The witty litle Amul girl — known for her almost-daily one-liners — has morphed into a pro-Congress figure as part of a social media campaign for the Gujarat election, asking people to use their “Amulya” (invaluable) vote to oust the BJP from a state it has ruled for over two decades. With the common tagline “Kyunki aapka vote bohut AMULya hai” (Because your vote is invaluable) and “Parivartan hai lana, saathi haath badhaana” (Join hands to bring change), the poster campaign by a loose group of artists — mostly from Kerala — is a take-off on the iconic daCunha Communications advertisements for the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation that created the popular Amul dairy products brand. Ten different theme-based posters of the campaign have gone viral on different social media platforms. The posters talk about “fear” in Gujarat, effects of demonetisation and GST, education of the girl child, the meteoric rise in the business assets of BJP chief Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, and the bullet train. The posters, of course, don’t feature the blue-haired “Amul Girl” — but a boy resembling her. Those behind the pro-Congress campaign say they are not official Congress workers or the party’s supporters, and have taken a cue from Rahul Gandhi’s speeches in which he had said his Gujarat battle is “cooperatives” versus the corporate world. “Rahul Gandhi has been saying in his speeches that they will follow the Amul model of cooperation and cooperatives where everybody is allowed a say in participation,” one of the artists told IANS. They refused to be named because they “don’t want to come into the political limelight”.
Asked about the inspiration, the artist said the Amul theme has been popular across India for decades and talks about day-to-day issues affecting the common citizen. “This is innocent and disarming while being critical — also without being abusive… that’s why we chose this style,” the artist said. Does the boy in the campaign depict Rahul Gandhi? “No,” the artist said. “Amul has a little girl and we made this boy — a common man. We didn’t want the same character due to copyright issues,” said another artist, quickly adding: “Naturally, the thing is Rahul takes a potshot (against BJP leaders) almost on every issue, every day.” The artists said the campaign has so far covered a range of topics central to Gujarat elections, focusing on economic issues like “the harassment first caused by demonetisation and then GST”. There is one on schoolchildren. “Lots of kids have dropped out of schools or colleges because their parents’ incomes have halved after the GST, because of loss of business. “There is a whole chain in the textile industry that has been affected. They have lost money and their children got affected,” said a visualiser from the group.
So what do the posters on GST and demonetisation say? One of them shows a group of men and women chasing a bearded “dacoit” holding a rifle. The dacoit depicts the villain, Gabbar Singh from the cult Bollywood movie “Sholay”. And the boy comes with a punchline in the corner: “Bohut tax khaya, ab panja kha!” The “panja”, or palm, is the Congress symbol. “There is a theme featuring fear in Gujarat. People are afraid there. Lots of people don’t want to say anything because they are afraid. We addressed the fear issue. “Remove the fear, rest — propaganda, hunger, corruption — will disappear.” Another poster shows a bearded man holding a weighing scale tilted towards the end holding businessmen. One of them is drinking milk from a baby feeder. The scale is tilted towards the businessmen because “Jay Shah — Jyada cheese kha gaya”.
Then, there is the bullet train. The artists said people in Surat had been demanding a Metro and never got it, but Gujarat is getting a bullet train which won’t be of much use to anyone. “Bullet train meri jaan, hey jumlon ka nishan” (Bullet train is a symbol of rhetoric), reads the poster showing a bullet train with a bearded man on its front. Aadhaar has not figured individually in the campaign, otherwise linked with almost everything that the Congress has been targeting the BJP with in the elections. But there is a reference to it. “BJP ke teen bandar — GST, Notebandi, Aadhaar Number.”
Asked if the artists received any appreciation from the Congress, they said whosoever saw it has liked the campaign. “It has not become a part of the official Congress campaign. I am sure the Congress leaders are going to appreciate it.” Talking about the Congress’s way of reaching out to its targeted voters, they said the BJP has obviously been more creative. “But the Congress has also been changing its reach-out with new and more creative communication. Perhaps a Rahul Gandhi effect,” one of them said.