“Ab Hoga NYAY”!

Political party campaigns are created primarily to woo the electorate before elections. The battle cries are catchy, topical and usually larger-than-life. They capture the essence of the campaign theme, which in turn reflects the prevailing environment.

Empirically, few of the political promises see light post the elections. However, every new slogan continues to stir new hope in the hearts of the voters.

After a lot of deliberation, the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections saw the Congress party launch their tagline, “Ab Hoga NYAY” (‘Now, there will be justice’). The word “NYAY” (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) not only refers to the party’s proposed minimum income guarantee scheme of INR72,000 p.a. for the poorest 20% of the country’s population but also encompasses justice for all sections of the society. The party came up with this theme just 4 days before voting started for the 1st phase.

This catchphrase was selected among 15 lakh responses, which were received through crowd sourcing from party workers. The party has since engaged multiple agencies to drive their social media, outdoor, radio, print and electronic campaigns, both at the national and regional levels. The lyrics of the video jingle has been written by lyricist and poet, Javed Akhtar.

Congress
Congress Party’s Theme for Lok Sabha Elections (April 2019): “Ab Hoga NYAY”
Source: All India Congress Committee

Where attention spans are diminishing alarmingly with “information clutter”, political slogans have the power to catch the audience’s interest and shape the course of elections.

2014 was the year when national parties turned majorly to media agencies. Witness Har Haath Shakti, Har Haath Tarakki (‘Power in every hand, progress to everyone’). This theme was created in response to its major opposition party fielding a personality-driven campaign for the Prime Minister’s post. The Congress party had focused on the ‘common man’ in its 2004 and 2009 national election campaigns but surprisingly in 2014, they moved away from their populist phrase “aam aadmi” (another party with this name had also formed by then) to an inclusive tagline “main nahin, hum” (‘It’s not me, it’s us’). This slogan caused a lot of furore as it was attributed to an opposition leader who had coined and used the term earlier.

Congress
Congress Party Theme for Lok Sabha Elections (2014): “Har Haath Shakti, Har Haath Tarakki”
Source: Congress Party

The Congress advertisement (2014) said, “No hand has a magic wand that can be waved to achieve progress. We have to form a great India together. Therefore, the Congress’s aim is to give power to every hand so that everyone gets full opportunity for progress.” However, this campaign did not fetch the desired results.

A good election theme can bring together people from diverse backgrounds that are separated by caste, religion, language, region and ideologies onto a common platform. When the opposition party focused on development in 2004, Congress rooted the low-budget campaign, “Aam aadmi ko kya mila?” (‘What did the common man get?’). This tagline struck an instant chord across the rural populace and played a key role in the Congress’s return to power. Its resounding success made the party stretch the theme beyond the elections.

Congress
Congress (I) Slogan: “Vote for Calf and Cow, Forget All Others Now”
Source: Congress Party

When Indira Gandhi split from the rest of the Congress, she came up with the above logo for her splintered group, but it was changed soon after when she received a lot of flak from the public. To connect to an electorate of 714 million (larger than the electorate of the EU and the US combined), the party coined the catchphrase, “Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke saath” (‘Congress’s hand is with the common people’) to reflect populist promises like the INR 60,000 crore farm loan waiver and the rural job guarantee scheme in 2009. Soon after, the Indian National Congress (INC) led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to form the government.

Cut to the 1960s when Congress represented itself as the face of development and launched the Progress through Congress’ campaign. They floated an alliance with another party to ultimately form the government.

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Congress Party Theme for Lok Sabha Elections (1960s): “Progress Through Congress”
Source: Twitter.com

The 2nd Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri and a senior leader of INC gave the nationalistic theme, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” (‘Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer’) in 1965 to reflect the party’s focus on farmers and soldiers. It was the period of the Indo-Pak war as well as a period of scarcity of food grains. The Prime Minister urged the soldiers to fight the war and the farmers to increase the production of food grains and reduce their dependence on imports.  This became the most popular slogan after India gained independence in 1947.

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Theme coined by Lal Bahadur Shastri (1965): “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”
Source: IndiaToday.in

In Indira Gandhi’s election campaign for the 5th Lok Sabha  in 1971, it was the rallying cry of “Garibi Hatao, Indira Lao, Desh Bachao” (‘Remove Poverty, Bring Indira, Save the Nation’) that took centre-stage. The incisive and catchy phrase, “Garibi Hatao”  (‘Eradicate poverty’) struck a deep chord with the nation and ensured a landslide victory (which later came under a cloud) for the fragmented Indian National Congress (R) party.

Congress
Congress Party Election theme (1971): “Garibi hatao, Indira lao, Desh bachao”Source: thanthanpal.blogspot.in

It was then that a Congress party member, Dev Kant Baruah coined “Indira is India and India is Indira” in mid 70s. His slogan was indicative of the power wielded by Indira Gandhi during that period.

Taglines can deliver in India’s highly-diverse political culture, but it is not just the words – the ‘product’ behind the slogan has to also excite voters.

“Ek Sherni, Sau Langur, Chikmaglur bhai Chikmaglur” (‘One tigress and a hundred monkeys, Chikmagalur it is!’). This political one-liner, mocking the opposition, was created by Congressman poet, Srikant Verma for Indira Gandhi’s by-election in 1978 from Chikkamagaluru district, which she went on to win. Indira Gandhi was defeated in the 1977 elections but she fought back with an aggressive contempt and challenged the opposition. Thus, these words.

In India, as in the rest of the world, political campaigns are often a test of a party’s ability to gauge the nation’s mood. A bad tagline can crush political ambitions but a relevant one can turn out to be a good vote catcher.

1950s saw Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru coin “Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai” (‘Indians and Chinese are brothers’). However, as relations between the 2 nations deteriorated due to border disputes, eventually leading to a war in 1962, this slogan backfired on the party.

The 1st Indian general elections 1951-1952 was a different story. It had Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru endorsing the high-sounding “Sthayi, Asampradiyik Pragatisheel Rashtra ke liye” (‘For a stable, secular and progressive nation’) tagline, which underlined the party’s stance. Congress swept to power in the elections of 1951–52, 1957 and 1962.

Congress
Congress Slogan (1951-52): “Sthayi, Asampradiyik Pragatisheel Rashtra ke Liye”
Source: Carvaka for India

2004 elections saw the Sonia Gandhi-led campaign, “Aam Aadmi Ko Kya Mila? (‘What did the common man get?’). This echoed in the voters minds and led the party to victory. This battle cry was in direct response to the opposition party’s slogan focusing on development.

Circa 2019. Will Congress pass the Litmus Test in this Lok Sabha elections? Time will soon tell!


A diligent citizen, nature enthusiast, occasional blogger, avid reader, and sporadic photographer; Kolla Krishna Madhavi likes to express her personal views with a dash of mirchi ka tadka. With 20+ years of corporate WEX, including the more recent stints at IIIT-H and Google, Madhavi opted to write full-time. She can be reached at [email protected]