament seats allocated in the Lok Sabha (currently 80).

    After consolidating in U.P., Bahujan Samaj Party leader Chief Minister Mayawati dubbed the “Scheduled Caste Queen,” has initiated the process of making her presence felt in other states.

    Her unique social engineering has broadened the base of her vote bank to include upper castes as well as millions of SC/STs, OBCs and Minorities have-nots who face economic, social and religious oppression even in matters as simple as using a common well or praying in temples.

    Mayawati’s antecedents can be traced to a Scheduled Caste family of nine children, living in a state of “absolute nothing.”

    Many believe her political momentum could win her a good number of seats in the general elections which would usher in a revolution with India’s first Scheduled Caste prime minister.

    Her popularity could gain her enough leverage, catapulting her to the top job.

    Mayawati’s public visibility has been quite remarkable as she has gone about appointing technocrats, cracking down against crime, inaugurating India’s biggest highway projects, parks and statues celebrating her party and publishing her autobiography. She has been applauded for administering the state with a blatant authoritarian stick, while others have been peeved by what they consider to be her megalomaniacal tendencies, but for her besotted supporters, who easily run into the tens of millions, she remains their beloved bahenji.

    In UP, where regional caste aspirations, sleaze and scandal long have been a part of the political culture, Mayawati’s ambition could transcend the misgivings about her and translate into rule from the center.

    Mayawati launches BSP campaign in Orissa

    BHUBANESWAR – Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati kicked off her party’s election campaign in Orissa Tuesday amid a gathering of thousands.

    Addressing a public meeting at Sambalpur town, some 317 km from here, the BSP leader accused the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of ignoring the plight of the poor and downtrodden.

    ‘These parties spend huge money in their campaign and the funds come to them from the rich and the capitalists,’ the prime ministerial aspirant said.

    Describing the BSP as the only party that takes care of all sections of people, she said it has grown with the funds garnered by its workers and common people.

    Orissa will go to the polls in two phases – April 16 and April 23 – to elect 147 members to the state assembly and 21 members to the Lok Sabha.

    Bhopal, March 31 (IANS) Economic recession coupled with the 2008 assembly elections has left Madhya Pradesh’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) short of funds. The Congress is not so worried because its resources come from its national headquarters.

    While the Congress has asked its state unit to focus on the campaign rather than worry about money, the BJP here has also to mobilise resources apart from votes.

    “Recession has badly affected fund collection since most financiers, a majority of whom are local industrialists, are not able to contribute as they have done earlier,” said state BJP treasurer Ram Gupta.

    Gupta told IANS: “The reason is simple. Their business has suffered due to the economic slowdown in the past six months or so. They are more busy in maintaining their market reputation than giving funds to the party.”

    The state Congress is not as worried.

    “Slowdown is everywhere but in our case it is the AICC (All India Congress Committee) that will be taking care of this problem. We are simply concerned with creating a network and the strategy to beat the BJP,” said Madhya Pradesh Congress treasurer N.P. Prajapati.

    “Though there is recession, it has also given a good excuse to many industrialists to avoid political funding,” a former spokesman of the BJP added.

    The one party which is not bothered by the funds crunch is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

    “Why should we bother about funds? Our workers contribute substantially. We do not contest with the funds of industrialists and businessmen,” says BSP’s state election in-charge Rajaram.
    ‘Advani should have brought back black money of BJP leaders’
    AHMEDABAD – Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati Tuesday said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani should have brought back the black money of his own party leaders stashed in various banks abroad during his party’s rule.

    Mayawati was addressing a poll rally here, two days after Advani asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to raise at the G-20 summit the issue of Indian money stashed in foreign banks.

    Rather than demand formulation of a law for bringing back black money just before the country goes to polls, Mayawati said, Advani should have done something about it during the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

    Addressing the rally at the Kankaria Football Ground in Maninagar to kick off the BSP’s Lok Sabha poll campaign in Gujarat, Mayawati said the BJP is the cousin of the Congress and both parties are responsible for India’s current economic woes.

    ‘Both the BJP and Congress have framed economic policies dictated by the wealthy and even polls are contested on the wishes of the rich in the country,’ said the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

    She said the poor in the country are becoming terrorists because of the faulty economic policies framed during the NDA and later during the UPA rule.

    In Lucknow, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded former central minister Akhilesh Das, while former Uttar Pradesh minister Lalji Tandon is the nominee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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