The act of sweeping by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at the Sitapur guest house while protesting against Lakhimpur Kheri violence was special. It brought out cheers from Congress, criticism from the opposition, and most importantly brought the role of Broom in politics into the spotlight.
Unlike the magical broom in the west used by wizards and witches, the broom in India is a favourite among politicians. The broom became special for the first time in 1901 when under the British reign, Mahatma Gandhi first used it at Ripon college in Kolkata to clean the mess left by delegates. It took the spotlight in that annual session of the Indian National Congress.
The powerful image of brooms has been used by new parties as well as old politicians. Aam Aadmi Party’s first symbol preference to the election commission was a broom. The other options were candle and tap. There is no denying that the broom brought quite a gust in the National Politics. It supported AAP taglines like ‘ab chalega Jhadu’ and pointed towards getting rid of the corrupt system. They went into several street processions with brooms and symbolized the act of cleaning up wrong politicians. It made a big impact on the public who were already tired of the corrupt system.
Next, it was used by PM Narendra Modi who went on the streets with a broom symbolizing the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It became a Gandhian symbol and people began to relate to it and use it as a pose to support the initiative. Earlier, such use of broom in a campaign was done by BR Ambedkar to address the problems and discrimination against the untouchables.
Because earlier in the later medieval era the untouchables were asked to carry a broom on their back so that they could clean the dust after they walked. Also, if any higher caste person walks through the street then it remains clean. But, still, the broom was not successful in eradicating the ratio of Dalits appointed for manual work.
Another unique aspect is that the personalities who used brooms before politics from social initiatives were aiming at social development. While the politicians using the broom today is a means to connect with the common man. One such example is big celebrities like Katrina Kaif who used the broom in lockdown and uploaded a sweeping video on social media as a means to relate.
The use of brooms by Priyanka Gandhi surely became a highlight in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. But, the mixed responses suggest that the answer to whether she was able to sweep votes in the upcoming UP elections shall remain a mystery as of now. Politicians like Himanta Biswa Sharma said they grew up watching their mother sweeping the floor without cameras; this is again an attempt to compete and prove the common status and relatability of politicians. He tried to prove that sweeping a floor is not something uncommon that is worth highlighting. Moreover, he targeted the privileged background of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and started a whole new discussion.
The historic broom that was once the symbol of the fight against discrimination and poverty is now being used as a means to collect votes. It will be interesting to see how crucial a role the broom plays in the upcoming elections, especially after being swept up to the limelight recently.