fter their campaign to taint and embarrass the larger-than-life Amitabh Bachchan collapsed, the Congress finessed the matter, saying, “Who has asked Congress leaders not to share a dais with Bachchan?”
The point is, of course, no one had to set a party line in the Congress, with an internal culture where tacit signal is everything, and may lead to absurd situations like this one. There has been enough sniping between the Bachchans and some in the Congress now for the party rank and file to assume that Bachchan is persona non grata. He was invited, he showed up at the inauguration of the second phase of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, who was attacked for his chumminess with the actor, distanced himself double quick. Other Congress politicians leapt in, slamming Bachchan and milking the chance to display some botched idea of loyalty. Couching the issue terms he thought more acceptable, AICC media department chairman Janardan Dwivedi even justified the “moral right” to take on Bachchan, given his status as Gujarat’s brand ambassador. They claimed that Bachchan had erred in attaching himself to a state whose chief minister’s “name is associated with the most reprehensible massacre there.” Anyone so much as seen with that arch-untouchable, these Congressmen seem to contend, is open to vilification and shaming.
Of course, there are many political strands to this Bachchan tangle — rivalries within the Maharashtra Congress, the desire to please the high command, an unimaginative blow at Narendra Modi, perhaps even some subplot involving Amar Singh’s potential closeness to the Congress, as he has speculated. Whatever the reasons, the episode hardly dented Bachchan’s aura, if that was the aim. Instead, it revealed again an unacceptable strain of reflexive intolerance in the Congress — the instinct to taint and shame perceived opponents instead of having a grown-up exchange. The party would do well to put away such childishness and learn to
engage with its adversaries.