Only last week I had written about Hardik Pandya being one of the hottest brand endorsement candidates among cricketers for 2019. In a blog in Campaign, I had written about how in 2018 Pandya featured in ads for Gulf Oil, Gillette, Zaggle, Sin Denim, D:FY, boAt and Oppo. He was also recently seen in an ad for Star TV alongside M S Dhoni that notched up over 6 million YouTube views in just over a week. Nothing, but nothing, could go wrong for the all-rounder who holds the record for scoring the most number of runs (26) in a single over of a Test innings for India. But now in just a week, Pandya has gone from hero to zero. Accused, trolled, crucified for being misogynistic. Shobhaa De in fact called him, “…vile, racist, sexist, immature, annoying, egotistic, narcissistic and more…”. Such venom!
On Koffee with Karan on January 6, Hardik Pandya (who was on the show with K L Rahul) boasted about hooking up with multiple women and even spoke about how open he is with his parents. Pandya could not have found a quicker way to hara-kiri!
The Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) commissioned a research among millennials over last Friday and Saturday (January 11/12) on social-media. A total number of 589 respondents were covered. Feedback on Pandya was, as expected, universally negative.
Pandya could not be in worse trouble. His personal brand is as good as destroyed, at least for now. Brand Gillette has already distanced itself from him. The rest may follow, too. It is not that cricketers have not been in trouble in the past. Way back in 1936, the legendary Lala Amarnath was sent back from India's tour of England by the erstwhile captain Maharaja of Vizianagaram or 'Vizzy' for alleged insubordination during a first-class game. After 82 years, the BCCI has again given marching orders to Pandya and Rahul to return home from an overseas tour. There has been, for the record, another incident of an Indian player coming back midway from a tour. But unlike this time, Navjot Sidhu left the 1996 tour of England on his own after a heated exchange with skipper Mohammed Azharuddin. Funnily, in the Code of Conduct of the BCCI, whatever Pandya said on Koffee with Karan, is actually not punishable. So, on the insistence of BCCI’s CoA activist-administrator, Diana Edulji, Pandya and Rahul have been recalled for appearing on the television show without permission! There is already a precedent there, too. Someone of the stature of Bishen Singh Bedi also did not get away with going on a television show in the 1970s (without due approval) and was handed a one-match ban. Though in the case of Pandya, a rabid Edulji seems to be gunning for lots more.
On motives, too, the IIHB feedback on Hardik Pandya is not very kind.
The research verdict obviously is highly weighed against Hardik Pandya. Public opinion is heavily negative on the cricket all-rounder — hardly any sympathy for the man. The entire social-media noise has centered more on Pandya being uneducated, hence crass. The misogynistic aspect of the cricketer has largely been discussed on Twitter and Facebook more in relation to his lack of adequate education, and insufficient attention accorded by his family to his proper upbringing. In the IIHB survey, this is being more than adequately reflected, too.
‘Misogynistic’ is surely the ‘Word of 2019’ with it being used in screaming headlines in stories beyond the errant Pandya. Rahul Gandhi came under fire last week for ‘misogynistic’ remarks when he asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “be a man” and not field a woman, the defence minister, to defend him in debates over a controversial fighter jet deal. Gandhi said at a public rally, referring to Modi and using an honorific for Sitharaman, “He runs away from the people’s court and asks a woman, Nirmala Sitharaman ji, ‘defend me, I won’t be able to defend myself’”. Gandhi’s comments obviously drew widespread criticism on social media. Some people said Sitharaman — only the second woman to run the defence ministry after the late Indira Gandhi, a former prime minister and Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother — deserved an apology. The Congress party rejected the accusations of ‘misogyny’, saying Gandhi was a “progressive, inclusive and liberal leader” and that the party believed in gender equality. It added the reference to “woman” by Gandhi was an “innocent figure of speech”.
But the National Commission for Women, condemned Gandhi’s comments, “... the remarks made are extremely misogynistic, offensive, unethical and show an extreme disrespect towards the dignity and honour of women in general”, and sent him a notice.
The latest to be dragged into the misogyny quagmire is none else but recently wedded Bollywood star Ranveer Singh. Clips have surfaced from Ranveer’s debut appearance on Koffee With Karan in 2010, when he shared the couch with his Band Baaja Baraat co-star Anushka Sharma, and made quite a few distasteful statements, prime among which was that he was fascinated to see Kareena Kapoor swimming at a club. "I went from child to boy," he said. On the show Karan Johar called Ranveer, “... a dirty, dirty, dirty boy” but no one really took much notice of Singh’s misdemeanors or utterances back then. But the internet never forgets. And Ranveer’s dirty talk 8-9 years ago has come back to bite him for ‘misogynistic’ utterances.
The misogyny chatter around Rahul Gandhi and Ranveer Singh will fizzle out soon. Politicians are as it is teflon-coated; and the Ranveer story is too far gone in time to have any major repercussions today. It is Pandya who is in the eye of the storm. Actually, the eye of the tornado, more like.
The house though is divided on how severely Pandya should be dealt with. And whether K L Rahul has unwittingly got caught in the controversy despite having been fairly restrained on the Karan Johar show. Sunil Gavaskar has supported Edulji’s actions, saying: "If you do things that bring your team and the game into disrepute, you can't be part of the team. Of course, the inquiry will then establish what further action, if at all needed, has to be taken. They have been asked to come back and I believe it's the correct step because you can't have suspended players travelling with the team or staying in the same room. They have got to be kept away. Otherwise, what's the point of the suspension if they are going to enjoy the perks of being with the team?"
Union Minister Babul Supriyo, however, slammed Edulji for trying to "destroy" the careers of Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul, who have been suspended pending an inquiry over their "inappropriate comments" on a popular television show. He took to social media to lambast the lady cricket administrator.
In another tweet, Supriyo wrote:
1/2: With due & utter respect to Diana Edulji & her contribution to Indian cricket, May I say that her thinking has got ‘fossil’ to contemplate such extreme steps•What Hardik said is deplorable but their has to be some prudence in the way such senior minds handle the young ones pic.twitter.com/LEjMytoJsv— Babul Supriyo (@SuPriyoBabul) January 13, 2019
2/2:There is ‘Thick’ line between reprimanding someone and destroying them !! My plea to these seniors : please behave your ages gentlemen & ladies.. Rest my case @hardikpandya7 @klrahul11 @BCCI #CoffeeWithKaran #Seniors&Prudence #GuidanceWithoutCruelty pic.twitter.com/uF4BxMRQp3— Babul Supriyo (@SuPriyoBabul) January 13, 2019
It will be interesting to see how L’Affaire Pandya finally pans out. Misogynistic and boastful he surely has been. But then he is a fine cricketer. Team India needs him. A reprimand, and a two-match suspension as suggested by CoA Chairman Vinod Rai would have been adequate punishment. But Diana Edulji, who has continued hurling epithets against Rahul Johri, the CEO of the BCCI, despite him being duly cleared by a three-member Committee of all #MeToo allegations, has other plans. She wants to make an example out of Pandya, and perhaps Rahul too. That, methinks will be a tad unfair. Perhaps Edulji too needs a bit of counseling!
The author is a PhD from FMS-Delhi on Celebrities as Human Brands.