Hyderabad: There was certainly a shock factor to Deepika’s participation at Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU] SFI student group protest on allegations of violence against their student group. Deepika is not a starlet; she is a super star actress who has earned millions of followers through her immaculate performances in the last decade, especially the young and upwardly mobile urban working middle class. She certainly shocked most of her followers to their wits end, with her decision to go all the way to Delhi and stand with the likes of Kanaiyah Kumar and extend unconditional support to SFI on JNU campus recently.

Deepika is a free individual and she has constitutionally provided rights to affiliate with any political group she wishes; however, her move to support a particular student group in the recent incident at JNU has raised questions on the ethical front. The concern of her followers and fans is her choice of timing too. The JNU alleged violence incident is still under police investigation and the affiliation of the attacker group is still a big question, as both ABVP and SFI have been pointing fingers at each other. Both student groups have showcased physical injuries to prove their point, along with inconclusive, confusing and short video clips of the incident. Other than these details, no one except those on the campus that evening know the real story, and even those have two different versions.

‘EVERY STORY HAS TWO SIDES’ – The big question being posed to Deepika is ‘how could she judge who’s at fault? How could she take a clear stand to support one student group, while almost judging the other student group as aggressors in this incident? What does she mean from the statement she made at the meeting ‘I feel your pain’? Is she selective in ‘feeling pain’ of just one student group? Is this a movie promotion gimmick? Can someone at her level of success stoop this low to cash-in an unfortunate violent incident on a university campus? Deepika has to answer all these questions to ensure her fans, admirers and followers make sense of her hurried appearance in mourning attire to SFI student meeting. These questions wouldn’t be asked now, if she had a prior political leaning or affiliation to a party. These questions wouldn’t be asked on her next trip to JNU either.

With more popularity comes more responsibility. In a movie crazy social setting of a young nation like India, where ‘real heroes’ fighting everyday battles and winning, are not considered role models, it’s incumbent upon popular figures to ensure their half-baked, immature and at times even downright idiotic side is not publicly exposed. This exposure of their ‘real side’ instead of their ‘reel side’ is not just damaging to themselves commercially, but quite damaging to larger young social groups who are following them as role models, mistakenly driven by the image they portray in their movie roles.

If Deepika were already a politically leaning actress, there wouldn’t be this degree of dissection of her personal character on the basis of her recent decision, and certainly there wouldn’t be calls to boycott her movies and consumer brands she endorsed. Deepika’s decision to take sides in the midst of a limited university student politics is the reason for the massive backlash.

Deepika can join SFI, if she has such a great admiration for their crusade, as she portrayed at JNU campus the other day. She is not too old to join this student group at her age, as there are much older students than her in SFI, most who live more than half of their life as students on central government subsidized grants and scholarships.

By now it’s established that Deepika’s cause is as petty, as her current mental state. Except few desperate and unemployed communist and Congress politicians, no main stream politician from BJP has taken sides on JNU issue and the party has formally condemned all forms of violence on campus, no matter who has led it despite party affiliations.

Does Deepika understand the implications of her posturing at JNU with Kanaiyah Kumar’s clan, who chanted slogans against India and vowed to chop India into pieces? He and his group praised terrorists who killed hundreds of Indian soldiers and innocent citizens. Kanaiyah is still bound by his Pro-Pakistani slogans of freedom to Kashmir, Azadi from India. He is an active anti-national crusader freely unleashed on JNU campus since many years, in a nation which he poisonously accuses of being ‘intolerant’. Through her small but a very decisive move, Deepika has chosen to marry this anti-national ideology, by standing along with this deviant group and extending solidarity to SFI.

Influencers by design or default should understand the cascading effect of their ‘personal opinions’ on masses that follow them blindly, if they are responsible people. If they are irresponsible like Deepika and her ilk, they face the consequences of their decisions instantly with loss of face, loss of admiration, followers, work and especially loss of respect. Those who carry the load of super brands on their shoulders have bigger responsibility. Deepika is not paid by big advertising agencies for her shoot time schedules, while promoting a brand. She is paid for her personality reference to a brand which forms a ‘brand association’ to up-sell that consumer brand against competition. If Deepika were a thorough professional, she would understand it. She’s bound by commercial contracts, which would want her to continue that personality reference by design. However, she’s bound to lose many of her commercial contracts not because I wish, but because of her erratic personality reference shifts. Naturally, she no more appeals to a larger target audience of any big consumer brands.

Deepika has proven that she fits into more than few established old norms; ‘beauty and a brain combination is a rarity’, ‘sharp looks doesn’t necessarily mean sharp mind’, ‘education can’t guarantee wisdom’ and ‘success is not a great teacher, as much as failure’. Deepika’s crusade certainly seems false, selfish and immature.

Nevertheless, I heartily wish Deepika very best in her new chosen political path

(K Krishna Saagar Rao is the chief spokesperson of BJP Telangana State, an organizational strategist and a global leadership coach)