Remixing songs, reinventing a party: How the Left is trying to draw Bengal's millennials

The Left have come a long way from 'Tomar naam aamar naam Vietnam' in the 60s to 'Tumpa sona' in 2021 -- a switch that many say is reflected in their party as well
Left activists march towards Nabanna. (Photo| Twitter/ @CPIM_WESTBENGAL)
Left activists march towards Nabanna. (Photo| Twitter/ @CPIM_WESTBENGAL)

It is that time of the year in West Bengal when the best of the young, creative minds are put to test to come up with slogans and catchy phrases for the elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress have been locking horns to the tune of 'khela hobe', which translates to 'game on' and has made its way into the layman's everyday vocabulary.

The phrase that received a rave reception in football-loving Bengal was coined by the TMC's 25-year-old spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya. His rap song spread across mobile phones, faster than a piece of misinformation on WhatsApp.

While people were basking in the 'khela hobe' election madness, the CPM, known for their high-headedness, hit social media with a remixed version of the popular Bengali song 'Tumpa sona'.

The bizarre song with its foot-thumping catchy tune and the outlandish video was tweaked to call the youths for the Left-Congress-Indian Secular Front (ISF) rally at the brigade grounds in Kolkata.

And the youth responded.

The song became an instant hit among them, drawing thousands to the brigade ground from across the state in this scorching summer.

Politburo member Mohammed Salim, who also heads the social media team, said it was a bunch of young party cadres who came up with the idea and they went ahead with it. "Our clarion call was a hit, that's why Modi's rally was a miss," he quipped.

The Left has come a long way from 'Tomar naam aamar naam Vietnam' in the 60s to 'Tumpa sona' in 2021 -- a switch that many say is reflected in their party as well.

Once accused of ignoring young leaders during their 34-year-long rule, the party in the run-up to the Assembly elections is not only trying to reinvent itself on social media, but also trying to draw more millennials.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, Salim said, "We don't have a dearth of new faces. We are not exchanging film stars and leaders like the other parties. The Left in its alliance with the Congress and ISF will field at least 40-50 per cent young leaders. The youth is with us. Take the rally for example, thousands of young people marched up to the brigade grounds. People from the LGBTQ community too joined us. We are very confident about this election."

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh, SFI leader Srijan Bhattacharya, CPM cadre Pritha Ta, DYFI president Minakshi Mukherjee are likely to fight the elections on a Left ticket.

The CPM has 26 members in the 294-seat Bengal Assembly. In 2019, the Left's vote share fell to an abysmal low from 29.9 to 7.5 per cent.   

The party, in its bid to mobilise young blood, has been hitting out at the Mamata Banerjee government over the rate of unemployment -- which has forever been a pressing election issue.

Although the unemployment rate in West Bengal is less than the national unemployment rate of 23.5 per cent, the pandemic year has been arduous for most blue-collar workers. As per the 2011 census data, Bengal ranks fourth among states from where people migrate to earn a living.

In February, over 30,000 youth workers joined a march led by the CPM to the state secretariat 'Nabanna' demanding jobs from the government. Several agitators, including women, suffered bleeding injuries after the Kolkata police resorted to a lathi-charge, firing of tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse the agitators.

One protester, identified as 31-year-old Mohidul Islam Middar, succumbed to injuries a day later at a nursing home.

Daughter of former CPM MLA Pradip Ta, Pritha Ta believes that this could be a turning point in the election. "It is untrue that new faces are not joining the party. There is tremendous support from people, especially the youth who are tired of the Mamata government. They need jobs to sustain themselves. According to TV figures, 30000 people, mostly students, joined the 'Nabanna Abhiyan' where Mohidul da was killed. This will definitely make an impact on people," she said.

"Amid the pandemic, we (the Left) reached out to people, created community kitchens and served food without taking any money. Now Mamata Banerjee is copying our idea with 'maa canteens'," she added.

"We followed the 'Sanjha Chulha' format of North India and set up community kitchens in different parts of the state. Our cadres took up the effort to spread awareness on the pandemic and educate people on how to make masks at home. We never did anything thinking about the returns. It's up to the people if they want to vote for us," Salim said.

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The New Indian Express