Many years ago, in the much-lamented Sunday Observer, Anil Dharker had once memorably filled up his entire TV review column by repeating the name Rajiv Gandhi — from start to finish. It was an apt commentary on the way the state-owned Doordarshan used to cover political news. The newspapers today seemed to be similarly filled with various advertisements gloryfying Rajiv Gandhi on his birthday. It was no different on May 21, 2010, Rajiv Gandhi's death anniversary.
On June 5, 2010, Ramachandra Guha writing in the Telegraph, after pointing out that these advertisements were paid for from the public purse, but without the consent or concurrence of the public, had gone on to do a rough calculation:
...the fact that so many ads were taken, and in so many editions of so many newspapers, must mean that the aggregate cost would have been very substantial indeed. 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.
It seems he had not factored in the significance of August 20. From all indications, the advertisements in today's papers are no less — if not more — than those on May 21, so perhaps it is safe to double the above amount, probably in excess of Rs 600 crore. And this is only the cost for print advertising.
Leaving aside how the same Congress party chooses to forget even other Congress worthies on their anniversaries — or that there indeed could be other causes in the country — it is instructive to remind our worthy ministers what Ram Guha pointed out:
Even if the ministers’ admiration for Rajiv Gandhi was genuine, surely a better way of honouring his memory would be to more effectively and honestly implement the programmes that bear his name [of which, if we may remind you, there is no small number], rather than splurge so much cash on today’s newspaper, which is also tomorrow’s raddi?
Read the full column at The Telegraph
Also, while we are at it, couldn't the ads at least be a little more imaginative? Could we also please not be told over and over and over again how Rajiv Gandhi took "India on the first steps into the 21st century"? While the entire country mourned RG's untimely and horrific death which prevented him from seeing the 21st century himself, there is also the small detail that large parts of India are still many decades away from the 20th. Besides, such sycophancy is — really — so 19th century.