BV Rao | April 29, 2010
Even if you are just an occasional TV-watcher, you wouldn't have missed the series of Surf Excel ads with the catchline: Agar daag se kuch achcha hota hai, toh daag achche hain (which roughly translates to "if you stain your clothes trying to help somebody, then you better stain your clothes"). If you have not seen it yet, click on the video above.
Now, you might well wonder, why am I are bringing up the ad in the context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Just what is the connection?
Here's the connection: For a man who started out as the Mr Squeaky Clean of Indian politics, Manmohan of late seems to be have bought deeply into Surf Excel's "daag achche hain" philosophy.
The general, and overwhelming, perception still is that Manmohan is not like the rest of them. He is still seen as the decent academic who strayed into politics but has stayed and operated well above the level of the political grime around him. Manmohan might not be crawling around in the muck as eagerly as the kid does in the ad above, but he sure is willingly staining his sherwani.
Cutting a deal with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati that involves deliberately delaying the disproportionate assets case against her might be a great political coup, as the newspapers and channels are untiringly proclaiming, but it is an act of treachery with the honest citizen of this country. It's quite possible that Manmohan may have tripped or the party may have pushed him into the political slush, but honest, clean, transparent, learned, incorruptible and intellectual Prime Ministers don't trip at every twist and political turn. Recall how Manmohan's CBI let off Quattrocchi in the Bofors case, delayed the corruption cases against Mulayam Singh to get him to bail out his government in July 2008, refused permission (through the governor) to prosecute Mayawati in 2007 and refused to appeal against a CBI court's very questionable acquittal of Lalu Prasad. As I write this, the full details of the dirty deal he may have struck with Shibu Soren are yet to unfold. And don't forget, it was during the vote of confidence in his government that, for the first time in the history of parliament, Rs 3 crore bribe money was displayed in the House when price tags were obviously fixed for MPs.
The nation's collective conscience is so numbed by the repeated rape of the public trust by all politicians and all political parties, that medals are now being pinned on Manmohan's lapel for morphing into a shrewd politician. Obviously Manmohan now believes that if staining his clothes can save his government, then the stains are good (Surf would proclaim: "Agar daag lagne se sarkar bachti hai, toh daag achche hain").
It's Manmohan's choice if he wants to morph from a clean prime minister into a shrewd politician. But by stepping into the political cesspool he is losing his claim to political piety. His clothes are showing the stains. And no matter how good Surf Excel is, it still can't wash all stains.
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