Cong Attacked Bachchan where he Enjoys Natural Defence

I’m amazed at this, things as trivial as Hindi film actor Amitabh Bachchan’s attending a Maharashtra government function, or, his deciding to become brand ambassador for Gujarat should so much bother congressmen. Actually, reasons behind the controversy, ended up now after congress party declared a unilateral truce fearing a boomerang, were infight in Maharashtra Congress and a race for demonstration of allegiance to Gandhi family, with which the Bachchans have an uneasy equation; here, I want to focus on Amitabh’s acceptance of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s offer.

Well, Amitabh may not be a man of strong integrity and uprightness but Congressmen chose to attack him – to please Gandhis – where he enjoys natural defence.

The points Congressmen made to find Bachchan guilty of endorsing Modi and his alleged role in 2002 riots are more ridiculous than they are flawed. Out of their enthusiasm, they not just expect us forget that there’s lot more to Gujarat than a mere individual Modi and that many industrialists have keenly opted for the state for investment, but substantiate their criticism of the actor on premises that investing is one thing and becoming brand ambassador another and that the day Bachchan flays Modi for 2002 riots, he will cease to be Gujarat ambassador.

Congressmen deliberately tried to confuse brand Gujarat tourism with brand Narendra Modi and with brand a political party in the case.  Which brand a model or an actor or a sportsman – a national icon like Bachchan – ought to promote anyway? What do ethics have to say about it, for that matter? Quite simply, they lay down that a model should promote a brand he genuinely believes in. To bring home the point, a model should promote, say, a shampoo only if he truly believes in its quality. A model endorsing a brand has never been mistaken to endorse other actions and opinions of owner of the brand. These two are very different things, no matter owner of the brand is so popular as Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, or Vijay Mallya, or he is a less known name. In principle thus, by accepting Modi’s offer Bachchan only endorsed brand Gujarat tourism and not brand Modi or brand a political party.

That people blindly believes in a word a national icon like Bachchan says no longer holds true as a rule of thumb. Here, the fact that actors and models don’t strictly follow ethics these days and choose to promote brand they might not believe substantiates this point and further confirms why Congress was in wrong.

It’s run-out-of-the-mill event now that a model endorsing a particular brand of cold drink may be found endorsing its competitor once their contract comes to a close with the first and the second offers them a better deal. Against ethics though, it has become acceptable, both among brand owners and brand promoters, and is gradually establishing that models endorse something not because they believe in it but because they treat it as their job to promote a brand. Even Amitabh has been brand ambassador for Uttar Pradesh earlier, and maybe, might accept to be a brand ambassador of some other state in future.

How could anyone justify singling out of Bachchan as long as he doesn’t take whole of this in account and comes to a clear stand: either to oppose all celebrities, including national icons, who doesn’t follow ethics and switches brands and joins brand owners with records of alleged wrongdoings, or not to oppose anyone and simply leave it to people to judge.

Their second point that Amitabh’s any kind of association with Gujarat is Modi’s endorsement, for if the actor flays the chief minister for 2002 riots he will not continue to be ambassador is equally silly. Bachchan relinquished politics long ago and has certainly not shown any yearning to return to it in the recent past (Well, congress party’s continued attack on him encouraged BJP to consider Jaya Bachchan for Rajya Sabha nomination). Despite his wife being connected with politics and he himself being a close friend of expelled SP leader Amar Singh, Amitabh has maintained a distance from politics, never making a political statement, continuing to be what he actually is – an actor. So why should he be forced to take a political stand in Modi case? By any rate, it’s not an actor’s job to comment on 2002 riots whatever his opinion is, if, of course, he has any.

The other way of looking at the controversy created by the Congress, that is, it targeted Bachchan to discourage him from aligning politically with Modi or the BJP in the event of SP not repeating Jaya in the Rajya Sabha, shows party’s fears more that it does opportunism of the Bachchans, for family has millions of fans, a good number of whom could be pro-Congress and could mobilize to the BJP. The argument is weak given the fact that there was hardly any BJP-Bachchan combination when the controversy began, but as it progressed, BJP stole the opportunity by backing Amitabh and thus forcing Congress to say ‘no’ to it.

Anyway, what if Amitabh does want to venture into politics, or to help his wife into politics and for so doing chose to be an ambassador of the BJP-ruled Gujarat? This, too, cannot justify Congressmen’s criticism of him. There’re scores of actors and actresses who have joined politics and shown a particular political leaning, many of whom have been exceptional success in films during their era and have huge fan-following. Among other parties, several have joined both the Congress and the BJP. As there’s perhaps no political party today with absolutely clean record, they finish up joining a party which has one or the other blemish on its forehead, for instance emergency and 1984-Sikh riots in the case of Congress, Babri mosque demolition and Gujarat riots in the case of the BJP and so on.

When someone, let alone an actor, joins a political party, he is believed to have embraced its ideology and, by extension, endorsed its all such blunders for which it never apologized. This holds true for all the new entrants and all the parties. Can an entrant to a party, who is a popular personality, be singled out and attacked on this count? No. For it practically serves no purpose. People join the party impressed with the merit it currently seems to have and not to endorse blots on its robes.

Another reason to argue against alignment with Modi has been adoption of a rightly rejected medieval practice of social ‘boycott’ to force him to feel guilty of 2002 riots. In a democracy, the use of social boycott is retrograde and unacceptable just like ‘Khap’ panchayats. It’s only investigating agencies and the court which have to act on 2002 riots and it’s public in case former fail to deliver due to any reason, which has final power of punishing a culprit by voting him out.

Bachchan’s criticism is morally wrong until he expressly endorses individual Modi and Modi is formally found guilty of his involvement in 2002 riots.

Saurabh Dharmesh

[Image courtesy:]