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Now, masks designed for political face-offs in Madhya Pradesh

A shopkeeper displaying face masks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi at Newmarket in Bhopal on Tuesday. 16 June 2020.   | Photo Credit: A. M. Faruqui

As retailers struggle to overcome the lockdown-induced disruption, a garments seller in Bhopal has deftly combined symbols of political fervour ahead of Assembly byelections in Madhya Pradesh with the protective gear essential to everyone’s wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dangling behind the Dona’s Store’s counter nestled inside the New Market are face masks bearing jaw images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, while those of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath lend a familiar, closer touch.

Mr. Modi’s mask had sold the most, said Kunal Pariyani, the store’s owner. “He is a universal leader, and scores admire him despite party lines,” he said. Having sold 700 masks featuring the Prime Minister, the store has ordered another 2,000 from a maker in New Delhi, to whom they send customised blueprints.

Many order ahead

Ahead of the forthcoming byelection for 24 Assembly seats due by September, many Bharatiya Janata Party candidates have placed orders for masks with the store — single-layer at ₹80 and triple-layer at ₹125. “Contestants are placing half the orders for ‘Modi masks’, as the party’s election pitch is made usually by evoking the leader’s imagery, and the other [masks] bearing images of themselves,” Mr. Pariyani explained.

He said no one had asked for a mask of Jyotiraditya Scindia though. Mr. Scindia switched over to the BJP along with 22 Congress MLAs, precipitating the fall of the Kamal Nath government. “Had Mr. Scindia remained in the Congress, we would have probably received some orders. And barely anyone is buying masks having Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Nath. This is likely due to their waning popularity,” he surmised.

Politicians were openly flouting physical distancing norms and holding numerous meetings during the lockdown as the elections closed in, said Abhinav Bhargava, who went for a ‘Modi mask’. “But the masks will serve both the purposes: keep the virus at bay and lend symbolism to campaigns in a redefined way. Like humans have adapted their lifestyles to the pandemic’s threat, political campaigns must too,” he chuckled.

Better business

The store, which suffered close to ₹10 lakh in losses in two months of the lockdown, now hopes to cash in on the political contests, a prestige battle for Mr. Scindia that has plunged both the Congress and the BJP into manoeuvring mode already. “The whole marriage season, when we earned the most, has gone past. The run-up to the election can offer us some relief,” said Mr. Pariyani.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 12:12:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/now-masks-designed-for-political-face-offs-in-madhya-pradesh/article31854085.ece

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