Incredible Intolerance? Debate rages on after Aamir Khan is 'purged' from tourism campaign

Aamir Khan is no longer the brand ambassador of the government's 'Incredible India' campaign.

And the decision has ruffled some feathers.

But, consider this: The government has a contract with an agency. In due course of time, the contract has expired. So what does the government do?

a) Unilaterally, arbitrarily extend the contract with the said agency in violation of its own rules and regulations?
b) Float a tender for a new contract?

Too easy. The answer is option B, right? Wrong.

Incredible Intolerance? Debate rages on after Aamir Khan is purged from tourism campaign

Aamir Khan in a file photo. AFP

According to India's card-carrying "liberal" brigade and the Indian National Congress that has a copyright on secularism, the Centre should have flouted its own rules and continued with Aamir as the brand ambassador for its Incredible India campaign.


As we all know, scratching not only provides relief from an itch but also induces a pleasurable sensation. Scientists who have examined our brain activity tell us that there is an award system associated with scratching. That may explain why our "liberals" find such pleasure in periodically scratching the 'intolerance' carbuncle.

They seemingly have a special 'intolerance sensor' that gets triggered automatically when encountered with a perceived act of intolerance.

But the problem lies in the fact that this extra-sensory organ works only in select cases where our "liberals" think they have a stick with which to beat Narendra Modi and his government. Did the government ask the advertising agency, McCann Worldgroup, to remove Khan before the expiry of his contract? Did the Centre discontinue the agency's service midway through the contract?

Not even the ad agency is saying so.

According to ministry officials, the government didn't even deal directly with Khan. The contract was between the actor and Prasoon Joshi's agency. So where is the question of "dropping him" when he wasn't even hired by the government in the first place?

The Centre, of course, could have handled the issue a lot better instead of appearing to speak in many voices that gave rise to speculation. But it is interesting that a routine, non-controversial, perfectly legit move has suddenly become 'controversial'. It is apparently indicative of the "intolerance wave that is sweeping the country", a perception that is unsupported by data and loosely bandied about in the echo-chambers of Indian "liberal" corridors.

Congress's Randeep Surjewala, chief of the communication department, believes the latest decision to "purge" Khan from Incredible India campaign is a reflection of "continued intolerance" being practiced by the BJP-led government.

His statement is truly incredible.

Not only does it reflect the Congress' casual attitude towards the rulebook, but the statement also seeks to gloss over instances of real intolerance shown by his party when in power.

During the Emergency, Congressman VC Shukla, the then Information and Broadcasting minister, banned Kishore Kumar's songs from All India Radio and Doordarshan because the singer once refused to perform at a Congress rally in Mumbai.

In 2004, the UPA government removed Anupam Kher as the censor board chief at the behest of CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet as part of a 'desaffronisation' drive.

Even if, for arguments' sake, we consider that the government has decided to "discontinue" with Aamir Khan's services, as the actor put it on Thursday, it isn't an unheard-of move. The relationship between brands and brand ambassadors isn't cast in stone. Celebrity endorsements are subject to variable conditions and ambassadors are often dropped from campaigns for strategic reasons.

The Indian Air Force, for instance, has dropped cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador.

L'Oreal Paris dropped Aishwarya Rai and replaced her with Freida Pinto instead.

Nike, the US sportswear giant, has said it will drop Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in favour of Barcelona striker Neymar Jr.

In fact, Amitabh Bachchan, who is touted to be the frontrunner as Aamir's replacement, was dropped as brand ambassador for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards.

So while you consider the mischievousness of the phony intolerance debate, consider this: Would Coca Cola have persisted with Aamir Khan as its celebrity endorser had the actor revealed in a public statement that he and his family members dislike Coke and drink Pepsi at home?

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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2016 20:01:27 IST

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