Uncivil act

The Congress leadership has only shown itself in a poor light by creating a controversy about Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan sharing a dais with actor Amitabh Bachchan at a government function in Mumbai. The inauguration of the second phase of the Bandra-Worli sea link was not a party function. Bachchan was officially invited for the function.  Leaders of other parties and important personalities are routinely invited for such functions. This should be so because such events showcase a city’s achievement and cannot be appropriated by any person or political party. But the Congress sought to politicise and personalise the event by making an issue of Bachchan’s participation in it.

The chief minister, in the good old Congress tradition of toeing the high command line, good or bad, suddenly distanced himself from it and claimed that he did not know that Bachchan had been invited for the function. A number of factors worked together to compound the issue: the leadership’s strained relations with Bachchan, sycophancy in the party and rivalries in the Maharashtra Congress and even within the state’s ruling coalition.

For appearances, the Congress claims that its objection was to the role of Bachchan as the brand ambassador of Gujarat. But that does not make Bachchan an untouchable. It is wrong to identify Gujarat with Narendra Modi. Representing Gujarat is not a matter of shame and nobody should be ostracised for that. The real reason for the Congress making an issue of Bachchan’s presence at the event or his association with Gujarat is thought to be the actor’s strained relations with Sonia Gandhi’s family. It is unfortunate that the party president’s personal relations give rise to such untenable positions, which are presented in the garb of principles and high political morality.

Amitabh Bachchan’s politics and personal and social relations have shifted in the past. But the actor has an image above politics and narrow considerations. By trying to paint him saffron and calling him black, the Congress is exposing its streak of intolerance and allowing prejudice to decide its policy. It should behave with more maturity, behoving of a national party with a great tradition. The country’s political life is increasingly losing civility and decorum. It will do a world of good if there is a sense of propriety and respect for others in public discourse.

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