Political parties in West Bengal are coming up with novel ideas to cheer up citizens at a time when the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic looms large.
While some are creating comics and caricatures, others are distributing essential items during the nationwide lockdown that has been imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
A section of people look at it as political tools ahead of civic body elections that have been postponed in view of the health emergency and the keenly awaited Assembly elections scheduled next year, even as many people felt the politicians were genuinely trying to stand by them in this hour of crisis.
The Left-backed Students’ Federation of India (SFI)’s Jadavpur University unit decided to come up with a ‘Lockdown Comic’ through which it is urging people to stay away from unscientific approaches to deal with the virus and consult doctors in case anyone develops any symptoms.
The comic starts with caricatures of three characters, comprising a poor couple and an occultist. The couple consults the occultist when their son gets fever. The occultist asks them to offer cow urine as ‘amrit’ (divine syrup) that’s help cure their son. He asks the couple to arrange some cow urine immediately.
The couple then buys a pitcher full of cow urine for Rs 50 from a man who asks them to raise slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ slogans (regularly heard chants of BJP leaders) while offering the ‘amrit’ to their son.
The couple is asked to organise a ‘hawan’ (Hindu rituals) to get rid of the evil spirit that has attacked their son. Soon after, some SFI members knock on their door and ask them to consult a local doctor immediately and offer them some dry ration to help them deal with the crisis.
SFI secretary Srijan Bhattacharyya said it is unfortunate that even during such a health crisis, some political leaders are approaching people with unscientific methods to contain the virus.
“This is alarming. While the world is baffling to find a cure for the virus, these people are saying cow urine will do the needful. What is going on? Such unscientific method will make people further sick,” he said.
Bhattacharyya said it was in this context that the SFI thought of churning out the comic strip to create awareness among people of all age groups.
“The comic was circulated among the people in Bengal through social media platforms in Hindi and Bengal. I am sure this will help people come out of the trap laid by some people,” he added.
Recently, the Trinammol Congress released a caricature of Chief Minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee where she can be seen standing on a boundary wall and confronting the coronavirus to save Bengal.
The caption of the caricature reads, “People in Bengal are safe because of ‘pehredar’ (guard) Mamata.” On several occasions over the last few weeks, the CM has taken to the streets to meet people and vendors and create awareness.
While the ruling camp in Bengal has been promoting Banerjee through caricatures for a while now, the latest one in the midst of a health crisis and the CM's role in it is meant to have a larger impact. The party has been doing a lot of ground work under poll strategist Prashant Kishor ever since the BJP took away a large number of seats in the Lok Sabha elections held last year.
Meanwhile, the local BJP unit is busy distributing ration, hand sanitisers, food packets and face masks to people across the state. This has also led to clashes in some places when they were prevented from distributing the items by the administration or TMC workers.
BJP leaders are also busy to ensure a grand success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nine-minute blackout call wherein he had citizens to switch off their lights at 9pm on Sunday, and light earthen lamps, candles, mobile flashlight to show the nation's collective spirit against COVID-19.
Though several political leaders have called the PM’s new initiative unscientific and unfortunate at a time when the country is struggling to deal with the crisis, the BJP leadership is upbeat about Sunday's event and leaving no stone unturned for a grand show.