State Congress leaders have realised that for speeches to translate into votes, effective translators are a necessary factor
The Congress in Telangana is facing an odd, if not entirely new, problem: its message doesn't seem to be reaching the masses — in a classic case of lost in translation.
For instance, on December 3, during a rally in Gadwal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had reportedly said the BJP had waived loans worth Rs 3 lakh crore for 15 rich industrialists, but the Congress will waive off the same amount for farmers. Gandhi's translator on stage and Gadwal constituency candidate, DK Aruna, however, reportedly translated it as "BJP waived off loans worth Rs 3 lakh crore for 15 lakh farmers, and Congress will waive the loans of farmers too."
Similarly, during a public address in Kosgi, Ravanth Reddy, the party's working president, had reportedly translated Gandhi's "Telangana is in debt" statement as "Telangana is in profit".
State Congress leaders have realised that for speeches to get translated into votes, effective translators are a necessary factor. Telangana Congress General Secretary T Niranjan, however, said it is not that big a problem.
"Of course, the translators cannot grasp what Rahul Gandhi is saying immediately, which is why the problem arose. Otherwise, there is no problem," Niranjan told Moneycontrol.
Speaking about the appointment of translators, Niranjan said translators are appointed by the party president, though there are district-level leaders and spokespersons involved in the process too.
"There's a process of appointing translators. Nalgonda has a different translator, Hyderabad has a different translator... the party president will appoint different people for different regions. These translators are generally party workers," Niranjan said.
"It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to translate for both Soniaji and Rahulji," Congress leader Dasoju Sravan told Moneycontrol. "But it's a challenge, because you have to translate the moment they speak. And you also have to translate in simple, concise words while keeping the emotion intact," he added.
"We need to be very attentive, and translate the instant they stop speaking. That requires the knowledge of Telangana politics as well as the language. We cannot say anything that will be carried in the wrong sense," Sravan said, adding that there is no training provided, though party workers with strong knowledge of state politics are preferred.
The BJP high command, however, does not appoint any designated translators. "The BJP translators are party leaders. Whoever is available when national leaders come to address rallies do the job. There are two or three translators, such as Muralidharji and Sudhakarji who can translate from Hindi. These are leaders, there are no special translators," Bandi Sanjay, a BJP leader from Telangana, told Moneycontrol.
While the saffron party has not faced the problem of translation during its campaign in Telangana, it has suffered from bad and confused translators elsewhere in the southern belt. For instance, during March elections in Karnataka this year, BJP president Amit Shah's words at a rally were translated as "PM Modi will not do anything for Dalits, poor and the backward classes. He will damage the nation" by Prahlad Joshi, the translator. "Please vote for him," Joshi had added.A similar incident had occurred in Kerala in 2015 when PM Narendra Modi arrived in Kerala and apologised for being late. The PM's translator, K Surendran, however, translated it as "... There are big changes taking place here (in Kerala). I am very happy."
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