Amitabh Bachchan isn’t just like any other Bollywood personality. He is an institution. When he became Modi’s brand ambassador for Gujarat despite Modi’s Godhra history, one could understand. Being a brand ambassador for a state or India is non partisan. It is for the good of the state or the country. But when he agrees to host the NDA’s mega shindig he becomes a partisan. He becomes a party to everything that the Modi NDA stands for and has or hasn’t done.
The Congress’ bleating about it from the sidelines because of Amitabh’s name appearing in the Panama Papers is a shameful overreach obliterating the principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty– the most fundamental principle of criminal law. Perhaps after the most recent electoral drubbing it is too busy securing written pledges of allegiance from its elected MLAs in Bengal and other places to remember the basics of the legal system and conventions in India. The dynastic servitude is so ingrained a part of its DNA that its spokespersons often overlook the most important issues in any debate.
If Amitabh Bachchan is simply invited by the Modi Government/BJP to speak on saving the girl child, as his son Abhishek has pled– and he is going to speak and leave– one can’t have much objection. If he hosts the entire celebration of Modi’s two years in office then one would have to believe that he implicitly supports the clear Hindutva agenda being pushed by it and its parent organisation the RSS. There are countless examples of the Modi government trying to remake India in the image of the RSS; in the way it has dealt with violence against minorities, debates at the universities and in India at large and the killings of rationalist scholars, to name just a few. The most damning was the BJP’s promise embedded in its 2014 election manifesto “to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya” because in one fell swoop it erased the separation between religion and state.
In his political outlook, Amitabh comes across as a thoroughly secular man. He once declared “Indian” as his caste on the Indian census questionnaire. That was a thing of joy for many of his fans– me included.
How could the same secular Amitabh host the two year victory celebrations of the NDA/BJP government– the same BJP who in a secular India makes a solemn promise to facilitate building a temple, a religious temple? How on earth can any Indian political party promise to build any temple anywhere in India, particularly on a vehemently disputed site, under a secular constitution? What happened to the separation of church and state, a principle the founders of modern India had so cherished? A true democracy in country such as India, teeming with minorities, can’t long survive the lethal mix of religion with politics, be it a minority or a majority religion.
Moreover it is not as if Amitabh is hosting the Independence Day or the Republic Day bash. That would be completely understandable regardless of the political stripe of the governing party since those are collectively Indian and non-partisan Days.
Amitabh is a great Indian performer. He had a previous sorry brush with partisan politics in getting elected as a Congress MP. It has taken him years to live down what he thought was a blunder. For a performer of his stature hosting the partisan BJP/NDA victory anniversary party would be one blunder too many.