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When political ideology stops public good

June 06, 2012 14:16 IST

Mahesh Vijapurkar on phoney ideology excuses and the spurning of brand ambassadors.

Here is an absurd logic: Amitabh Bachchan was a brand ambassador for Gujarat tourism therefore he cannot be a brand ambassador for Maharashtra seeking to promote road safety. Since Gujarat is a Bharatiya Janata Party-run state and whose leader is Narendra Modi, that association automatically renders Big B ineligible for promoting road safety which can save lives.

As they say, stupid is as stupid does and this absurd logic falls in that category. Especially for Maharashtra which has been struggling to find brand ambassadors for its tourism efforts which, of course, is not much to write home about. When a letter was dispatched to Sachin Tendulkar, he did not even respond. When Madhuri Dixit was approached, she, the grievance runs, acted pricey.

At fault was the presumption that the duo thus approached would have come cheap simply because they are Maharashtrians and owed it to the state to chip in or come cheap. Such participation can be voluntary, an icon can waive a fee or give a deep discount but to assume it as a given is stupid. And now that the Big B has shown his willingness to take up the cause of road safety, a politician steps in and raises a stink.

His association with the Gujarat commercials seems to have irked a Congress politician, a legislator from Maharashtra, Charan Singh Sapra. He has gone public with the view that the government should look for some other celebrity. He also cites another reason: Bachchan is known for his closeness to the Samajwadi Party. Therefore a person with connections won't do. It apparently militates against his perception of ideology.

This is as silly as it can be. Even if one were to credit Sapra with the correctness of this logic, does it mean that when you endorse an apolitical product, you become the product itself or the product washes itself on you? Big B was not endorsing Modi, was he? Big B was not endorsing the BJP, was he? And Jaya Bachchan is a SP MP but its leader rubs shoulders at dinner with Sapra's leaders, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi at the UPA-II third anniversary dinner.

By the same argument he has proffered, having dinner with Mulayam Singh Yadav, and allowing his daughter-in-law to get Congress support in an election in UP, should force Sapra to step back from the Congress itself which he would not do. Then his concerns with regard to Amitabh Bachchan were merely to raise and hog a headline. How convoluted politics can be at the petty level, quite mindless and meddlesome!

If that association were so reprehensible, then all things Gujarat should be appropriately spurned. Don't hold scrip in companies which are located in that state -- many have their registered offices there. Don't do business with companies that do business with that state -- many have their major operations there like making fertilisers and cars, to name a few. In other words, boycott it which would strengthen the very ideologue you disdain.

That you wouldn't want to do for Maharashtra could be held accountable for many a distasteful thing -- poverty, farmers' suicides, foeticides, communal riots, and slums -- and kicked out of the Union of states of which it is, like Gujarat is, a member. The politicians of the ilk of Sapra should realise that they should fight ideology politically than making Big B a punching bag. There is no need to bring him into the crossfire; especially since he is keen on keeping his commitment to the cause.

What logic explains the willingness to accept the spurning by other stars, and then send another who has the power to convince people on good road safety practices out of reckoning using phoney contentions on specious understanding of ideology?

 Let me remind them of what had happened in the period between 1995 and 1999 when the Shiv Sena, in alliance with BJP, was in power in Maharashtra. The Congressmen at that time had decided not even to exchange courtesies with the SS-BJP leaders, or even ask for some work be done in the constituencies of the secular politicians. As a consequence, the constituencies suffered. Not the politicians. 

This is why when Pune had problems in devising its bus-based rapid transit system, and there was a suggestion to go study Ahmedabad's RTS, it was spurned because a communal state had done a good job. When Gujarat managed to improve power distribution in the rural areas by optimal management methods, it too was ignored. By bringing ideology, good lessons have been ignored. Now, road safety can take a toss, for all the politicians care. Ideology matters.

Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator on public affairs, taking the commoners' view seriously.

Mahesh Vijapurkar