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.”