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When I opened the newspaper on Friday 2nd September, I saw a full page ad of Reliance Jio with a big image of the Prime Minister. There has been a storm on social media on whether this was appropriate. I thought “why not add a few puffs to this storm”?

Here are my musings on whether this was wrong.

Yes, it is wrong, may be not from any legal point but it is definitely in terrible form for an incumbent Prime Minister to be seen to be (whether he is or not legally does not matter) endorsing a product of a private company.

It is almost definite that Reliance sought formal permission from Government of India to use the image, the official image may I say, of the Prime Minister in the ad and hence they may not be in contravention of the The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

I am sure that the fans of the Bharatiya Janata Party  and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are saying, amongst other things

  1. Oh come on, he is not endorsing. His picture is being used and the ad is dedicated to his Digital Vision, which is for entire India”.
  2. “Jio is great for India so there is no issue”

To these fans & defenders, I only wish to say this

  • I admire your ability to support NaMo come what may.
  • When half the page is the PMs image & the brand logo, and most of the rest is blank space, think of what it represents.
  • Please do not say “Oh but others are doing it”. To quote Shashi Kapoor’s character in Deewar “Doosron ke paap ginane se tumhare apne paap kam nahin hote; doosron ke jurm sabit karne se yeh sacchai nahin badal sakti ke tum ek mujrim ho” (recounting other’s sins do not wash away your own sins). Whatabouttery is the worst form of argument in a debate.
  • Lastly, think of what your reaction would be to a similar ad coming out with Rahul Gandhi’s image were Rahul the Prime Minister. Please don’t say stuff like “… but Pappu is never going to be a PM.” This is a thought experiment. If you can think, do it.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a PR cock-up and plain stupidity. It just enables those, who are not blind devotees of the PM, to look askance at him. The disciples and devotees don’t need this ad anyway.

In all of this Reliance Jio is probably laughing their way to the bank. No publicity is bad publicity after all.

IMO this is a low point in Indian Politics.

Makarand

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