Amitabh Bachchan is a living legend. Certain things grow better with aging. This gifted actor and personality is one of that rare species. Irrespective of the timelessness quality of many of his movies and more so TV-shows, what, in my opinion, surely has grown better with aging is several of his TV Interviews. The nation saw many such examples of the last category in the last week as the veteran turned 70.

And Mr. Bachchan, knowing consciously what he is, chooses his words very carefully. His past, his pedigree, and his legendary status are reflected in almost all of his words. In India, I have rarely seen any other public figure who chooses his words more carefully than Mr. Bachchan does.

It probably is more so when he wants to make his points with clarity, without probably the intention of drawing necessary controversy in the malarkey of media interpretation, which indeed is a difficult task.

At the same time, some six-eight years back, I am not exactly sure, I do recollect another TV broadcast of some Bollywood-film-prizes-distribution-related function, held in Mumbai, in one of the celebrities-packed nightly events.  Those were probably the days when Mr. Bachchan was publicly closer to junior Ambani, that is Mr. Anil Ambani. Mr. Anil Ambani used to head the power distribution company – be it that time BSES or part of Reliance Power as it is now, and which still does come under Mr. Anil Ambani’s business empire. In that function, both Mr. Bachchan and Mr. Anil Ambani were present.

One specific instance I recall from that program, in one scene, Mr. Bachchan was on stage, and was entertaining the audience on guessing who the likely winners of the prizes might be. He might have been one of the contenders with Mr. Shahrukh Khan, another contender, and leading actor of Bollywood, and of much younger in age than the veteran actor himself. Mr. Bachchan was asked by the anchor of the event to guess who the winner is likely to be. It was a light moment, jokes and funny things were said all over, as usually is done in such events. And Mr. Bachchan, in a light vein, stated his popularity among the scion of Anil Ambani’s son/s – who always had predicted Mr. Amitabh Bachhan would be the likely winner. Mr. Bachchan was referring to some discussions among family friends prior to the actual prize-announcement-and-distribution event, and opinion of Mr. Anil Ambani’s son on that same question had been in Mr. Bachchan’s favor.

When someone else within the family had challenged that young junior Ambani during that private conversation, who might have been a little boy that time, that what if the prize, in that category was actually to be awarded to Mr. Shahrukh Khan. Facing this question which was against the personal opinion of the young boy, son of Mr. Anil Ambani had stated something like following, which Mr. Bachchan narrated on stage during that film-prizes distribution function, live on National TV (surely not verbatim, based on recollection):

‘My father happens to be the CEO of the power distribution company that distributes power to Mumbai. If, by chance, the prize does not go to Mr. Bachchan, my father will order to switch off the power supply to the city, which would also affect the prize distribution event on that very moment, resulting in a load-shedding. We will shut the power down.’

This long anecdote of an altogether different reel-life context is needed just for one analogy that pervades India today, in real life. The above incident, re-stated in lighter spirit by Mr. Bachchan, based on what had been stated earlier by son of Mr. Anil Ambani, probably a little boy of whatever age which I do not know but can think of logically, of the CEO of a power distribution company in the city of Mumbai, is the tip of the iceberg in India today.

It actually is a metaphor, from a Bollywood-function to real life incidences all across, on how some in India is habituated to think and justify their actions, be it due to their pedigree/connections/wealth, and/or rarely due to their capabilities.

Irrespective of the lighter side of the event, when a private comment of a little boy in one of the most powerful industrialist’s home was made public by one of the most gentle, wise, humble legends of Mr. Bachchan’s stature, I was shocked to hear that publicly stated. The camera-men probably showed the reaction of Mr. Anil Ambani on that instance among the front-rows in the audience, and there probably was a blushing laughter that resulted from him, as well as from the audience.

That laughter was echoed among journalists when Steel Minister Mr. Beniprasad commented on insignificance of a monetary scam of Rs. 71 lakhs ($140,000) to Salman Khurshid, stating that it may be of little significant had the figure been Rs. 71 crores ($14 million).

In my personal opinion, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is a better actor than Mr. Shahrukh Khan, and a much wiser, humble person, in his public profile. Here is a man with deep knowledge of social affairs, history, literature – covering Shakespeare to Indian vernacular ones, with the ability of having one of the best selections of words for any difficult questions, without raising necessary controversy.

It should be stated here that on that eventful night, the prize might have gone to Mr. Shahrukh Khan, and there was also no load-shedding or power failure. It was just a stage show, and it remained a stage show.

But Robert Vadra or corruption in India today, with its intrinsic misuse of power is not a stage show. Mr. Ashok Khemka, IAS is a real life case in India. And such cases ain’t rare, they may at best be endangered – but not yet extinct.

