India Today



Channi, Pappi, Rinku, Tinu, Bittu, Babbu, Bobby— cutting across party lines, regions and caste segments, catchy aliases are in the Lok Sabha fray from Punjab. Whether as a pet name given by the family or as a nickname coined by a peer group, having an alternativ­e name is common practice in this border state. In the past decade, however, these endearing names, once confined to intimate circles, have made their way into political campaign material and even election adavits and on electronic voting machines. In Punjab, parallel cultures exist when it comes to surnames—some pick village names, others use the names of their castes or subcastes, while rural Dalits at times adopt the surname of big landowners. But in the Doaba region, Dalit Sikhs have started embracing their nicknames, discarding traditiona­l last names altogether. So, ex-CM Charanjit Singh ‘Channi’, the Congress’s Jalandhar candidate, may find it relevant to point to his Dalit identity while campaignin­g but prefers to do it with his nickname suffixed. The Congress is even pushing the ‘Sadda Channi’ (Our Channi) campaign to strike a rapport with voters. Sushil Kumar Rinku, Jalandhar MP and BJP candidate, too, has turned his pet name into his last name. Their rivals Pawan Kumar Tinu, a Dalit activist and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) nominee, and Mohinder Singh Kaypee, a




veteran Congressma­n who is now the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate, have instead chosen to sux the nicknames of their fathers. For some, nicknames carry a ‘cool quotient’. As veteran politician­s passed on the baton to younger generation­s in the past decade, these sons, grandsons and nephews, known by nicknames within party circles, have integrated them into their public personas. Take ex-CM Beant Singh’s grandson Ravneet Singh Jhajj—better known as Ravneet Singh Bittu. A three-term Congress MP, he is vying to retain his Ludhiana seat as a BJP candidate. The trend has spilled over to neighbouri­ng states as well: look only at Himachal CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu. Still, the phenomenon remains very Punjabi, as is the trend of using nicknames as an alias. In fact, in 2019, the BJP sought special permission from the Election Commission to allow their Gurdaspur candidate, actor Sunny Deol, to use his pet name-cum-screen name instead of his real one: Ajay Singh Deol. There’s no denying nicknames have a higher recall value and are often also easier to pronounce. So, Akali stalwart Zora Singh Mann’s son Nardev Singh prefers to be called Bobby Mann. He is the party’s pick from Ferozepur. His AAP counterpar­t is Jagdeep Singh, a.k.a. Kaka Brar. Even the Congress’s state chief Amarinder Singh Brar goes by his alias Raja Warring, Raja being his nickname and Warring the name of his village. He’s up against Bittu and AAP’s Ashok Prashar Pappi from Ludhiana. Makes for catchy slogans too. CM Bhagwant Mann coined one at a rally to say Pappi would win because people know his rivals are big fibbers: “Log kehnde ne Raja te Bittu Gappi, jittega apna Pappi!”

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