With no apology to Sir Issac Newton, trust on-court action involving Indian sportspersons to have an unequal and opposite off-court reaction.
As the action shifts from Rio de Janeiro to P.V. Sindhu's hometown Hyderabad, with a grand welcome planned on her arrival on Monday, a social media chatter has begun demanding that she be anointed as the brand ambassador of Telangana, the youngest state in India.
Surely there cannot be an issue with the wish, except that the rooting for Sindhu is accompanied by calls to dump Sania Mirza, the present brand ambassador. The tennis star was appointed to this fancy position in July 2014, with the brief that she will "promote Telangana's interests" in India and abroad. Chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao had given her a cheque of Rs 1 crore on the occasion of her anointment.
One cannot be sure by taking a cursory look at the posts if there is someone driving this "Sindhu In, Sania Out" agenda but typically, a lot of them are accompanied by bile directed at Sania.
One of them, addressed by one Venkata Ramana Vanteru from Hyderabad to KCR and his son, Telangana's Industry minister K.T. Rama Rao, says: "We don't want d brand ambassador who doesn't know Telugu and its culture (Bonalu, Bathukamma) and who doesn't live in Hyderabad (current ambassador lives in Pak/Dubai if I am not wrong). I have never seen her promoting the brand of Hyderabad. But still takes crores of Rs in her account. Plz tell me, which name reflects Telugu nativity 'Venkata Sindhu' or 'Sania', 'Pusarla' or 'Mirza'. If you still want that community votes, let her be their ambassador. This is the request by all the people from Hyderabad/Telangana.''
Several others are even more pungent and emphasise the Telugu and Telangana identity of Sindhu to run down Sania. Almost all of them, as visual evidence, use the photograph of Sindhu participating in Bonalu, a festival indigenous to Telangana. The showering of financial goodies on Sindhu by the Telangana establishment — Rs 5 crore in cash prize, plot of land in Hyderabad and government job — also indicate that KCR is keen on emphasising the youth icon's Telangana identity.
The voices, even though restricted at present to the social media, find support in hushed tones within the Telangana government. It was not amused when Sania did not turn up at any event to promote 'Haritha Haaram', the flagship programme of the KCR administration in July to undertake a major drive to plant 46 crore saplings this monsoon to usher in a Green Telangana. When her absence was pointed out, an embarrassed government nudged her to at least plant a sapling at her home and ensured those pictures were carried by the media.
Again, the Telangana government was conspicuous by its absence at the high-profile event in Hyderabad last month to release Sania's autobiography, where actor Shah Rukh Khan did the honours.
In fact, even when Sania was made the face of Telangana, BJP leader K. Laxman had questioned her appointment and stirred a hornet's nest by referring to her as "Pakistan's daughter-in-law". The social media chorus has fallen back on the same argument to rubbish Sania's credentials as brand ambassador of Telangana, besides insinuating that her appointment was made with an eye on the Muslim vote in Hyderabad.
But there are voices opposing Sindhu as Telangana brand ambassador as well, harping on her 50 per cent Andhra roots. While her father P.V. Ramana hails from Adilabad in Telangana, her mother is from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. One of them, MD Ratna Kumar, writes: "Though she was born in Hyderabad, her parents hail from Andhra and her coach is also from Andhra ... So Sindhu may not be the choice of the Telangana government as she is not having the tag of 'Pure Telangana'! As per the rule framed by TRS earlier ... those who were born on the soil of Telangana on or before 31-10-1956 will be considered as original natives of Telangana.''
Even two years after bifurcation, some citizens in the newest state in India have not turned a new leaf and still harp on the son/daughter of the soil argument instead of sheer merit.
The jury is also out over whether a state really needs to appoint a brand ambassador by giving the celebrity loads of money. Because whether it is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, badminton player Saina Nehwal or Indian women's cricket team captain Mithali Raj, they carry their Hyderabadi identity abroad, indirectly promoting the city and the state.
Perhaps the most sensible word on the debate has come from one Shailesh Singh from Hyderabad who berates the "Sindhu over Sania" digital cacophony by writing: "Sania and Saina too represent Telangana. One bad performance from them and we forgot their past performances. In the next Olympics, we may see a new athlete and start updating statuses to appoint him/her as a brand ambassador."
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