POLITICS

It's BJP's Fault That The 'Achhe Din' Slogan Is Now A Millstone Around Its Neck

Manmohan Singh must be enjoying a chuckle. A quiet one, of course.

14/09/2016 11:38 AM IST | Updated 14/09/2016 3:45 PM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with National President of the Bharatiya Janata Party Amit Shah during a meeting at Maharashtra Sadan.

Bechara Manmohan Singh.

Now even the responsibility for "Acche Din" is being dumped on the beleaguered former Prime Minister.

Union minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the slogan that powered Narendra Modi to victory, was really borrowed from Singh. He's the one who said it at an NRI meet in Delhi "Achhe din aayenge" even though the country was facing tough times then. Asked when, he had replied "In the future."

Modi used that phrase against the Congress to great effect. Now according to Gadkari it's become a "millstone around (the BJP's) neck", a bone stuck in their throats says PTI.

Apparently people actually want achhe din. They are not understanding it's just a slogan. A manner of speaking. Like promising black money to the tune of Rs 15 lakh coming back to each of our accounts in 100 days. Actually even 100 days is just a manner of speaking. The problem, doston, is we just take everything too literally.

What next? We will want out children to shoot up inches and sprout CAT-cracking brains after stirring powdered supplements into their milk? We will want our hair to stop falling and become lush and bouncy and thick after using that shampoo with conditioner we saw on TV?

We want truth in advertising! Imagine that!

The real problem is that the slogan was way too successful. Singh might have referenced it first. But Modi used it again. And again. And again.

Acche din, Gadkari reminds us, depends on your belief. "Those who have cycles want scooters and those who have scooters want cars. It is not wrong but the wealthy are dissatisfied too."

The real problem is that the slogan was way too successful. Singh might have referenced it first. But Modi used it again. And again. And again. It was not the media that picked up a stray reference to it and hung it around the BJP's neck. The BJP garlanded themselves with it. In his victory tweet Modi said "India has won! Bharat ki Vijay. Ache din ane wale hai." If it's a millstone today it's very much a self-induced millstone.

Remember what Modi said to cheering crowds in his first post election victory rally in 2014? Acche din was no longer just aane wale. Acche din aa gaye. At that time it was a sexy slogan and it served its immediate purpose which was to clobber the scam-ridden squabbling UPA government as the antithesis of acche din. It served that short-term purpose and it served it brilliantly.

But alas, the slogan proved to have a long tail and that is winding itself around the BJP's neck. It could not be retired when Modi became PM. The BJP is done with it perhaps, but its opponents are not.

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In this April 17, 2016, file photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaks at an election rally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Kolkata.

Here's AAP MP Bhagwat Mann mocking acche din in a full-fledged poem in Parliament. He takes potshots at everything from the jewellers' strike to black money to Vijay Mallya but it always comes back to that punchline. Sarkarji bata dijiye, kya inhi ko acche din kehtey hain? (Government sir, tells us is THIS what is called good times?)

Lalu Prasad Yadav made his Dubsmash debut mocking the promise of acche din. He captioned it "Kya hua tera waada, wo kasam wo Iraada , waade hai waadon ka kya chunav jeet gaye uske baad tu kaun aur tera kya".

Mamata Banerjee wagged her finger at the BJP saying in the first 100 days there were 100 failures. Instead of acche din we have "weeping days".

Frenemy Shiv Sena mocked promises of acche din after angry commuters protested train delays and breakdown of suburban train services in Maharashtra.

Therein lies the problem. The BJP is being "consumed by the nation all the time" and as Gadkari points out, acchey din which worked back then is a bone stuck in the throat now. Managing the after life of acchey din is proving a headache.

Rahul Gandhi, of course, has been relentless in acche dinning it back to the BJP. He's told us "acche din government has failed the country". He's said in Amethi that "acche din" is only for Narendra Modi and not for the aam aadmi. When he embarked on his "Save Farmer March" in Odisha, he asked when acche din would come for the farmers.

Even the BJP's own leaders cannot resist the catchiness of the acche din slogan. When speculation was rife that Rahul Gandhi would become the Congress president, Smriti Irani said "Rahul Gandhi being elevated as Congress president means 'achche din' for us (BJP)."

Acche din was a phenomenally successful slogan. It was short, catchy, aspirational and earthy and hopeful unlike the empty boast of "India Shining" to which the Congress responded "Aam aadmi ko kya mila?" Prasoon Joshi, the heavyweight in the creative team behind the BJP's advertising campaign explained the difference between a political campaign and a regular brand campaign in an interview with Afaqs.

"A product has no other voice, but advertising. But political parties and their leaders are throbbing, living organisms that are being consumed by the nation all the time. A political party is a brand that constantly communicates with people through other forums too; advertising campaigns are only one leg of political campaigns."

Therein lies the problem. The BJP is being "consumed by the nation all the time" and as Gadkari points out, acchey din which worked back then is a bone stuck in the throat now. Managing the after life of acchey din is proving a headache. Since 2014 it's rarely been used in a positive sense except perhaps this ad from More Megastore. Or when David Cameron told a crowd in Wembley while introducing Modi "Acche din zaroor aayega (good times are definitely coming)." Of course, poor Cameron's own acche din were about to leave via the Brexit door very soon.

The BJP cannot really use acche din anymore because it cannot claim "Mission Accomplished" on Acche din aanewaley hai. Nor can it endlessly dangle the carrot of acchey din as something always in the future. Shah apparently said it would take 25 years and then quickly backtracked after a backlash. Our politicians are no longer comfortable asking for sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears, or even patience from the voters. They want to deliver acchey din now and painlessly in an age where the hoardings promise us everything from knee replacement to gallstone surgery will be pain-free.

The BJP is understanding the hard way that the slogan they thought was a sledgehammer is actually a boomerang. As Joshi said rather prophetically "If the product is not promising then good advertising will become a death threat. As they say: Good advertising will kill a bad product faster. So you cannot promise something which doesn't exist." The BJP is learning that lesson the hard way about the perils of a promise that's easier made than kept. Now it's saddled with a slogan that can be used to target anything from black money to unemployment to the prices of pulses to attacks on Dalits. The slogan no longer belongs to the BJP alone. It is public property now.

Gadkari might be exasperated with the slogan that's turned into a millstone. But the BJP gifted it to us even if Gadkari now claims they took it from Singh. Now it's the gift that keeps on giving. Just not to the BJP.

Singh must be enjoying a chuckle. A quiet one, of course.

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