Monday, April 5, 2010

Political Untouchability

At a time when the Indian society is slowly overcoming the problem of social untouchability, a new form of untouchability - political untouchability is emerging. Yes. You read it right. Amitabh Bachchan, India’s biggest movie star was recently snubbed by the Maharashtra government during the inauguration of the Mumbai-Worli sea link. This treatment was meted out to him because Mr Bachchan recently became Gujarat’s brand ambassador. Everyone knows that Gujarat’s chief minister Mr Modi has been considered a political untouchable by the Congress party. Post Godhra, they would not associate themselves with him at any event. And since Mr Bachchan promotes Gujarat tourism, the Congress party believes that he is associated with Brand Modi and hence deserves the same treatment. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi says that since Mr Bachchan has associated himself with the Gujarat government, the congress party has every right to not invite him at a government function/event. It is after all the discretion of the state government to choose their invitees. I would like to remind Mr Singhvi that the people of Gujarat have a similar discretion to stay away from the Congress party. That does not augur well for his party and for our democracy.

Mr Bachchan’s role
The Congress party says that since Mr Bachchan is the brand ambassador of Gujarat, he must clarify his position on Mr Modi’s role in the Godhra riots. I didn’t know that a brand ambassador of a state had to have clear cut political views and state them when asked. As a brand ambassador, Mr Bachchan does not charge any money for his work in promoting Gujarat. Isn’t that in itself an excellent gesture ? I am sure he could have used that time to make movies and earn money but he instead chose to use his brand to promote Indian tourism. If Gujarat tourism improves, the ultimate beneficiaries would be the people of the state.

Is the Congress’ reasoning flawed ?
According to the Congress’ logic, Mr Bachchan should be condemned if he endorses Mr Modi. In that case what about the people of Gujarat who have elected Mr Modi as their chief minister ? If we apply the Congress’ logic, they must also be condemned/dammed/sidelined ? This is not a valid reasoning and in fact makes a mockery of the people who go out to vote and choose their representatives.

What about others who are investing their time/resources in Gujarat ?
Several activists believe that industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani , Ratan Tata etc who are investing in Gujarat need to take a clear stand on Mr Modi’s role in the Godhra riots. They believe that such eminent personalities need to voice their opinion because of the influence they have on the young minds of this country. This argument is flawed. I believe that Industrialists who prefer to not be dragged into the petty politics of this country should be left alone. They are doing their job of creating jobs for the people of this country and of contributing to our exchequer. Similarly it would be great if our activists do not base their arguments on false ideologies.

Where are the thinkers ?

Isn’t it possible for a person to praise Mr Modi for his brilliant economic politics and at the same time criticize him for poor governance during the riots ? Or should he be criticized all the time without any reason or logic ? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the congress party praised Mr Modi for his economic policies and infact replicated them in congress ruling states but continued to pressurize the Gujarat government on the probe. Similarly wouldn’t it be great if the BJP praised the UPA for the nuclear bill while criticized them for inflation. The women’s reservation bill was a landmark bill because our two national parties came togther on the issue. It would be great if they could find more common ground. To conclude, I think our country would be much stronger if we agree to disagree on issues and maintain our ethics/decorum while standing firm on our beliefs. I am sure Mr Bachchan would have received better treatment if we followed this.

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