Brand Regionalism

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‘Which side are you on?’ – The IPL tagline juts out of the umpteen hoardings lining the flyovers. The banners full of flashy colours question your choice. For a country knit together with different coloured yarns, encompassing political, regional and religious connotations, it’s a task cut out to market cricket with local flavours. IPL implicitly promotes sub-nationalism as the brand strategy.

“Aaj sachin khelega kya?” discussions in the local trains dramatically change from an Indian victory to the Mumbai Indian’s victory. ‘Cricket is our religion and Sachin our God’ dictum stands challenged in the rest of our country. By vying for regional honour and donning the local colours, franchisees bank on the emotional quotient of cricket aficionados. Sectorial dissection, though is the easiest way to generate revenue, a more important question arises. Should it be done at the cost of compromising national interests?

‘Promoting local identity or crass regionalism?’- Overheard a debate while traveling, on what Raj Thackeray is supposedly purporting. While MNS deviates a little from the regular vote garnering tactics, the agenda by and large is an outgrowth from the core ideology followed by Shiv Sainiks. In related terms of IPL, another marketing gimmick to uphold the DIVIDE AND RULE policy. Promoting local identities to a limited extent isn’t regionalism, but instigating people to an excessive extent is adding steam to the politics replete with issues of caste, creed and religion. With the emergence of regional parties in the national scenario, regionalism getting a boost is no wonder. The India integrated by the likes of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stands a stark contrast in ideologies of aspiring leaders. History stands a mute spectator before the present market and petty politics.

Why is that IPL or Thackerays bank on the same? In a country where every state is akin to another country, is selling easier by dividing? Is it that the spirit of regionalism is a step above the feeling of nationalism? But can India afford this parochialism?

While IPL continues the foray with a multi-million banner, Thackeray comes with yet another cameo to sustain his presence in the Marathi vote bank. Two similar, yet different avatars – The IPL and Thackeray’s
Powerless Thackereys survive in every state, not as a person but as groups. Once upon a time in Punjab, a movement against non-Punjabis that gave rise to Khalistan Movement which has now boiled down to Akali Dal; Telangana Movement currently in Andhra, with an aim of a separate state; in Assam ULFA militants against migrant Biharis and Bengalis; in North-East against other Indians. Globalization opened our eyes to the plenitude of opportunities, but not yet to a chunk of the Indian Diaspora who see unity in diversity a bane, be it selling products or insensitive ideologies.
“He is a south Indian”- says a Marathi. “He is from the North”, murmurs a Tamilian. Now, the question arises on why is India already divided into North south, east and the west? For easy governance, can be an answer. Flawed is the argument in the context of a strong independent India of 1947 which could have been better groomed. On 15th of December 1953, Potti Sriramulu succumbed unable to sustain 52 days of fast demanding a separate state for Telugu speaking people. His death became a launch pad for the dawn of Political Regionalism in India. Thus, Andhra Pradesh became the first linguistic state of India. But those days, it reflected the aspirations of people at that time.
The subsequent movements for separate states and territories gave birth to slew of regional parties which eventually became prominent in national level and thus started coalition culture in Indian politics.
Today, how meekly do we still submit ourselves to the old genes of colonization, of comparison! Regionalism has come a long way to become only a political shortcut to emotionally exploit the sentiments of the people. There is another face of the same regionalist people which is worth a mention, but only when they leave India.
“India sucks,” commented a friend who left for a first time project abroad for an MNC. His identity outside India is that of an Indian. Did he ever wait to think on the adversities India faces? Our population stands in the forefront of impediments & strength as well. Yes, India has poverty and inadequacy. Job creation doesn’t credit dignity. But why don’t we think of the dignity it offers working for our country, not taking the spits of some illiterate oil barons. What is that provides the sheath to be shed? How good can we shoulder the Indian values and tradition, and still gain respect from those former imperialists?

Speaking about unity in a country like India is astonishing for a foreigner when he sees diverse cultural, political and religious realities. As boundaries limit the pride of nationality today, we awake to the fact that regionalism has grown in enormous proportions to rule us. The mind has become smaller for the heart to be accommodated.

The same narrow mindedness is explored by the corporate, the advertiser, the reality shows et al. The latest Maggi silver jubilee campaign reflects the same crude regionalism in its cover design. The corporate sells strategies designed for clients, where, instead of developing a brand idea and then taking it to the consumer, first a big social change is to be identified and used to develop an idea. The reality show even divides states into districts with a select contestant from one district to garner maximum SMS’s.

Cultural movements aligned with powerful ideas must define a common culture and then by creating actions/ events/ communication draw people into the idea. Mass media can amplify this and also activate it through word of mouth, brand PR and content placement. As long as political entities thrive for regional development without discriminating the outsiders, regionalism is good for India. As long as corporate and advertisers thrive to get mindspace by not harming the social fabric of India, regionalism is good for India. The media also must remember that it is more responsible in its words and actions and just not hype the regionalist fervour for TRP’s.

Regil Krishnan

[Image courtesy: http://moversandsekhars.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/ipl-teams.jpg]

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