Dear BJP, Please Fire the Designers of NaMo Merchandise


Dear BJP, Please Fire the Designers of NaMo Merchandise

Illustration: Akshita Monga

As a millennial who pays rent but chooses to perennially live on the internet, I like my pointless hipster challenges just like Rakhi Sawant likes Jesus – permanently. In fact, I believe that these online challenges encapsulate what my attention-deficit generation actually stands for: Wasting time doing completely avoidable things just to escape investing time in finishing off more pressing, unavoidable tasks. Come to think of it, isn’t that exactly how the BJP government also seems to be functioning?

It’s no wonder then that BJP’s Anurag Thakur decided to discharge his duties as a sitting MP last week by officiating an online challenge. Called the “Hoodie Challenge”, it is a spellbinding, shuddh Make-in-India sequel to last year’s “Fitness Challenge”. It all started when Thakur tweeted a picture of him wearing a pensive expression and a deep-blue sweatshirt that yelled “NaMo Again” in a shade of saffron that makes you wish you were colour blind. His tweet had further instructions: It encouraged people to post similar pictures wearing the hoodies and then to challenge friends by tagging them. On his part, Thakur tagged Kiren Rijiju, Yogi Adityanath, Devendra Fadnavis, and Rajyavardhan Rathore because elected ministers don’t face enough challenges in this country.

That said, it’s election season and the ruling party just wants to have some fun.

Door-to-door campaigns, hologrammed rallies, and grand speeches are so 2014 – 2019 is about making “style statements”, promoting “Namo Merchandise”, the Election Collection of ace fashion maven Narendra Modi.

The hoodies are the better part of the NaMo merchandise; the collection’s piece-de-resistance is the Modi mask – creepy yet lifelike.

The Hoodie Challenge caught on and the next few days saw everyone from Babul Supriyo to the bhakt donning NaMo hoodies, over their kurta-pyjamas (ugh), clicking selfies and clogging our timelines, reminding us of our chachas and mamas who wear ganjis in Goa. And one thing was clear that the ruling party knows as much about style and statements as Hardik Pandya knows about political correctness.

Like a newly-minted influencer, the NaMo merchandise – that ideally should’ve been called “India, do you love me?” – has its own Twitter account, website, and Made-in-India models. It has a range of T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, caps, pens, fridge magnets, banners, and stickers. The Twitter account even has weekly contests where they give out exclusive NaMo merchandise goodies to BJP believers who probably have already bought them. The laziness of this marketing campaign is equally matched by the stubborn dullness of its design aesthetic. Can we fire the fashion designer who thought of sticking cringe-worthy motivational messages on perfectly alright T-shirts, mugs, and pens? Also did anyone tell the BJP that the “Keep Calm” tees were outmoded even in the Congress era? And more importantly, how exactly do you keep calm and trust the BJP?  

The hoodies are the better part of the NaMo merchandise; the collection’s piece-de-resistance is the Modi mask – creepy yet lifelike. This one-size fits all mask is the kind of accessory that seems exclusively designed for the Modi supporter, who also celebrates Halloween. And if people start wearing this and sharing pictures, that day will be remembered as the day surgical strike were launched on Instagram filters.

Everything in the NaMo merchandise might just go down in history as the only fashion collection whose tagline – “Goods that are here for good” – is way more creative than its designs. The only way it can sway Indian voters is if they were five-year-olds who get easily distracted by shiny stickers and super bright colours.

But if we’re to believe the avant-garde designers of the NaMo Merchandise, the fashion trend that is going to take 2019 by a storm is unfulfilled election promises in hues of saffron and deep blue. I’d dare Govinda to wear this!