Prime Ministerial diktat may have ensured the dismantling of red beacons, but securely intact remains the VIP culture of which those lights atop cars were symbolic. And, as often happens when VIPs are at fault, a lowly inspector of police in Punjab takes the rap and gets suspended.
The “crime” under focus not being any use of flashing beacons, but what has officially been categorised as a “breach of protocol” ~ a bunch of Congress leaders taking a spotlight-ensuring joyride on a jeep from which cabinet minister in the Punjab government, Navjot Singh Sidhu, was inspecting the ceremonial guard of honour at an Independence Day function at a stadium in Ferozepur. At least five other Congress leaders climbed aboard the open jeep, with the result that the parade commander had a struggle finding space for himself.
The political figures extracted the desired mileage, Sidhu does have his own brand of popularity which they “shared” during the joyride, with the bonus of a photograph being published in a prominent Punjab newspaper. That was in some contrast with the drill at the Red Fort where the General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, was the “victim” of another brand of publicity-consciousness.
He was directed not to stand behind the Prime Minister when the latter addressed the nation ~ the explanation for discarding the traditional position taken by the GOC was that the pictures on television had to have only Narendra Modi in the “frame”.
Was there not a certain commonality to the two “actions” ~ one was a bid by lesser lights to share the limelight, the other being that managers of the Independence Day show ensured that public attention was not even partially deflected away from the leader?
What a far cry from the time when only “still” cameras recorded the happenings at events like Independence Day, and people had only the radio (or the next morning’s newspapers) to convey the Prime Minister’s message from Shahjahan’s sandstone citadel.
There has been no official comment from the Punjab government on the Ferozpur incident, none is likely since publicity-hunting is now par for the political course. It is a moot point if the proceedings in Parliament would have been less acrimonious had there been no “live” telecast.
Some members contend that constituents feel let down if they do not spot their representative protesting in the well of the House. Even when there is no ruckus, a few make a point of sitting just behind a party leader who they know will be making a speech, a “shot” of themselves in the background is the aim.
It is also true that ever since telecasts became the norm only the “oldies” still dress in the once-customary white ~ it looks so insipid on colour television.