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Does a legion of fans guarantee votes? Sidhu Moose Wala and Congress hope so, experts unsure

The 28-year-old singer has millions of social media followers and hit music albums, but has also been accused of promoting gun violence in his music.

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New Delhi: Punjabi pop-music artist Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu — better known as Sidhu Moose Wala — joined the Congress Friday. The 28-year-old singer, who’s garnered millions of followers on social media and whose music is a big hit, is being touted as the Congress’s trump card for the 2022 Punjab assembly elections.

Moose Wala, yet another addition to the cult of “gun culture and machismo glorifying” Punjabi singers that includes Gippy Grewal, Parmish Verma and Diljit Dosanjh, became popular in 2017, following the success of his song So high. The song which used a mix of Punjabi-English lyrics, became a global sensation. Moose Wala was also part of the Guardian’s list of 50 new artists for 2020.

His audience comprises mostly young Punjabis, aspiring or imitating the upper-class Jatts in the state.

While there is no doubting Moose Wala’s popularity, and that celebrity candidates do tend to be crowd-pullers, experts feel the singer still has a long way to go before he can draw political mileage from his fame.

Also read: How Christianity is growing among Mazhabi Sikhs & Valmiki Hindus in Punjab’s villages

What makes Moose Wala popular

Moose Wala’s use of a blend of Punjabi-English lyrics in his songs mimics the way children were taught English in Punjab in the past.

Like the words of a popular poem for children ‘Pigeon-Kabutar, Udan-Fly, Look-vekho, Asmaan-Sky’ — his words cater to the mass and are known to be catchy.

The song So high, which has had more than 45 crore views on YouTube till Friday evening, is reminiscent of a rhyme for primary school students.

Ho karda Canada vichon deal soniye
Munda poori gangsta appeal soniye
Jadon mahine vich char char geet sitda
Karde star bad feel soniye

Which translates to:

“The guy deals in Canada, girl
The guy has a gangster appeal, girl
Whenever I throw four songs a month
Stars start feeling bad, girl”

Linguistic Experts also believe that his songs touch a cord with the “latent rebellious streak” in his young audience.

“Sidhu Moose Wala’s songs are full of rebellion”, said Rawail Singh, professor of Punjabi at the Delhi University. “There is no denying the fact that the youth in Punjab are rebellious, it’s in their blood,” he claimed.

The professor added: “Moose Wala lyrics echo this rebellion, which makes him hugely popular, even though he is nowhere close as a singer to veterans such Gurdas Mann.”

One of his songs, 295, has fetched about nine crore views YouTube since it was released four months back. The lyrics of the song express Moose Wala’s opinion of section 295 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — “Injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class”.

Tu dab gaya duniya ne veham paaleya
Uth putt jhoteya oye Moose Waleya
Je aivein reha geetan vich sach bolda
Aaun wali peedhi educate milugi
Nitt controversy create milugi
Dharman de naam te debate milugi
Sach bolega taan milu 295
Je karega tarakki putt hate milugi

Which translates to:

You’ve bowed down what the world feels
Wake up Moose Wala dear son
If you keep chanting songs like these
You’ll have educated the next generation
Controversies will be created everyday
Debates on religion will end up your day
Speak the truth you get 295
Successful ones have hate on their way)

Rawail also believes that Moose Wala is not afraid to strike a negative image, which is one of his biggest selling points among his audience. The singer is known to refer to his his troubles with the law and negative criticism in his music. The “provocative lyrics” make him more popular among his audience, said Rawail.

The lyrics of one of his songs, Jatt Da Muqabala, claims there is on one who can compete with him — Dass mainu kithe ae ni/Jatt da mukabla. The song has more than 8 crore views on YouTube.

Jatt da mukabla
Dass mainu kithe ae ni
Jatt da mukabla
Dass mainu kithe ae ni
Jatt da mukabla

My competitor
Tell me where it is?

This is a repeated refrain in the song.

“There is a big community that follows this ‘Jatt culture’, where Moose Wala draws his fanbase from. Most of this is based on glorifying snobbery,” Rawail Singh told ThePrint.

Last year, Sidhu was booked for allegedly promoting violence in his song Sanju. The singer was allegedly not just glorifying violence in the song, but also taking pride in FIRs filed against him, drawing comparisons with past legal proceedings against actor Sanjay Dutt for illegal possession of an AK-47 rifle.

O gabhru te case jehra Sanjay Dutt te
Jatt utte case jehra Sanjay Dutt te

Which translates to:

Which case on Gabru (young chap) – the Sanjay Dutt one
Which case on Jatt (A dominant caste guy) – the Sunjay Dutt one

The song came after Moose Wala got bail in a case involving the firing of an AK-47. In the video accompanying the song, Moose Wala is covered with news reports on the case. The song has close to 7 crore views on YouTube.

Moose Wala is not the only Punjabi singer to have courted legal trouble. Cases have been filed against other singers for promoting gun violence. In 2012, police had registered an FIR against rapper Honey Singh for allegedly using “obscene lyrics” in some of his songs.

Also read: Low enrolment & farmers ‘unpaid’ in Punjab’s ‘Pani Bachao, Paise Kamao’ scheme, but power saved

From entertainment to politics

Pandit Rao Dharennavar, assistant professor at the Post Graduate Government College (PGGC) in Chandigarh’s Sector-46, believes that the poor state of Punjabi entertainment industry has also contributed to Moose Wala’s popularity, since the audience has little option to choose from.

Dharennavar, who has repeatedly filed cases against Punjabi singers who allegedly promote violence in their songs, told ThePrint that “unlike the Hindi film industry or the ones in the South, the Punjabi film industry is broken. People are looking for entertainment, but the traditional entertainment sources do not exist. So music companies, while launching songs, make a three-five minute movie and that’s how they fill their appetite. This has led to an increased popularity of such singers who are polluting the minds of the youth. Sidhu Moose Wala is just another addition”.

The singer’s controversial career as a musician has already been raked up since his advent to politics.

Questions on the singer promoting gun violence were raised at a press conference organised Friday, to announce Moose Wala joining the Congress. Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President Navjot Singh Sidhu had then defended Moose Wala and said “why are you asking about issues which are subjudice? Let the people of Punjab decide about him. The media should not decide”.

While Moose Wala is not completely without political capital — his mother Charan Kaur Sidhu is the sarpanch of Moosa village, where the singer was born and from where he draws his name — experts feel this is not enough to give him leverage. His father Bhola Ram, is an ex-serviceman.

“I don’t think Sidhu Moose Wala’s popularity will yield returns in politics. The voters in Punjab are very smart. Those who sing bad songs will not be voted for,” professor Dharennavar told ThePrint.

He added: “People listen to these songs and then forget about them quickly. In order to stay in their hearts, Moose Wala will have to sing religious songs which are close to Baba Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Chaar Sahibzaade. Songs like these are always on the tips of people’s tongues and they will make him an overnight star (in a good way).”

Rawail Singh too agreed that though Moose Wala’s negativity is a big factor in his popularity, he wasn’t close (in terms of stature) to those singing songs filled with hope.

“Only time will tell us if he can bring electoral success.” Singh told ThePrint.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Kartarpur corridor – Why a prospective vote bank could be a security challenge for India


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