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Shoppers pick what voters did not

- Murshidabad’s hot ticket
A ‘Modi shirt’. Picture by Chayan Majumdar

Behrampore, July 27: Narendra Modi’s kurtas have beaten his party in Murshidabad.

If the BJP bagged around 9 per cent votes in Murshidabad this general election, the half-sleeved kurtas and sleeveless jackets associated with the Prime Minister appear to have stitched up a far higher share among Id shoppers in the Muslim-dominated district.

Before the BJP’s spin doctors jump for joy and weave a feel-good theory, a word of caution: there’s nothing political about the choice. Rather, the sartorial choice seems driven by high visibility in an election year and hard-nosed common sense.

Sample an unbeatable — and indisputably practical — reason: Mantu Sheikh, who runs a stationery shop, picked up a half-sleeved kurta in Behrampore because “washing hands will be easier”.

Garment dealers in Behrampore, the district headquarters where Murshidabad’s big stores are located, said that they had sold between 25,000 and 30,000 Modi kurtas, sleeveless jackets and shirts to Id shoppers during the past week.

Binod Ghati, sales manager of Style Bazar, a garment store in Behrampore, put the total number of Id shoppers in the big shops in the past week at 1 lakh — a ballpark figure that was more or less echoed by other retailers. The figure suggests that around 25-30 per cent of the Id shoppers in Behrampore opted for a Modi jacket or kurta.

Some have taken a few liberties with Modi’s style and come up with an improvisation to woo children — the impressionable decision-makers on shop floors.

The Prime Minister may not have heard about it but “Modi shirts” are also flying off the racks in Behrampore. What is being sold as the “Modi shirt” is a full-sleeved kurta with a faux sleeveless jacket stitched onto it — which apparently has found many takers among children.

Gautam Das, the sales manager at the garment store Sunita, said: “We have named the full-sleeved shirt after Modi and the name has caught on. The dress has become a hit among children.”

Basiruddin, a farmer who came to shop in Behrampore from Nawda, about 30km away, agreed with Das. “My 11-year-old son Sufiyan was with me when the salesman in the garment store brought out a Modi shirt. My son immediately liked it and I bought it for him for Rs 1,450,” said Basiruddin.

Retailers said it was not unusual for farmers doing reasonably well to spend Rs 1,500 on a shirt during the festival season.

Asked why his son liked the “Modi shirt”, Basiruddin said: “Narendra Modi was on TV very frequently before and after the Lok Sabha polls. As soon as my son was shown the Modi shirt, he told me he wanted it.”

Mantu, who chose the half-sleeved kurta for ease of washing hands, too, spoke of the influence of TV. “This is the first time I have bought this kind of kurta. I am used to wearing full-sleeved kurtas. But I bought a half-sleeved one this time as I saw Modi on TV wearing this kind of a kurta during the campaign. It is very comfortable to wear when the weather is warm.” Murshidabad was not among the Bengal districts where Modi personally campaigned.

Visibility does play a key role — which suggests Modi need not be the trend-setter next year unless the Prime Minister hogs television space again this year.

Das, the garment store manager, said that last year, the big hit was a T-shirt modelled on the one Dev, the actor who is now also an MP, wore in Paglu 2.

“The nose ring that Sania Mirza wears was a hit among women. Similarly, Id shoppers have been looking for Modi kurtas, shirts and jackets this year,” Das added.


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