Rinkiya may not lie but she sure was unable to lead her so-called 'Papa' to victory.
The Delhi Assembly Elections ended in a hat-trick for Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal whose common man ethos and focus on populist issues propelled him to a landslide victory on Tuesday.
As the numbers rolled in by the afternoon, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Manoj Tiwari who had till the very last minute held on to hopes and claims of winning 48 seats, finally acknowledged defeat and accepted the mandate. Incidentally, while Kejriwal was obviously all over social and legacy media, Tiwari also trended but perhaps not for the reason he would have hoped.
After the elections, an analysis of Google trends revealed that more Indians searched for 'Rinkiya ke Papa' after the results than during the entire election campaign.
Now, unless one has been living under a rock for over a year, it's near-impossible for an average, social media touting, news watching Indian worth their memes today to not know about the notorious pop-culture phenomenon that is 'Rinkiya ke Papa'; not Tiwari but the 2012 song itself that Tiwari sung back in his Bhojpuri playback singing days. The song was part of an album dubiously titled 'Uparwali ke Chakkar Mein'.
But how did the song from almost a decade ago that was previously known only among Bhojpuri and Purvanchali speakers become such a hit moniker among millennials and youth across the Hindi belt and beyond? And did it become an albatross around the neck of Manoj Tiwari's fledgling political career?
In the years following the BJP's rise to power in 2014, analysts noted the way they used social media and the internet to mobilise a new breed of supporters who were tech savvy and always online, who understood how to set trends on social media and gather followers. Six years from then, most major parties have understood the importance of exploiting social media.
There were 326.1 million internet users in India on 2018 and the Delhi Elections 2020 showed that politicians had finally woken up to the impact of crass, 'relatable' content on social media as well as humour to shape voter empathy and sensibilities.
That's probably why AAP's biggest line of attack on Manoj Tiwari was not his non-performance as a politician or his support for issues opposed to AAP but on his past as a Bhojpui actor and musician. From day one of their political campaign, AAP's social media strategy has sharply focused on using Tiwari's own content against him.
Starting December, the projection of Tiwari not as a politician and leader but as a "singing" and "dancing" man began. When asked at a public summit about his response to Tiwari being propped as BJP's CM candidate (something that neither Tiwari nor the BJP ever confirmed), a Hindustan Times report quoted Kejriwal as saying "He sings very well. Have you heard the song ‘Rinkiya Ke Papa’. He sings very well. He is very good,".
Taking a cue from the chief, AAP's IT cell began to churn out a number of videos featuring unflattering scenes from Tiwari's more uncensored days, much to the chagrin of the latter and his party. AAP even made an edited mash-up using Tiwari's clippings from songs like 'Rinkiya ke Papa' to make it look like the BJP's North East Delhi MP was dancing to AAP campaign song 'Lage Raho Kejriwal' in January.
An infuriated Tiwari responded by slamming Kejriwal for alienating and "insulting" Bhojpuri and Purvanchali culture, ethos and sentiment. BJP even slapped a Rs 500 crore defamation notice against AAP's use of Tiwari's videos for political purposes. The video was later removed from all of AAP's social platforms but the damage was already done. Meme-hungry netizens on Twitter did the rest and soon Rinkiya ke Papa memes were in vogue.
In February, Kejriwal once again reiterated that his opponent Tiwari was a "good dancer". Responding to critics, Kejriwal claimed that he "did not mock Manoj Tiwari for his song 'Rinkiya ke Papa' and instead, praised him for singing good songs". He further added that he "did not understand where is insulting and mocking in it".
"I listen to Manoj Tiwari's songs. I like his videos. He dances well", Kejriwal told reporters. What he and AAP essentially did in the past months, and quite successfully it would seem, was delegitimise Tiwari as a serious contender and in extension, BJP's sincerity in propping him as the candidate.
AAP's strategy focused on tried and tested political deligitimisation tactics by appealing to the rational sense of voters. Instead of saying negative things about Tiwari (to appeal to voters' emotions) AAP tried to project the latter as singing, dancing man, leaving it up to the rationality and common sense of voters - did Delhi want a 'altruistic' AAP that cares about bijli, paani, sadak? Or for a man whose claim to fame is a hit song from 2012?
The fact that the ruling party at the Centre failed to ride anti-incumbency to make any significant inroads in the capital or even increase vote share despite two consecutive terms of AAP at a time when the Congress is all but decimated in Delhi might be telling of AAP's strategic success.
The gamble seemed to work. Interestingly, AAP also projected Tiwari as the sole BJP candidate and focused all their energy in fighting him, making him the face of BJP's poll campaign in Delhi by default. The choice was clear Would the party indeed have chosen Tiwari, a political newcomer with no real experience in administration, as the head of Delhi?
Maybe we will never know. What we do know, however, is that Rinkiya did her Papa no good.