The renaming of Bengal and how The Times lost a bet

The Times of India backed the name Bengal with the confidence of a race-fixer. Well, West Bengal is now going to be called Paschimbanga

Anant Rangaswami August 20, 2011 11:33:40 IST

A good punter on at the racecourse never puts all his money on a particular horse; if the horse loses, he loses his shirt, unable to bet again on another race and recoup some of his losses. And when an all-party committee in West Bengal arrived at a consensus that the state would henceforth be called Paschimbanga, The Times of India lost big.

The Times of India had bet its shirt on one of several options being considered (Bangla, Paschim Banga, Banga Pradesh and Bangabhumi were among the many names in the running) by the all-party committee set up to consider this issue.

The Times of India backed Bengal with the confidence of a race-fixer – no other name found a place in its ‘Only Bengal’ campaign for the renaming of the state, supported strongly by Times Now.

The renaming of Bengal and how The Times lost a bet

Politicians may retrace their steps in the wake of the new debate on their decision or may not follow through on the steps required to make the rechristening officialPTI

If there were aspects that The Times of India campaign got bang on, one was the reality that there was no agreement on the rechristening; another was that many questioned the very need for the renaming.

“Paschimbanga does not fulfil all our aspirations but, at this moment, it was more important to arrive at a consensus. It (Paschimbanga) is being used and we won’t have to bring too many changes,” Minister Partha Chatterjee said after the end of the all-party meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, reports The Telegraph.

Whatever the reasons for the choice of Paschimbanga, The Times of India must have learnt a lesson from this debacle: while their marketing department and communication partners are brilliant when it comes to understanding popular culture and local idiom, they still have some way to go in understanding politicians and political machinations.

But they succeeded elsewhere. For example, their assault on Chennai with the much-awarded Nakka Mukka campaign, which played a large role in getting them closer to Chennai’s citizens – and in making a dent in the circulation and advertising revenue of The Hindu.

This film, A day in the life of Chennai, was only building on a strong and robust foundation created by a previous, equally brilliant, series of TV commercials, A day in the life of India. Here’s one from the series:

If the previous versions of A day in the Life were one-way communication, the Internet and mobile telephony presented The Times of India with an opportunity to make ‘A day in the life’ two-way communication, with this competition:

Watch video here

Looking again at the films from the A Day in the Life series and reviewing the Only Bengal film, was there a hint – in the film itself – that ToI could be wrong? All the other films have you nodding in agreement with the premise and the sentiment; the Only Bengal films capture the division and the debate on the name change. The films captured it – and The Times of India failed to see it.

But all is not lost yet. “Changing the name is a horrible idea. The word “Bong” will now stick. What’s worse, we will now be called “Posh Bongs”, Leslie D’Gama, former teacher at St Xavier’s, is quoted as saying in The Telegraph.

Maybe, in a few years from now, Paschimbanga will be renamed again.

More optimistically, politicians may retrace their steps in the wake of the new debate on their decision or may not follow through on the steps required to make the rechristening official.

Watch video: Consensus on 'Paschim Banga', Centre's nod awaited

(Disclosure: Firstpost is published by the Network18 Group, which has major media interests and competes with The Times of India group in the TV and internet businesses, among other things)

 

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