When Krishna Tirath, the Minister for Women & Child Development, allowed a picture of a retired Pakistan Air Force Officer to find its way in an advertisement released by her Ministry, she joined the select band of goofers in Manmohan Singh’s Government. See here
It was a grave blunder arising from sheer negligence which caused serious embarrassment to the Government. But all she was really trying to do was to remain in the good books of her boss - no not the PM, but Madame Soniaji - by placing her picture in the Ministry’s advertisement. She was hoping that the advertisement, released in the name of the “National Girl Child Day” would catch the eye of Soniaji as she read the morning newspaper and would show that Tirath was doing her job well by placing her picture in the advertisement. The appearance of the Pakistan officer spoiled her party.
When Tirath found herself at the receiving end after the blunder came to light, she defended the advertisement saying: “The message is more important than the image. The photograph is only symbolic.” What is the message that the advertisement displays? Its punch line says “Where would you be if your mother was not allowed to be born?” Where, indeed! It is no use trying to scratch one’s head or any other part of the body trying to find an answer. It is an absurdly idiotic line which is as senseless as the Minister’s assertion. It would be easier to get the answer by posing that very same question to the Minister herself. The advertisement was sent by the Ministry to the DAVP on 22nd and the DAVP, for some strange reason (perhaps to get over authority limits per ad) issued three different release orders the next day for releasing the advertisement in just one newspaper, Times of India, Delhi edition, on the 24th January. As Soniaji lives in Delhi and reads the Times of India, it is natural that the Girl Child issue becomes relevant only for Delhi. The message can thus be conveyed with minimal cost by selecting the right newspaper in Delhi.
It is, therefore, clear that the real “message” was to show Sonia Gandhi in an advertisement related to her Ministry and win the former’s approval. It is also clear that the entire advertisement was created by her staff (read the Minister) with in-house talent and she could not be bothered what pictures and what matter were included as long as the picture of Madame Gandhi was there. It is to her credit that she did not spend millions of rupees in one advertisement for the same purpose, as the others do.
Mad Scramble to Please
Minister after Minister has been trying to scramble to please Sonia Gandhi by grabbing opportunities to release huge advertisements by their Ministries where they could show her picture. Billions of rupees are being spent on such advertisements. No occasion or opportunity is insignificant enough and if there is no such opportunity, one can always be invented for announcing inauguration of some project or the other or publishing some inane messages in the name of this special day or that. Let it be clear. The content in the advertisements, the pictures of other individuals and visuals are all merely used as props, symbols, embellishments and fillers to fool the people and give the advertisements some legitimacy. The objective of these myrmidons is essentially only one: To show the picture of Sonia Gandhi and along with her, of themselves to promote their image.
More Shocking Abuse of Authority
More serious is the action of the Minister who seems to have recently outdone all others in his bid to become a greater sycophant than the others. That Minister is Kamal Nath. As the Commerce Minister earlier, he relentlessly pursued the agenda of the global retailers and multinationals of allowing FDI in Retail the purpose of which is only to allow these multinationals to make their billions in perpetuity from the Indian customer without bringing anything of value to the country. (see a series of articles here). He did manage to allow FDI in single brand retail – with very little justification from the country’s point of view. Much against his liking, he was replaced in the Commerce Ministry by a junior Anand Sharma and he has been given the Road Transport & Highways Ministry where he has not been able to do much.
Now, to get into the good books of Madame, in a shameless show of sycophancy carried out at public expense or by using public assets, he has devised a plan through NHAI to erect 1500 billboards all over the national highways showing pictures of primarily Sonia Gandhi and incidentally Manmohan Singh. This is estimated to cost over Rs. 100 crores. (see here) It is the most audacious and blatant misuse of power so far to promote and perpetuate the image of Sonia Gandhi. The flippant and irresponsible Minister with no sense of shame says: “These billboards are more a way of providing information to public than putting photographs.” If these are a way of providing information, where is the need or justification of putting up any photographs at all, whether of Sonia Gandhi or the Prime Minister or any of Kamal Nath’s friends or relatives for that matter? Going by this totally perverse logic, as long as some information is provided for the public, it would be justified to include pictures or names of any individuals like Sonia Gandhi or anyone that a Minister likes (see imaginary examples above). They are further trying to justify this repugnant action by saying that the money for the same would be spent by private contractors who will also maintain the same. The original proposal was indeed for the NHAI to spend its own money but this devise was worked out after the Planning Commission flatly declined to allow NHAI to do so. What do the private contractors have to gain from spending their own money? Such an explanation itself shows the audacity of the Minister in simply taking the people and everyone in Government for granted.
Gross Plunder of Public Exchequer
Can such gross abuse of authority ever be considered legitimate? No one can use the tax payers’ money or use public assets for promoting a private individual which Sonia Gandhi undoubtedly is because she is not in Government. “Chairperson of UPA” is just a cloak to fool the people into believing that it is an official position. It is even not proper to show the picture of any Minister because the programs are official government programs.
Whether the Madame approves?
Sonia Gandhi apparently does not believe that the people are thoroughly disgusted seeing her picture practically every day staring at them and taking credit for what the government is doing. Whatever is done by the Government is its constitutional responsibility and is supposed to be done by any welfare government. It is not done as she ordains. But as her cohorts obligingly place her picture in the advertisements and now even on other public assets; far from being really concerned she is seemingly enjoying seeing her picture every morning.
In the matter of the highways billboards, for example, a cleverly worded report was let out saying that she “was not keen to have her photographs on highway billboards”. She is supposed to have written a letter to Kamal Nath asking him to drop the photographs. (see here) It is evident that this is a fake exercise only for public consumption. If she was really of that mind, there was no need to write a letter, a phone call would have put a stop to this hare brained idea of the Doon School product. By merely writing the “confidential” letter and making the fact known to the media, she has only tried to make a mock display of morality as her toady tries to make a mockery of morality. Secondly, she has been seeing her picture being used in the advertisements almost daily, assuming she at least glances at the newspapers if only to see her picture. She has not told anyone to stop such wasteful expenditure or at least not to show her picture. While talking of austerity (also see here), she has been simply grabbing all the publicity at the taxpayers’ expense.
She has clearly shown herself to be free-publicity hungry and an inveterate pretender claiming to have high morals. The Ministers are mere spouts; she is the fountainhead as far as this blatant misuse is concerned.
If the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister have any claim to promoting public accountability and if they stand for what is right, let them decide from whom the expenditure on promotion of individuals by such devious means needs to be recovered – whether the Congress Party, their President, the concerned Ministers, the officials or the entire Cabinet on the basis of collective responsibility.
Unfortunately, as freebooters help themselves, these two worthies have chosen to conveniently look the other way. Sardar Manmohan Singh’s justification may be that he is merely following the philosophy of the revered Guru Nanak who had said: “Ram ki Chidiya Ram ka Khet, Khalo Chidiya Bhar Bhar Pet”. In this case, the Chidiya refers to the people’s representatives and the Khet refers to the people’s money.