Kite flying to woo Bengal voters (Election Special)
West Bengal's political rivals are now taking their intense fight to the skies. Kites bearing the symbols and done in the colours of various political parties are furiously flying off the shelves of Kolkata shops as soon as they can be made.
Two renowned kite shops near the bustling Santosh Mitra Square in North Kolkata are contributing to the campaign.
Anyone stepping into the small shops cannot but notice the kites cut out in the shapes of twin flowers on grass, hammer and sickle, palm and lotus. The reds of the communists, the greens of the Trinamool and the Congress and the whites of the BJP lie side-by-side.
Going by the owner of "Bengal Kites" Bablu Sen, the Trinamool symbol of twin flowers on grass is soaring high, leaving behind the Congress' palm, the Bharatiya Janata Party's lotus, and the hammer and sickle of the Communist Party of India-Marxist or the broom of the Aam Admi Party.
"Recently, we sold 1,500 kites bearing the Trinamool logo. Very few orders were placed from other parties like CPI-M, BJP, Congress and others," said Ali Seikh, a shop employee.
"Jokhon jar hawa, tokhon tar chaahida beshi" (The demand depends on the popularity of the party), added Ali Shaikh.
The shop has even made kites with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's photos pasted on them. "They have brought good business for us," said another salesman, Sheikh Jabbar.
"India Kites" owner Ajit Dutta said he has been selling such "political kites" during every election for a number of years, but this time the demand was on the higher side.
Over the past few years, the idea of using kites as campaign tools has caught up in the state as it provides a cheap option and the parties can do their canvassing without running the risk of violating the Election Commission's strictures on defacing walls with graffiti.
The price of the kites depends on their size and ranges from Re.1 to Rs.12.
Jabbar said they get wholesale orders round-the-year from various parts of India such as Lucknow, Bareilly, Ahmedabad and elsewhere.
Behind the beautiful handicraft lies the sweat and toil of the artisans, who work 12 gruelling hours every day.
Do the political loyalties of the owners and workers colour their craft?
Dutta said a firm "No". For the middle-aged man, the making of "political kites" is a hard-nosed business decision, and his own political beliefs have no bearing on their making.
"Parties come and go. They make huge promises prior to the election which are forgotten afterwards. We are small people. We only hope whoever comes to power should live up to the promises they made," Dutta told IANS.
But beyond the poll season, the kite-makers receive bulk orders from different companies such as Siti cable and tender-based orders from the Indian Premier League cricket teams.
In fact, with the IPL round the corner, even though the country this year hosts only the second part of the glamour-rich tourney because of the elections, the kite shops are expecting a roaring business season.
They are hoping against hope that the companies invest more on using special quality paper and other material. That can take the price of a single kite to Rs.25.
(Posted on 13-04-2014)