Elections are a good time of the year for folk artists.
Their ability to pull large crowds and convey a strong message makes them irresistible to political parties, who sign them up for campaigning in semi-urban and rural areas.
In Visakhapatnam region, demand shoots through the roof during this time, so much so that many artistes are forced to refuse offers as they are already booked for weeks.
Tried and tested formula
“Getting the message across via folk art has been a tried and tested formula that works wonders in rural areas. Forms of art, such as Tappeta Gullu, Kolatam, Burra Kadha, and if possible Bommalaata, are major crowd-pullers,” said a representative of a political party from the city.
With the Election Commission of India (ECI) announcing the schedule for the general and assembly elections in the State, political parties have started reaching out to folk artistes for campaigning in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.
The initial offer is to work on a daily wage, with free food and transport.
However, that offer quickly flies off the table as artistes refuse the offers citing tight schedules. Some artistes say they are offered double, or even triple, the going amount to cancel a prior booking in order to accommodate a new one.
In some cases, however, a prior commitment has to be honoured, like in cases where a local festival of a deity is concerned.
“This is the month where we witness a number of local festivals in rural areas. As we are already committed to several local deity festivals in the district till April 4, our group had to reject an offer to campaign for a political party,” said Neelabonu Satyam, a member of the Tappeta Gullu folk artistes’ team which had performed a number of shows in Visakhapatnam city.
Ramu, a folk artiste from the district who usually performs Tappeta Gullu with another team, said that politicians generally give them ₹1,000 per person, apart from food and transport, when they perform for them during elections in rural areas.
“If we perform during local deity festivals, a 15-member team receives at least ₹60,000 for three days. Moreover, during political campaigning, we undergo a lot of pressure due to lack of proper timings,” Mr. Ramu said.
“During the last election, we were given ₹500 per person per day to campaign for a party. We are getting flooded by requests again for which we are yet to respond, as for the last couple of weeks, we have been completely tied up with local festivals at Tagarapuvalasa and Bhimili,” said Ch. Aadinarayana, who is a member of the ‘Kolatam’ folk artistes’ group which is based in Vizianagaram district.