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Sreedharan's keenness to be part of saffron agenda and why celebrities seek limelight

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

Delhi Metro's chief 'architect' E Sreedharan has decided to join BJP in Kerala and has said that he is 'ready' to accept the chief ministerial post if it comes to him. He said, he is determined to bring people to BJP and that it is the only party that India needs at the moment. Sreedharan has also given his 'expert opinion' on farmers’ issues and love jihad, supporting the official BJP line.
As Kerala will go to state elections within the next couple of months and BJP is in desperate need to get some 'celebrity', Sreedharan has come handy, and, not without reason, 'political commentators' and 'experts' are citing Sreedharan on every TV channel.
Sreedharan even said that he does not see any 'intolerance' in the country, and that some people are “defaming” Prime minister Narendra Modi. Many 'liberals' are shocked while the Hindutva sympathisers are elated at Sreedharan's keenness to be part of the saffron agenda. He has already started speaking their language and is trying to look 'younger' in order to take the lead.
There is nothing unusual in Sreedharan's approach. We have seen celebrities in India who mostly join hands with the powers-that-be. They are pampered as long as they are in service. But after retirement it becomes difficult for them to manage without those luxuries. I do not say everyone is like that, but many look for messages by those in power.
A few days back, we saw how Sachin Tendulkar and other Bollywood stars tweeted in support of India's 'sovereignty', as if it has been questioned by the protesting farmers. None of these celebrities have ever spoken on violence against women, atrocities on Dalits and other marginalised sections. Leave aside so-called 'political issues', they don’t even defend their own fellow cricketer Wasim Jaffar, who is being harassed, even accused of communalism. Not only Tendlukar, even the otherwise loud Saurav Ganguly is mute.
In the last two decades, celebrities have been roped in by various political parties at the cost of their loyal workers and those who have been dedicating their time fully for the cause of the people. Most of the 'celebrities' are known to have represented the values of the caste supremacists and will not utter a single word on caste discrimination and untouchability. However, it is these celebrities who jump on issues of racism in the western world and pretend to be the 'victims' of racial prejudices.
The trend was started by Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 when he brought in film stars, cricketers and 'popular figures' into 'politics'. We all were in awe with that. Most of them failed miserably as they were not made to speak to the people. They won only because of their popularity in their films – this is true of all ranging from Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, Sunny Deol, Hema Malini, Kiron Kher, Jaya Prada Jaya Bachchan to Bhojpuri cinema starts.
Wasim Jaffar
Coming to Sreedharan, for the last so many years after his retirement, one never heard of him speak on any of the issues concerning the nation. One can understand that while on duty he could not speak up. But one is surprised the way he is speaking now on various 'political issues' and is even 'ready' to become the chief minister of Kerala!
They don’t defend their own fellow cricketer Wasim Jaffar. Not only Tendlukar, even otherwise loud Saurav Ganguly is mute
Sreedharan might be a great engineer or manager, but it is important to see which side is he moving, especially his political track record. He is commenting on farmers' protests, is justifying the laws against love jihad, going so far as to say that it is a conspiracy against Hindus. He says there is no intolerance in the country, which reflects his understanding of things around.
Indians are habituated with brands, whether political or any other. People compete on Facebook to support this or that brand instead of debating on issues. Few understand that these brands wouldn’t succeed. They are popular for their films or songs or for other works. Sreedharan could have done a lot of work without power. There are so many of us who can do work without being in limelight. Why do they need power and publicity all the time?
One hopes people of Kerala will not fall into this 'brand trap'. They should vote for politicians and political parties which speak on issues, social justice, socialism, secularism and democracy. It is time one develops a collective approach and rejects the culture of brands, as it is a sure recipe to disaster. When power revolves around one individual, who is made as a macho man, a kind of Shaktiman or super hero like Spiderman, democracy and its institutions will become submissive.
For a strong democracy, one needs stop hero worshipping, as Baba Saheb Ambedkar said long time back. Strengthening institutions and protecting their autonomy is the need of the hour. Not every strong individual is an Ambedkar or a Nehru, who respected individual liberty and democrats to the core of their heart.
Indeed, there is a need to shun brands, take a pledge not to make anybody a brand. There is a need to build collective leadership, developing alliances, look at the work done by an individual in public life and his or her political philosophy. One needs to be mature enough to understand the dangers of brands to our democracy. One hopes that Kerala will provide a way out to the rest of India to strengthen secular democracy.
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*Human rights defender

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