Jio jokes do the unthinkable Power, pelf & fine print can't deter derision
New Delhi: India's mightiest politician and richest industrialist have been yoked together by an unlikely glue: ridicule.
An unfamiliar backlash has erupted overnight with several social media users lampooning Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mukesh Ambani after Reliance Foundation's proposed Jio Institute made a list of six chosen for an eventual tag of "Institute of Eminence".
Such is the sense of incredulity that those trying to point out that the rules do permit "greenfield" projects are running the risk of being branded "apologists".
If the storm of sarcasm is being seen as a measure of the mood among a section of the middle class, it also underscored the boomerang effect of Modi's penchant to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to his pet anti-corruption plank. The fine print and nuanced explanations are no longer able to fend off biting barbs.
Parody accounts have been formed for Jio Institute and those handling them were prolific in their posts. In the process, Modi's degree in "entire political science'' - that's how Gujarat University describes it although few know what it means - was back in focus.
Historian and columnist Ramachandra Guha retweeted a photograph of Modi with Ambani, both wearing convocation gowns at the convocation ceremony of Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University in Gujarat in 2013, under the line: "In honour of his excellency the prime minister of India, Narendra Modiji, we will offer degree in entire political science course."
One cartoon borrows a popular line from Lage Raho Munna Bhai, the movie in which Circuit settles a dispute on whether Munna Bhai can see Mahatma Gandhi by saying "bhai ne bola dikhta hai, toh dikhta hai (If the boss says he can be seen, then he can be seen)."
The cartoon shows a figure resembling Modi telling a man resembling Amit Shah standing on the edge of a cactus-lined desert: "Look Circuit, Jio Institute."
A youth standing between the two interjects: "But there's nothing there."
Then the man resembling Shah whacks the youth on the head and declares: "Abey Chircut, bhai ne bola yahan Jio Institute hai, toh hai." (Hey Circuit, if the boss says Jio Institute is here, then it is here.)"
The Ambani family was not spared either. Yashwant Sinha, the former Union minister who recently quit the BJP, said: "Jio Institute has not even been set up. It is not in existence. Yet, government grants it eminence tag. That is the importance of M. Ambani."
One tweeter uploaded a video clip showing a Jio telecom ad featuring IPL stars dancing with actress Deepika Padukone with the caption: "Jubilant Reliance Jio students celebrating 'Institute of Eminence tag' bestowed by generous Modi govt ...."
The Centre was compelled to field higher education secretary R. Subramanyam in a fresh attempt to clear the air a day after the HRD ministry had already done so.
The top official iterated that the scheme had a category for greenfield institutions and that Jio Institute would only be issued a letter of intent at first to allow it to set up the institution within three years as planned. Only if Jio Institute follows the timeline it has set for itself will it get the Institute of Eminence status three years down the line, he said.
But by then, historian Guha had tweeted: "Sarkari apologists who say Jio Institute has been placed in the "Greenfield" category, a "Greenfield" university outside Chennai is being helmed by Raghuram Rajan, whose academic qualifications are in inverse proportion to those of the Ambanis. Why not choose that?"
KREA, which has former RBI governor Rajan as its adviser, were among the applicants. JMM's Hemant Soren took the sarcasm route and tweeted: "The opening lecture in the yet-to-be established JIO institute of 'national eminence' would be on morality, ethics & cooperation in Indian politics delivered by Shri Amit Shah."