It’s sometimes in our genes - we Indians like leaders, cricketers and movie stars who fool us again and again.
Witness the current COVID-19 catastrophe as India becomes the only country in the world with the highest number of COVID-19 infections - 316000 cases in a day. You would reckon that all members of Parliament would be providing succour and tangible help to their constituents as the primitive health care systems capsizes to a historical low.
More on India's second COVID-19 wave
- Second Covid wave: A tragedy is unfolding in India
- COVID-19 second wave: India is in the middle of a major health emergency
- India COVID-19 second wave: Someday we will heal, today we are broken
- The second wave: How the COVID-19 apocalypse unfolded in India
- COVID-19 second wave: An unimaginable tragedy confronts India
Indian Twitter has provided more help than the Indian authorities in the COVID-19 catastrophe. Let that sink in and then let me give you some examples of “stars” who have turned tail at the crisis fearing infection and those who simply prefer to rake in big bucks while doing commentary for Indian Premier League (IPL).
Take Gautam Gambhir, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament from East Delhi. He is safely swaddled up in a bio bubble while his constituents run from pillar to post. Worse Gambhir comes online daily to troll the hapless Delhi government beleaguered and crippled with a burgeoning oxygen crisis.
You would think that IPL would release Gambhir for his commenting duties if he put in a request. The all powerful Jai Shah, secretary of the BCCI and son of the most powerful man in India, Amit Shah, could make it happen but, apparently Gambhir has not even bothered to ask.
Worse he put out a tweet saying “people of East Delhi can get “Fabiflu” from MP office ..” So not only is the MP missing in action he also seems to be a hoarder of an essential medicine used to treat COVID-19 which has vanished from the market. How Gambhir is holding stock of an essential medicine is a question no one will ask.
This seems to be the pattern in the BJP. A 22 year Tanmay Fadnavis, nephew of Devendra Fadnavis, former CM of Maharashtra broke the queue for the COVID-19 jab (when it was only allowed for Indians over the age of 45). Fadnavis got both his vaccine shots and incredibly put out pictures on social media, since deleted.
Gambhir had earlier been accused of sending a body double to campaign when he couldn’t take the cruel May heat in Delhi. Gambhir defeated Aatishi Marlena of the AAP who has done significant work in Delhi.
Fadnavis of course is the once and future CM of Maharashtra as he conducts “Operation Lotus” in the worst medical crisis that has hit his state to topple the Uddhav Thackeray led government.
Bollywood missing in action
Take the case of Sunny Deol ex-Bollywood hero and the BJP’s member of parliament from Gurdaspur. Not even a cheep or a tweet has been heard from him during the farmers agitation against the Modi government’s three farm Acts and now when people are dying with the total collapse of the health system.
Actor Dharmendra, Sunny’s father, resigned from Bikaner constituency after failing to either visit his constituency or the parliament. Dharmendra while campaigning for his son had made dramatic speeches that he would not forgive Sunny Deol if he let Gurdaspur down. As residents of Gurdaspur desperately seek help, both father and son have long since vanished.
Hema Malini, who tweets at @dreamgirlhema and who is the second wife of Dharmendra, represents Mathura as a BJP MP. Malini has not been heard of since the outbreak of COVID-19 either in the parliament or in her constituency as Mathura collapses.
Clearly voting for this extended family has not been good for the voters yet star candidates keep getting voted to office and then run away from their responsibilities.
Sachin Tendulkar, who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, barely had an attendance record of two percent, forget raising any issues. Yet he dutifully tweets in support of the Modi government from the pulpit. Gambhir, with his lack of concern, is only following in the footsteps of Tendulkar.
Hollywood actors seem to possess a social conscience and a spine unlike our lot. They take serious advocacy stands. Ronald Reagan, an actor, even became a successful Republican President and you can count on actors like the legendary Meryl Streep to take stands in public good. George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie all actors have taken principled public stands.
Bollywood however, with some honourable exceptions -- like writer Javed Akhtar and actor Shabana Azmi -- led by the superstar of the millennium, Amitabh Bachchan, always takes a pro-government stand. Bachchan first lent his famous baritone and credibility to then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and is now the brand ambassador of a host of marquee public campaigns of the BJP government like the Swach Bharat Abhiyan.
No connect with reality
Forget standing with the common man as COVID-19 cuts a swathe, resulting in historic death toll, actors and celebrities who have a social media following in millions are not even bothering to amplify desperate voices seeking hospital beds, drugs and oxygen for their loved ones.
Not one single cricketer or actor has even bothered to retweet a request. We see beautiful curated pictures of them going to the Maldives for a holiday and then pictures of the obligatory six pack and the fit bikini look but, that’s it.
Sonu Sood is a rare actor with a social conscience who been helping people in distress but, actors like Ahshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, who always stand by the BJP government, are mum on the COVID-19 catastrophe. The bubble they live in is impervious to the tragedy unfolding in India.
The three superstar Khans - Sharukh, Aamir and Salman have been trolled in to dead silence by India's ruling party. An actor like Priyanka Chopra tweets on #blacklivesmatter and I totally agree that they do but I want to ask the cricketers and actors: Don’t Indian lives matter to you?