Brand politics inTelangana
Most of the ‘mainstream newspapers’ and electronic media ran their editorials and debates rigorously, but unfortunately they either focussed on her marital status or her incredible sporting career.
Now that emotional outrage for and against appointment of Sania Mirza as the Brand Ambassador of Telangana subsided, let us relook at the issue again not from ‘Pakistani Bahu’ or ‘inspirational tennis player’ argument but from purely the perspective of Telangana movement and ‘re-born’ new state.
Most of the ‘mainstream newspapers’ and electronic media ran their editorials and debates rigorously, but unfortunately they either focussed on her marital status or her incredible sporting career. It seems that nobody is bothered about the real issue why her appointment attracted immense criticism from the masses of Telangana, not necessarily from the Hindu Right.
Let us first deliberate on the fundamental question: Why do we need a brand ambassador for Telangana? It is fair to understand the intentions of the new government in appointing a new “young” ambassador to inspire the youth from Telangana to make a new beginning under the new leadership in a new state. Many politicians from Congress, TRS and other “national parties” passionately argued that when we can have Amitabh Bachchan as brand Ambassador to Gujarat, why we can’t have Sania Mirza for Telangana.
However, this argument is erroneous precisely because of its unique historical and cultural context. Gujarat is not a new state and the state needs merely a celebrity who can publicise and attract tourists to the state whereas Telangana is a new state which needs an inspirational figure who has stood by the Telangana movement and supported Telangana cause nationally or internationally in some way or the other.
The issue of representation is quite important in this context since the entire Telangana movement revolved around representation, culture, language and identity.
The new government of Telangana raked up the very issue of identity by deciding on a formula whereby they can determine who is a true ‘Telanganite.’ They have introduced a new fee reimbursement scheme called ‘Financial Assistance to Students from Telangana’ (FAST), which is applicable to only those whose parents had migrated and settled or lived in Telangana prior to 1956. Thus, the new Telangana government makes a key policy decision on who is “true Hyderabadi or Telanganite” by introducing a cut-off date as 1956 to access new government schemes and benefits. These initiatives are primarily aimed at denying various government schemes to the so-called settlers in Telangana. In this context, one should look at the Sania Mirza controversy whether it is fair to question her credentials as Ambassador of the new state. Sania Mirza is no doubt an internationally renowned player who brought glory to this nation in tennis. But her achievements and her mere presence in Hyderabad cannot (should not) be the only criterion for selecting her. She has never stood or partially supported the Telangana cause.
We have several players with similar profile. There is no rationale behind selecting only Sania as the Brand Ambassador of the new state ignoring stalwarts like Mohd Azaharuddin, Olympian Mukesh Kumar, V V S Laxman, Saina Nehwal and Gagan Narang, Shankar (athlete) and many more legends from Telangana. The decision certainly raises the eyebrows and is bound to attract criticism. BJP’s criticism of Sania diverted the meaningful debate and ended up in another secular versus communal debate among intelligentsia.
New Telangana state needs a personality who can inspire and connect to the disillusioned Telangana youth to mark a new beginning in a new state. Instead of Sania Mirza, the state could have chosen 13-year-old Purna, Telangana Dalit girl from Social Welfare School who became the youngest teen to climb the Mount Everest. His mentor R S Praveen Kumar, an IPS officer who is also training many young backward caste students to excel in their lives, could also have been an ideal choice for symbolic positions like State ambassador.
Lastly, this issue has also exposed the fallacies of our contemporary intellectual deliberations. BJP, which is in power, jumps in a hurry and responds to silly and ridiculous issues leaving the debate midway once it is taken over by the liberals. Liberals, on the other hand, just wait for the BJP and its allies to make a reckless, irresponsible move and criticise them blindly.