Gamcha craze picks up as poll heat soars

| | Lucknow
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Gamcha craze picks up as poll heat soars

Tuesday, 02 April 2024 | Biswajeet Banerjee | Lucknow

Gamcha craze picks up as poll heat soars

As temperatures continue to climb above 40 degrees Celsius across various Indian States, a quintessential accessory has taken center stage in the realm of political campaigning: The humble ‘gamcha’ or cotton scarf.

Originating from regions like Tanda in Uttar Pradesh and Bhagalpur in Bihar, these versatile cotton cloths are not only serving as face wipes but also making bold fashion statements for politicians crisscrossing the Gangetic belt.

Tanda and Bhagalpur have emerged as pivotal suppliers of gamchas to political parties, with prices ranging from `25 to `40 per piece. Available in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colours, these gamchas cater to the specific requirements of different political factions.

The demand for gamchas has witnessed a significant surge, with weavers in Tanda and Bhagalpur experiencing an enthusiastic response.

In Tanda alone, over 100 small units engage more than 5,000 weavers, fulfilling orders worth approximately `50 lakh in just two months. Similarly, in Bhagalpur, over 3,000 weavers are engaged in crafting gamchas, with each weaver producing an average of 24 pieces daily, earning Rs 200-300 per day. These weavers are also receiving orders from States like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.

Mehran Hasan Ansari, owner of Gulshan Khadi in Tanda, Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh, highlighted the exponential rise in demand during election periods. “Many political parties distribute gamchas to their supporters - which not only gives them identity but also much-needed publicity,” he said.

Different political parties are associated with distinct colours. Saffron is for BJP, yellow for Suheldeo Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), blue for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), white for Congress, and green for RJD. RJD even prefers its election symbol, the lantern, to be displayed in white on green gamchas.

Beyond political symbolism, gamchas also offer protection from the scorching summer heat. Dr SK Pandey of Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow emphasised the benefits, stating, “Covering the head with a gamcha reduces the possibility of heat stroke by almost 60 per cent.

“It is advisable to cover one’s head during summer with a cap or scarf while working outside.”

With several States placing orders for millions of saffron gamchas, the demand for Bhagalpuri gamchas has surged by 30 per cent compared to the previous year. Additionally, women leaders and workers are opting for Bhagalpuri suits and dupattas in various colours, reflecting the election fervour.

Orders for green gamchas and caps have also flooded in, with each priced between `100-120 and `80-120 respectively. Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself sports a designer gamcha during election campaigns, while Chief Minister Nitish Kumar prefers khadi gamchas over garlands.

The surge in demand for gamchas recalls the 2019 elections when khadi apparel sales soared to a record high of `3,215 crore, marking a 29 per cent increase from the previous fiscal year.

As India braces for scorching summer temperatures and heated political campaigns, the gamcha remains not just a practical accessory but a symbol of political identity and style on the campaign trail.

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