Saturday, August 13th, 2022 17:22:44

Politics of Gaalis and Gadhas

Updated: March 7, 2017 1:19 pm

Uttar Pradesh, especially its Avadh region, once ruled by Nawabs (of Oudh) is a treasure trove of the most innovative and insulting invectives. The rich and colourful tapestry of gaalis, Avadh owes a lot to the erstwhile shaher ke daaroga sahebs. In-charge of the law and order, they developed a set of vocabulary, in Urdu blended with local dialect, which was extremely hurtful and insulting and those being interrogated would get so outraged that they would confess. Some of these daaroga sahebs were honoured with the title of rai sahib by the British.

These legendary daarogas, if they were around, would have acclaimed the party leaders, who, while aggressively campaigning in UP, get increasingly obnoxious, and have, on almost daily basis, been coining new words to denigrate each other. The daarogas of the yore would have marvelled at the ingenuity of the leaders at coining gaalis they could never think of.

The political lexicon is getting enriched every day with new variety of gaalis, that is in literal terms they are not gaalis but nevertheless demeaning to the person under attack. But the most absorbing has been the attack by Narendra Modi and then the counter-attack by Akhilesh Yadav. In this wrangle, the poor gadha, the beast of burden, has been humiliated.

It all started with Modi, who, while addressing a large crowd in Fathepur, once V.P. Singh’s constituency, after eulogising Shivaji and Sardar Patel, said, “If a village has a kabristan (graveyard), it should also have a shamshaan ghat (cremation ground). If there’s electricity on Ramzan, it should also be there on Diwali. There must be bijli (power) both on Eid and Holi. There should be no discrimination.” He accused the ruling Samajwadi Party of religious discrimination.

This jibe was certainly electorally damaging for Akhilesh Yadav, for as it is, SP is known to favour Muslims who in turn are major supporters of Mulayam Singh—Maulana Mulayam.  Akhilesh must have been alarmed by the discrimination charge against his government, not too subtly hinted by Modi.

Anxious to get back and throw a deadlier barb at Modi, while addressing a public meeting in Rae Bareli, Akhilesh lashed out at veteran Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan over this new advertisement promoting tourism in Gujarat. It shows him and a few donkeys. They look so different from the donkeys we see in the north. But that should have been spotted.

“I request the century’s biggest superstar, please don’t do any ad campaigns for Gujarat’s gadhas (donkeys),” the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said while campaigning in Rae Bareli. Without taking names,  Yadav referred to an ad in which  Bachchan – whose wife Jaya Bachchan is a Samajwadi party lawmaker – gives viewers a glimpse of a “Wild Ass Sanctuary” near Ahmedabad. The 74-year-old veteran has filmed a series of such ads as brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism. “We will tell the mahanayak, don’t campaign for donkeys. Have you ever heard of campaigning for donkeys? Gujarat’s

people are doing campaigns for donkeys…then they accuse me of working only for kabristan,” said the 43-year-old Chief Minister.

The latest comment reflects increasingly pungent discourse in Uttar Pradesh as various parties race to the finish line of the state polls described by many as the semi-final before the 2019 national election. The Chief Minister’s “donkey” jibe was a direct response to PM Modi’s comments at a rally in Fatehpur.

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of UP, who had out-smarted his uncle and father, slipped in bringing gadhas of Gujarat to avenge Modi’s kabristan and shamshan ghat jibe. For the first time, gadhas were added amongst obnoxious words to attack a rival. One wonders if the gadhas are laughing at the politicians, who are wise only in garnering power for their own good.

The advertisement features many “donkeys” and actor Amitabh Bachchan, said Akhilesh. The innuendo was that Big B was in the ad endorsing gadhas of Gujarat. Possibly a bit nervous at Modi’s jibe, which could lead to further polarisation, Akhilesh did not give much thought before attacking Amitabh, hoping that it will rebound on Modi. But his hope has been belied. He was grilled by the Editor-in-Chief of Times Now and Akhilesh definitely looked jittery and could not answer many questions convincingly.

He was asked whom he meant gadha was, Amitabh or Modi; why could he not telephone Amitabh, whom he knows and advise him not to associate himself with an ad in which he and donkeys alone were shown. Akhilesh weakly said he objected because the ad was of an animal not found in UP, which has cranes and many other birds that  could be shown. This was neither here nor there. The ad was meant to promote tourism in Gujarat.

Donkey of Gujarat



Five unique characteristics of donkeys of Gujarat, because of which they have been figured in a tourism promotion advertisement and Amitabh agreed to appear along with those donkeys.

1) ‘Gujarat donkeys’ or the Indian wild ass are the subspecies of the onager native to southern Asia and were listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As per the census in 2015, the population of such species were 4,800 all over.

2) The ‘donkeys’, also known as ‘ghudkhur’ in Gujarati local language, are found in numbers at Gujarat’s Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary also known as the Indian Wildlife Sanctuary, it is the largest sanctuary in India.

3) Being quite different from the African wild ass species, the Indian wild ass’ colour varies from being sandy to reddish grey, fawn, to pale chestnut. From the back of the head to the neck the animal has a dark mane.

4) Although the animal, in the last century were found at various parts of the country, the majority of them are now just found in parts of Gujarat.

5) The Indian wild ass are one of the fastest animals in India and marks a pace of about 70-80 km per hour.

Modi gave a twist to Akhilshh’s dart saying, “Akhileshji aaj jinko aap gale laga rahen hain, unhi ki UPA sarkar ne gaddhe par dak ticket jaari kiya tha 2013 mein (The party with which you have allied with is the same UPA government which issued out a postal stamp on Gujarat’s donkeys in 2013).”

Prime Minister Modi said Akhilesh has applied his casteist mentality among animals also, due to which he is detesting donkeys. Taking one step further, the Prime Minister said a donkey is loyal to his master and fulfils all his responsibilities. He added that he was proud to work more than the beast of burden for his 1.25 billion maaliks or owners. Political verbal duels during elections are expected, but the UP Chief Minister hadn’t even spared animals, he said at a BJP rally in Bahraich.

Then Modi narrated the good attributes of the animal–loyalty, works hard but costs very little, does not care if sugar bag or lime gag is put on its back. A wag put it all succinctly, “When he sees us with his beady eyes, we feel he is afraid of us, but the fact is that he looks at with pity, for he feels we are fools to think he is an ass.” Whatever it may be, whether Akhilesh is out-going Chief Minister or stay put for another five years will be clear on March 11, but one thing is clear, the bringing in the gadha from Gujarat was an asinine politics.

by Vjay Dutt

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