Henry Kissinger, one of the most controversial statesmen of last century, famously stated: ‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.’  In India today, although industry-houses like DLF or Tata or Ambanis are not only powerful – but significantly influential too, in terms of their influences on public policy – they seldom publicly show-off their power. It intrinsically goes against their interests of building wealth with politician-bureaucrat nexus. It rarely comes out in open, be it through Niira Radia leaks, when again the elder brother of the Ambani scion was supposed to have told another political middle-man, Mr. Ranjan Bhattacharya that India had become like a shop to him, under the Congress-rule (Mr. Mukesh Ambani, quoted by Mr. Ranjan Bhattacharya: ‘Haan Yaar, Ranjan, Congress To Ab Apni Dukaan Hai‘). And it surely had not been made in a lighter vein like the award distribution function incident.

At best, it was again a private comment on how powerful Mr. Mukesh Ambani is, now a satire that haunts the nation, magnified by scam after scams. The nation now laughs at such bizarre shameless comments after comments, and misuse of power, as it was the case with Mr. Beniprasad, the Steel Minister.

The prevailing circumstances also reveal that when, in spite of having necessary money power and influence, an organization like DLF cannot get an executive decision passed in its favour due to discretions involved in it,  they need actors like Robert Vadra.

One can become powerful in two ways, both not necessarily being mutually exclusive. The president of the United States is probably more powerful outside the US than within the US. The incidence of Hu Jintao, Chinese President, and awarded as most influential person by Forbes in 2010, surpassing even Obama, shows the rising influence of China. Julian Caesar, Alexander, Genghis Khan – they all became more powerful by expanding the power of the nations they rule, and thereby having a wider territory and populace to rule; while some of the same persons also terrified the people conquered.

One can also become more powerful in its narrow sense merely by stripping rest of the people, whatever small or big the number be, of their legitimate or even moral powers. So, a small time politician or industrialist may become more powerful within the small domain of his/her rule. Absolute power may mean no one can question the authority of that person holding the power. A shop-keeper has absolute power on which person he hires and fires, as is enjoyed by a small industrialist with his organized or unorganized employees. Similarly, a small politician has absolute power over the constituent population of his territory where his words matter more than the constitution, laws of the land or their machinery. Chief Minister of Haryana can order the transfer of Mr. Ashok Khemka-like IAS officers whenever they want.

Indian society today represents a conglomeration of these small-time-big-time industrialists-politician nexus, where starting from local communities to offices to business organizations, the nation is being shut down, from its legitimate power. And the same is brazenly in display when it comes to questioning the so-called the First Family of the nation. And unfortunately, in India today, it does not mean that the President or the Prime Minister, or their families, are the First Family of the nation.

Effectively it means many of Indian political class and industrialists, within their constituencies, which may cover an extremely small community to nearly the nation of 1.21 billion people altogether, influence more power than what President Obama enjoys among 300 million Americans, or President Hu Jintao among 1.3 billion Chinese people. Many may think the 2nd comparison to be wrong due to China’s records on human rights and freedom of speech; however, post-Tiananmen; I haven’t heard such widespread charges of corruption among top echelons within the Communist Party (CPC) of China, without speedy actions. The recent examples of Bohu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, highlight this perception.

The only way to legitimately question is to go to the ‘court’. And as one eminent lawyer recently commented in a TV show, it may take 150 years in India to deliver justice, based on current rate of delivery of justice, and based on existing backlog of accumulated cases. Right to justice is one of the basic constitutional features in India; however, based on this number, assuming it is true; it may start after your right to life has come to its natural end.

CWG, 2G, Adarsh, Coalgate, Robertgate, Salman Khurshid – and in the other end Khemkas to the extreme other end of the farmers or handicapped persons – they all just happen to be mere actors in that ‘shut the power down to the nation act’ in play in India today.

Had India been an iota of what the Constitution envisaged, to a layman like me, India’s judiciary should probably take suo moto cognizance of the media events over last 24-hours over Mr.  Ashok Khemka; and ask for an impartial probe. It also becomes necessary as it unfortunately drags one of the interim orders dated 1st October 2012 of one of the Hon’ble High Courts, as interpretations of it is publicly interpreted differently, to justify an executive decision.

Would that happen in India today? I am not sure. But I am hopeful. Media showed that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has passed another judgment allowing partial roll back on tourism in core tiger reserve zones.

The nation surely needs to protect its tigers. However, if Ashok Khemkas of the nation aren’t protected, forget tiger protection – the common man of India cannot also be protected.

Prof. Ranjit Goswami works as the Director of School of Management of RK University. Opinion expressed in this article is personal. He invites you to visit his blog, Wondering Man (or take a look at his book, Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d). You are also invited to join him on Twitter

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