These last few days, India celebrated and mourned the end of Sachin Tendulkar’s stupendous career, fostered by hard work, sweat and grit.
Apart from the well deserved Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, Sachin’s grand career was topped off by a farewell speech that made more Indians weep than any family drama or Bollywood love story could. Saurav Ganguly is right when he says that Sachin is cut out for much more than just a future in the commentary box.
Given such context, it is an irony that Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, two of the top political leaders of our country, hope to further their ambitions by backing projects that are towering inanities. Modi is building the tallest statue in Gujarat, while political rival Nitish Kumar is constructing the largest temple in Bihar, clearly hoping for monumental electoral dividends in the process. Both are obviously deploying tax payers’ money.
Post his break-up with the BJP, Nitish Kumar, it does seem, feels his political clout is dwindling in Bihar, given the large turnouts at Modi rallies and a possible sympathy vote for Lalu. Jokes side, a politician in jail can sometimes turn into a more potent political force than 10 roaming about free.
Modi believes eulogizing the decisive and strong Sardar Patel adds to his own image as a leader who can set right India’s problems, unlike a “weak’’ Manmohan. Several individuals from our rank-obsessed middle classes and social media nationalists, the main supporters of Modi that usually don’t go out and vote unless it happens online, will surely gloat that India is going to be first in the supposed biggest temple and statue global rat race that exists only in our minds.
Such notional achievements also help the middle classes ignore and gloss over the fact that we are bottom level in far too many indices that matter — corruption levels, poverty, health, corruption, female infanticide, ease of doing business etc.
The Sardar Patel statue has been aptly termed as “the statue of unity”, (to remind us that it will be higher than the statue of Liberty in America, where Modi cannot visit due to visa issues).
I am sure there will be millions of likes (maybe another world record) should there be a Facebook page “World’s tallest statue in India visible from Mars to the naked eye.’’ Soon, we may have Amitabh Bachchan promoting Gujarat tourism with Sardar Patel dominating the background. We could also witness masked Shahrukh Khan or Aamir Khan or Hrithik Roshan perch somewhere on the massive effigy, given many super hero sequels likely to be made following the success of Krrish-3.
But, truth be told, the latest Modi-Nitish projects make a mockery of a nation that deep down finds real meaning in Sachin’s greatness. The efforts by Modi and Nitish will mean nothing to a whole lot of people.
The poor man without woolens in these winter months will feel no warmth viewing the grand structure of the great Sardar Patel. Prayers can offer solace to the soul, not make homes, hospitals and schools.
Honestly, I would have been happier if Modi and Nitish intended to build the largest shelters in the world to protect homeless and poor against the winter months. Even a tallest building offering ample commercial space makes some sense. It is good for business, tourism and employment for any Indian city to be spoken in the same league as Dubai, New York or Kuala Lumpur.
Still, I would say Modi and Nitish are better off than Mayawati who has built statues of her own self all over Uttar Pradesh, or Rahul Gandhi who unfailingly reminds us about his great family connections. Polemics may differ about the roles and contributions of our past leaders Nehru, Indira or Rajiv. That, however, cannot be the basis of voting for Rahul’s party. Can Arjun Tendulkar claim a place in the Indian IX because he is Sachin’s son? He needs to be ball boy first.
Given India’s diversity politicians in the country are known to espouse every strategy, right, wrong, legal or illegal, to win or influence votes. It is already happening with state elections underway and national voting soon. The adrenalin is high, the language crude – lingo includes dehati aurat, chai wala. The politics is personal and personality driven. Politicians are the stars and crowd pullers.
Thus, thankfully, we see a dwindling of Bollywood, TV, cricket stars being paraded around to fill up the galleries. This is unlike in the ’90s or even later when a slew of characters playing monkey Gods, Gods, heroes, heroines, villains and comedians took to the streets on behalf of their chosen leader.
This article first appeared on the Mocking Indian blog