Punjab elections: Santa Banta passè; Jaggi Thaggi are here

“Tell me Jaggi, how is the Punjab government doing,” asks Jeeta, a sturdy sardar in yellow kurta and blue turban. “The government is not moving… what’s moving is Kaka’s buses,” says Jaggi, who sports a handlebar moustache.

This is one of a series of cartoons that has sprang up all across Punjab in hoardings, newspapers and posters, taking a dig at the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab, where deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal is known as Kaka.

Soon came another set of cartoons—Jhoota-Thaggi series—where again two similar gentlemen make hard-hitting political statements, this time targeting the Congress. Thaggi bears an uncanny resemblance to state Congress leader and former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and makes statements like, for example, “Who cares about flyovers. We in Congress only like to stash money in Swiss accounts.”

Santa and Banta can take a break, this election season belongs to Jeeta-Jaggi and Jhoota-Thaggi in Punjab. These toon characters—created by advertising agencies Crayons and Brand Curry, respectively— are leading the campaign of the two main parties in the state, Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal, for the assembly elections being held on January 30.

As the slugfest between Jeeta-Jaggi and Jhootha-Thaggi intensifies, ET meets the fathers of these comic characters that have raised the political temperature in Punjab—Crayons President Ranjan Bargotra and Brand Curry MD Subrata Chakraborty.

While one speaks chaste Punjabi and loves dal makkhani (because he is a vegetarian Punjabi), the other barely manages to utter a few Punjabi words and relishes makki di roti and sarsoon da saag (quite contrary to what a Bong’s first love is: Macher Jhol).

Meet the backroom boys of Punjab election campaign who have spiced up the elections with their not-so tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, loads of humour, tons of mudslinging and no-holds-barred potshots. And all done in good faith, with no malice towards anyone, as they would want everyone to believe.

“Advertising is like black tea,” says Ranjan Bargotra, ensconced in his office chair. “Those who love it will enjoy every sip of it.” The president of Crayons says he entered advertising after completing his MBA because he was enamoured by beautiful girls in the ad world. “Glamour got me here,” says the 48-yearold Chemistry graduate, with a child-like smile. “And I have loved every moment of my 25 years of advertising career.”

Crayons started its political innings in 1999 for BJP and remained with it for almost a decade. That was a mistake because the agency was seen as part of the party, making it hard to attract other clients. “The labelling hurt us,” says Bargotra. “People use to call me a BJP man.”

Being a professional he says he could never align with a particular ideology, but only discharge his duties. And the opportunity to work for another political party came after nine long years in 2008 when the agency bagged Delhi and Rajasthan campaign of Congress. He attributes the success of Crayons to his friends—Kunal Lalani and Ajay Chopra—who have always been core of the political advertising group.

So, how did Jeeta and Jaggi happen? The brief from Congress was very clear—communicate to the people the yawning gap between the promises made and delivered by the present government.

 

“And this could only have been done if we used the language of the common Punjabi man,” says Bargotra. So, Crayons first rolled out teasers, introducing Jeeta and Jaggi through out-ofhome and print advertising. And once it generated enough buzz, Jeeta and Jaggi started doing their job.

They were all over the place: in the newspapers, just next to any news about the Punjab government; in markets, in the form of big, huge cutouts; moving across towns and cities in mobile vans; on FM radio stations reminding people about the lost Punjab glory; and on social media as well.

Jeeta aur Jaggi Facebook page boasts of over 34,000 likes and more than 11,000 were talking about it. Will Jeeta and Jaggi ensure a Congress comeback? “Absolutely, they have hit them hard,” says Bargotra.“No ruling party has ever retained power in Punjab,” he adds.