December 2014: Was it the slogan or the people who won?

‘Lepep’ seem to have concluded that it is the slogan and the campaigners that won. As for them, they are the eternal losers

Eight years ago, Obama – or his collaborators — coined the slogan ‘Yes we can’, and he went on to earn two mandates, which come to an end soon, in January 2017 when President-elect Donald Trump will be installed as the 45th President of America. In May 2014, Narendra Modi rode to victory on a variation of Obama’s slogan: instead of ‘Yes we can’, it was ‘Yes we will’.

Here in Mauritius, in December 2014, it was ‘Vire Mam’ which, literally, turned the people’s head, bringing l’Alliance Lepep to power in what was for AL itself an unexpected quasi-landslide victory, in which the presence of Sir Anerood Jugnauth was a decisive factor.

In all these three instances, the slogan gained traction and momentum every single day courtesy social media, which reached people at their doorsteps, in their palms on the mobile phone via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp – and God knows how many more such addictive communication tools. The cascading effect turned a few innocent but pithy words into a catchword which played easily on people’s lips.

So powerful was the media effect and pressure that even opponents could not escape joining on to the trend of mouthing the catchword à tout bout de champ, even if initially in joke. But soon it sank into the psyche by dint of repetition several times daily, reinforced by hearing it also in every possible location – office or other workplace, home, in the street, at street corners, in the market place and while shopping in the mall or supermarket, in the hairdressing saloon – in fact, to use a cliché, in every nook and corner.

And of course, it was blared from loudspeakers at every electoral meeting. So much so that its loud and repeated proclamation so dominated people’s mind that they ignored altogether what was in the manifesto, all the populist promises that were being made to them.

They became admirable, ‘lepep admirab’, riding high on the euphoria of a propagandist slogan that relegated all other matters to the backstage of their mind, if any at all was left to function independently. The campaigners jubilated, and made lepep really believe that they were as ‘admirab’ as the slogan. In fact, lepep was in admiration of the slogan, and conflated it with the faces that were presented to them. Faces that they trusted would return some of the admiration on the basis of promises made.

Two years down the line, neither is lepep admirab nor is l’Alliance Lepep. Failed promises abound. In America, Hillary Clinton did not use the now obsolete ‘yes we can’ slogan during her campaign, because the wind was now changing in favour of her rival Donald Trump. Trump, curiously, did not coin a slogan. He merely reiterated several times that he would make America great again. In India, after a promising start in his mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now facing flak with his demonetization venture in an attempt to expose the black economy and flush out the enormous sums of black money it conceals.

And now lepep is asking: did we win, or was it the slogan? They seem to have concluded that it is the slogan and the campaigners that won. As for them, they are the eternal losers. That will be the case as long as we continue to have governments by default. Will this ever change? Only a magician can have the answer.

TP Saran

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