PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: On the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi‘s 20th death anniversary today, different ministries of the Congress-led UPA government are falling over each other to demonstrate that the “collective flame of political sycophancy” continues to burn brightly and shamelessly.
While Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi and their son Rahul Gandhi talk of “austerity” when it suits them, nearly a dozen Union ministries and a couple of State governments have released tens of ads through the government-controlled Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) to remind Indians that such a man as he walked this earth.
In eleven English news and business papers published out of New Delhi, there were 65 advertisements amounting to 38¼ pages, glorifying The Great Leader, without whom India wouldn’t have entered the 21st century.
Hindustan Times: 24-page issue; 9 RG ads amounting to 5¼ broadsheet pages
The Times of India: 32-page issue; 10 ads amounting to 6 broadsheet pages
Indian Express: 28-page issue; 10 ads amounting to 5 broadsheet pages
Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 7 compact pages
The Hindu: 22-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 3½ broadsheet pages
The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3½ broadsheet pages
The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 4 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages
The Economic Times: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages
Business Standard: 14-page issue; 4 ads amouning to 1¾ broadsheet pages
Financial Express: 24-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages
Mint (Berliner): 12-page issue; 1 ad amounting to one compact page
Among the departments and ministries seeking to remind the nation of Rajiv Gandhi’s magical powers are the department of information and publicity; the ministries of commerce and industry, tourism, human resource development, social justice & empowerment, power, micro small and medium industries, information and broadcasting, steel; the state governments of Haryana and Rajasthan; and Rajiv Gandhi centre for biotechnology.
Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:
“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”
On his birthday in August last year, The Telegraph reported that “Union ministries released more ads on Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday today than on the anniversaries of the rest of India’s Prime Ministers put together in the past one year, Press Information Bureau sources said.”
For the record, The Telegraph received four ads amounting to 2½ pages this year.