Thiruvananthapuram: Like his legions of fans across different parts of India, Sachin Tendulkar had his fair share of fawning fans in Kerala, too.
But that was until the former cricketer tweeted this week about the ongoing farmers’ agitation in the national capital. Enraged by his apparently pro-establishment stand, multitudes of his Keralite fans dumped him – some of them likely to never revere him like they did before.
His tweet may have looked innocuous on the face of it. “India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants. Indians know India and should decide for India. Let’s remain united as a nation. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda,” was what he tweeted.
But politically conscious Keralites found that to be pro-establishment propaganda couched in seemingly neutral words.
Kerala’s political landscape is dominated by the Communists and the Congress with little traction for the Bharatiya Janata Party, and so it came as little surprise that many Keralites flayed Sachin, and offered support to lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who tweeted without naming Sachin, “Spineless, heartless sarkari celebs!”
Many in Kerala even went to the extent of launching personal attacks against the master blaster.
“Sachin is a colossus on the pitch and a dwarf off it”, commented one person on social media.
Another wondered if Amit Shah had bowled him middle stump while a third just said, ‘HMV Sachin’, referring to the famous Indian music brand, His Master’s Voice.
Once wedded to Kerala
The fraying of Keralites’ bonds with the master cricketer is a world apart from their once-solid support for him.
Tendulkar had once been a co-owner of the Kerala Blasters Football Club which plays in the Indian Soccer League. The cricketer also purchased a luxury villa in Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital.
The Kerala government, too, has used his services occasionally in the role of a brand ambassador.
Sachin’s loss, Sharapova’s gain
The dent in image for Sachin in Kerala has also worked in favour of tennis superstar Maria Sharapova.
Some years ago, when Sharapova had expressed ignorance of who Tendulkar was, Keralites had en masse flooded her social media page comments section with acidic comments.
This week many Keralites returned to Sharapova’s social media pages, seeking pardon and assuring her that they had actually misunderstood her.
Smeared with oil
On Saturday, Youth Congressmen in Kochi smeared a cutout of Sachin with black oil and shouted slogans against him.
“Make your stand clear, Sachin. Are you with the poor farmers or with the establishment?” they asked.
Congress MP from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor also directed criticism at Sachin. The MP tweeted, “The damage done to India’s global image by GoI’s obduracy & undemocratic behaviour can’t be remedied by a cricketer’s tweets,” he tweeted.