Agartala,: Patriotic songs by Lata Mangeshkar and other artistes clash with India`s national song "Vande Mataram" as they blare out of loudspeakers at street corners and from atop campaign vehicles, while street plays and satirical poetry lampooning rivals are the order of the day as part of hectic campaigning for Sunday`s Tripura Assembly polls.
The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and its rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Trinamool Congress, have been organising road shows and poll campaigns using vehicles colourfully decorated with flowers, balloons, party flags and festoons.
Each party has unleashed hundreds of small vehicles that traverse all the small lanes and bylanes in every human habitation across the state, blaring out songs, satirical rhymes hitting out at opponents, poems in praise of the party, and also list out the electoral promises, from loudspeakers fitted to CD players.
"In Tripura, patriotic, folk and modern songs, street plays, rhymes and poems are used as a vital campaign mode in electoral battles," renowned political analyst Salil Debbarma told IANS.
Tripura Sanskriti Samannay Kendra (TSSK), the literary and cultural front of the ruling CPI-M, has composed a set of songs, including in folk style, criticising the BJP for its "failure" across the country and over its electoral pact with the tribal-based Indigenous People`s Front of Tripura (IPFT).
TSSK Secretary Sisir Deb said: "We have composed songs and rhymes in both Bengali and tribal Kokborak languages. Street plays on 10 different themes are also being staged across the state to woo the voters."
"Our campaign has largely impacted the minds of the people and we have succeeded in winning the hearts of voters through our cultural presentations," said Deb, who is a dramatist.
Tripura Pradesh Congress Vice-President Tapas Dey said the party is wooing voters through songs and rhymes. "We are also playing old patriotic songs of Lata Mangeshkar as well as renowned local singers."
A new feature in this election campaign in Tripura is the use of animation on local television channels by political parties to lampoon rivals and their policies.
Ruing the negative spirit of the campaigning, renowned litterateur and political forecaster Bimalendra Chakraborty said: "A few years ago when songs, street plays, rhymes and poems were introduced by political parties in their campaign, we thought it would uplift the standard of campaign and the hate speeches and maligning would be restricted. But our experience is not positive."
Singer Krishna Dhar and BJP spokesman and researcher Mrinal Kanti Deb feel that songs, street plays, rhymes and poems definitely help improve the standard of campaigning.
Dhar said: "Cultural-style campaigns during elections help curb political violence. Artistes from Agartala and Kolkata have composed and sung patriotic, modern and folk songs criticising the mis-governance of the Left Front government."
All the party booth offices of the Congress here and other parts of the state are echoing with Bankim Chandra`s "Vande Mataram" song.
Former Congress Minister and party nominee against Chief Minister Manik Sarkar in the Dhanpur assembly constituency, Laxmi Nag told IANS: "We believe in true patriotism and that`s why our party is using patriotic songs during the poll campaign."
Trinamool Congress leaders and candidates are playing party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee`s poems in the election campaign.
The Tripura Prevention of Defacement of Property (Amendment) Act 1998 is now in force. With the Election Commission asking political parties not to use any static assets and buildings as well as government property as part of their poll campaign, the candidates have put up party flags on small trees, bamboo groves and banana plants on the roadside.
Touching on another angle of the campaigning, political analyst Rameswar Bhattacharjee observed that the Left has now adopted a method used by the Congress and BJP to woo voters. "Doing `pranam` (to bend and touch the feet in obeisance) is a habitual style of politics popularised by the Congress and BJP candidates, specially former Minister Surajit Datta (BJP). But now the `pranam` politics has been adopted by the Left party candidates too to reach out to elderly voters."
"Poll fever has gripped the entire state even as the official machinery and security forces are trying to ensure the elections are held in a free and fair manner," Chief Electoral Officer Sriram Taranikanti said.
In all 292 candidates, including 23 women and many independents, would be testing their electoral fortune in Sunday`s election to 59 of the 60-seat Tripura assembly. Polling has been rescheduled in Charilam assembly constituency after the death of CPI-M candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma. It would now be held on March 12.
Around 47 per cent candidates are aged between 25 to 50 years, while 53 per cent candidates are aged between 51 and 80 years. CPI-M nominee in Chawmanu assembly constituency, veteran tribal leader Nirajoy Tripura, 90, is the oldest candidate.
According to a report of Tripura Election Watch, a state body of the National Election Watch, 58 per cent candidates are Class 5 and Class 12 pass, while 41 per cent candidates are graduates or have higher degrees, while one candidate never went to school.