Till the mid-1980s India had touts for everything. Touts for ration-cards, touts for railway tickets, touts for passports, touts for govt jobs and even touts to quash police cases. Name anything connected to the govt and you had touts. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “so what’s new?” I agree, we still have touts for a lot of things and in some cases like top Railway jobs their charges run into crores. Well, till the mid-1980s we also had crusaders and that’s the difference. Problem with the post office? Run to her! Problem with the police not registering FIRs? Run to her! Problem with the fair-price shop? Run to her! Problem with adulterated petrol? Run to her! In short, from domestic issues to legal issues everyone ran to her. Who was she? She was the late Priya Tendulkar who played the crusading ‘Rajani’ almost 3 decades ago. Everyone loved watching her taking up the fight for the underdog and winning. And then… Rajiv Gandhi “brought computers to India”. You would have thought this magic machine and later the internet would solve everything. It appears not. Priya is back!
The Congress which started with the grand Bharat Nirman ads with the jingle “Ho raha Bharat Nirman” found that people aren’t buying that crap. Other than enriching TV channels and news media with public money it seems to have achieved nothing for them. On the contrary it has invited more ridicule than appreciation or acceptance. The underlying principle of every Congress campaign seems to be that the common man and woman are actually “Common Bimbos” who can’t think or do anything for themselves. So they need that “Priya” crusader to tell you everything. Your “rights” to everything under the sun. Take a look at these two pics from current video ads:
In the top pic Priya Madam is pulling up the grocer to give the right quantity of grains at right price to a “common bimbo”. So, education on the Food Security Bill! This is after half a century of PDS, ration-cards and so called fair-price shops. What would we do without Priya Madam, no? In the next pic is an educated guy who wants to buy a house and the builder has confused him with the pricing, FSI and all that. So in walks Priya Madam and the scared builder warmly welcomes her and immediately sets things right. That’s the real estate regulatory bill, which according to some reports is yet to be passed in parliament. (Though that is not material to this post). On September 17 HeadlinesToday was running reports on how the FSB has already created a major racket in Delhi with touts charging 200 for every application or registration. On the other hand it seems the Delhi govt had also underestimated the grain-requirement so that is another problem. Looks like Priya Madam now has more touts to deal with. Goodluck! Here’s what I wrote sometime back in “An idiot’s guide to Bharat Nirman”:
“The Congress is a master at drawing this picture. In other words they are quite clear who their voter is. This is a good thing for any political party. They are even better, they ensure their customer stays the way he has always been; a perfect village bumpkin or a village idiot. Keep them permanently in low education levels and low development of their villages so that they marvel at the wonders of the world the Congress creates. This village bumpkin explains how he saw magic stairs that go up and down. He describes how this that magic thing goes “Trrrrrrr” above ground and “Trrrrrrr” underground and how it has magic doors that open and close. Whoa! What could that possibly be?”
That “Trrrrrr”, “magic stairs” and “magic doors” was about the Delhi metro which our village bumpkins marvel at. You see, “Delhi me metro kaun laaya”? And to the poor and suffering in our villages Rahul Gandhi says “only your dreams can take India forward” (Baran, Rajasthan September 17). I think for that to succeed, we must first arrest and jail Christopher Nolan. He’s the guy who creates characters who steal our dreams (Inception). But while the Congress and their ad agencies still name the new series of ads ‘Bharat Nirman’ one doesn’t hear that jingle anymore. In fact, apart from the Priya Madam ads there are others that don’t even ring a bell with the “common bimbo”. I don’t even see why the “common bimbo” needs education on something called NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation). This series of ads is being released with TV actors in it. Take a look at this “sample”:
This NSSO has been around forever, since India became a Republic. What they do is basically collect statistics from all social and economic sectors and develop proper models for the surveys. They also collect data from business and service units. So the characters in the ads go to individual homes to ask questions to families. What’s the purpose? One that I heard was they wanted to understand the purchasing price or expenses on Tomatoes. Now you know how fast we are heading to be a super-power. The Congress wants to use the NSSO to understand your tomato consumption. Count a blessing! That is one series. There are other govt organisations that are also advertising which have no connection with people at large. Although I am not sure, I think one series was also by Mazagon Dock Limited. I suppose that is just in case you prefer “shipping” your letters instead of speed-post or those regular couriers. Bravo! And who does all this enrich? Of course, you won’t find anyone from TOI Group, NDTV or CNN-IBN etc. doing this analysis. They too believe in the concept of “common bimbos”.
In all of this there is something that takes the cake. The man who “brought computers to India” is also the guy who nearly 3 decades ago said “of every 100 that the govt spends only 15 reaches the poor” or something like that. You guessed right! Even back then 85 used to go the touts. Okay, when nothing else works the Congress falls back on its most potent weapon: Gandhi. So under the Direct Benefit Transfer they recall those golden words of Rajiv Gandhi of 15/100 (which RahulG repeats even today) and transform that into an ad. Take a look (1.00 min):
I am simply stunned that with all the resources at their disposal and all the external brains those resources can buy the Congress could commit such an enormous blunder. It is monumental and none from the media would point out because they were busy making bills and collecting payments. The Congress doesn’t realise that the woman in the ad who looks like late-30s when she’s listening to RajivG turns into something like mid-80s by the time she supposedly realises her pension directly. And even for that she again needs Priya Madam, the crusader. Amazing that the creators didn’t realise it’s a faux pas. That the Congress usually takes over 30 years to deliver on a commitment. And that Garibi Hatao thing hasn’t been delivered despite 42 years. And that old woman getting the payment directly into her bank is not such a big miracle even. That’s how you goof up when you think Gandhi, Gandhi and only Gandhi. The same happened with the “Ho raha Bharat Nirman” ads. But in the BN case the party realised the fundamental flaw. We’ll get to it.
Alright, let’s be nice, let’s say even if all these doles to the media educated a few million that wouldn’t be a bad thing. What does amaze me is the ads are like this guy who makes tall claims and then realises there’s a small problem. So he tells his lenders “Sunday ko naha dho ke aana” (Video 1.36 mins):
At least the loveable Baburao Apte has every intention of paying off his debts and has no intentions of cheating. He has just postponed it by 3 days. What about Bharat Nirman? You see, our guys realised the fake claims might boomerang. So in the latest series still known as the BN ads the line has changed from “Ho raha Bharat nirman” to “Meelon humme jaana hai”. So if you got this far, walk another mile. And then some more miles. Call me when you get there. Bharat Nirman just got postponed.