Unmasking the political mask

For the time being, politicians are choosing to wear their party colours and symbols on their masks as a way to help people recognise their leaders.

 |  4-minute read |   09-06-2020
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During Covid days when wearing one's heart on one’s sleeves is becoming difficult, how do politicians flaunt their preference? They have taken a new route through masks.

Identifying people is proving to be a big challenge as masks cover a major portion of their faces. And for politicians, it is getting increasingly difficult to communicate and get across their point to their audience: much of the expressions, the barbs and berating are muffled by this protective gear. Thus, for the time being, politicians are choosing to wear their party colours and symbols on their masks as a way to help people recognise their leaders.

CM Mamata Banerjee is sporting a fashionable designer mask which has been specially customised. In a video conference, on Wednesday, she was seen sporting an aquamarine blue mask embossed with a small map of Bengal for all to see. In the same way, as PM Modi and BJP leaders had lotus symbols pinned up on their kurtas, while campaigning for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mamata has also ensured Trinamool Congress leaders and bureaucrats should flaunt Bengal on their masks.

main_mamata-dilip-gh_060920110255.jpgChief Minister Mamata Banerjee and State BJP president Dilip Ghosh flaunt party symbols on their masks. (Photo: Facebook/ @MamataBanerjeeOfficial and @dilipghoshbjp)

For the government officials pale yellow coloured masks are being customised with Jai Bangla (Hail Bengal) slogans. Incidentally, it was coined in June-July 2019, as a counter to the BJP’s Jai Shree Ram. Cornered by the BJP’s muscle-flexing brigade, Mamata fell for this patriotic call. The BJP, however, campaigned against it for being pro-Bangladesh as the country is often called Bangla. Since Jai Bangla on a government official’s mask could signal overt political bias, so whether all will wear these will have to be seen. Another set of masks on the shelves are lemon yellow square-shaped ones, displaying, #jitbeBangla (Bengal will win).

This could be read as a strong political message since Mamata Banerjee sees the political battle with the BJP as a fight of a regional province, trying to protect and secure its tradition and cultural individualism from the sweeping onslaughts of a mighty conqueror (the Centre) out to invade, colonise and force itself upon Bengal.

She keeps alluding to the image of the BJP, as a subjugator, out to pin Bengal and add the State to its list of conquests. So when BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah talks of the BJP coming to power in Bengal in 2021, Mamata conjures up the image of a power-hungry, blood-thirsty conqueror on a chariot, riding roughshod and ransacking everything in its way. “I now see some who are thinking of conquering Bengal, while we are thinking of saving people. You have conquered a lot, what more do you need? So many states too...” she said at a press conference. By repeatedly hammering the word conqueror, Mamata is also trying to project BJP as an outsider, a party from the Hindi heartland, trying to invade Bengal. It is a ploy to play up on the Bengali sentiment and make the BJP and its essentially Hindi heartland culture look like an import and an uncalled-for imposition on the State’s rich tradition and culture. Otherwise. she may not have said, “Don’t think so narrowly about Bengal. It’s a magnanimous place, a hub of the humanism of civilisation...if you learn to love Bengal, people of Bengal will love you.”

For the ensuing months, Mamata will keep repeating this imagery to make the people of Bengal sit back, question and ponder if they would like an outsider with a different take on life to invade and take control of their lives as well as what they eat, wear, read and worship. This regional and provincial narrative will be rolled out soon and the masks with Bengal’s map and slogans — Jai Bangla and Jitbe Bangla — are clear indicators. While Mamata has layers of messages clocked in the folds of her customised masks, the BJP leaders are blunt in popping up lotus symbols on the saffron and green ones that they are wearing as if they were party flags.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: When netas in West Bengal turn to cyclone relief

Writer

Romita Datta Romita Datta

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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