History’s largest election wasn’t just about politics—it was also a rap battle

An election party.
An election party.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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Indians love song and dance, and Bollywood is a testament to that. But the love for music is so prevalent that even the elections in the country did not go without some rhythm and beat.

From the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, to even the regional Samajwadi Party, many political parties in India launched their own music videos. Several songs were even produced by fans of these parties.

As the Election Commission of India counts votes today (May 23), here’s a look back at all the catchy and foot-tapping numbers that went a long way in getting voters’ attention:

BJP fever

In a bid to return to power for a second term after the 2014 landslide victory, the BJP launched a song to go with its #PhirEkBaarModiSarkar slogan. The video is filled with clippings of BJP’s flag and saffron-clad smiling people across urban and rural India.

The chowkidar (watchman) campaign by the ruling party has been a surefire hit. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s tweets around the campaign have garnered massive support. To go with it, BJP even released a #MainBhiChowkidar song. There’s also matching merchandise such as T-shirts and caps available on its official app and Amazon.

Rival rap

Even before, the superhit February 2019 release Gully Boy brought India’s underground hip-hop scene into the limelight, BJP had released a rap “for a cause” to convince voters to swing its way. It was reminiscent of the catchy NaMo youth anthem of 2014.

Congress came out all guns blazing with a rap retort of its own, specifically taking on the chowkidar campaign. The song took potshots at prime minister Narendra Modi’s countless foreign trips and joblessness in the country.

Congress’ official theme for this election season was also an edgy rap titled Ab Nyay Hoga (Now justice will be served), penned by Bollywood’s lyricist Javed Akhtar. It was shot mostly in a studio with a handful of clippings of leader Rahul Gandhi rallying on the ground.

The public sings

Apart from the official music battles, fans have also come out to create their own musical pleas to garner votes for their favourite leaders.

And this fan fervour extended beyond national politics. A song, for example, called for Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav’s win.

Vote no matter what

Whichever the party, the most important message music conveyed this election was to encourage voters to show up in huge numbers.

The Election Commission of India released the song Jaago na (wake up) to nudge voters.

Press Information Bureau had its own version:

Efforts were made in regional India, too, with songs being made in Punjabi and Kannada, among other languages.

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.