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UB Group withdraws controversial Harbhajan ad

(image) New Delhi:  The Vijay Mallya-owned UB Group on Friday decided to withdraw the controversial advertisement which showed Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni "mocking" at Harbhajan Singh`s look-alike, which had prompted the spinner to slap a legal notice against the group.

The UB Group said that it has taken a decision to replace the ad "in the interest of the game of cricket" and fearing that the commercial could be misused by vested interests to further their own agenda.

"This gesture (to replace the ad) of Dr Mallya is based on the larger national cricketing interests, particularly at time when the Indian Team is engaged in a crucial cricket Test series in the United Kingdom," a statement from the group said.

"Despite clear-cut legal opinion and the view of the management that there is no maintainable case, and further keeping in mind that the commercial can be used by vested interests to further their own agenda, in the interest of the game of cricket, Dr Mallya has graciously chosen to replace the current commercial.

"The UB Group and Dr Vijay Mallya are very closely involved with and have a significant stake in cricket and would never disparage any cricketer. Clearly, the letter received by us has been instigated by vested interests with mischievous intent," the statement said.

The UB group and Vijay Mallya through legal counsel responded to the notice received by them from the Advocates for Avtar Kaur, mother of Harbhajan Singh.

The response took the position that from the notice itself it was apparent that vested interests have found in Mrs Avtar Kaur a soft target to further their own agenda and the smear campaign against UB group of companies and Dr Vijay Mallya.

The response asserted that as the UB group and Vijay Mallya are very much involved with and have large stakes in the game of cricket, it was inconceivable and it would be absurd to even suggest that they would malign any cricketer much less a cricketer of the skill, acumen, achievements and the position in cricket achieved by Harbhajan Singh.

In the legal notice, Harbhajan`s lawyers had claimed that the commercial mocks the off-spinner, his family and the Sikh community.

While sending the notice for ad spoof, the off-spinner`s mother had said that these kind of advertisements bring "disunity and friction" in the Indian team and can be termed anti-national.

The notice demanded that the company publicly apologise to Harbhajan`s family "through widely-read newspapers as well as television channels prominently" apart from removing the advertisement within three days of receiving the notice.

Apart from Mallya, the notice had been sent to UB Executive Vice Chairman SR Gupte, President & CFO Ravi Nedungadi, Deputy President Harish Bhat and Executive VP (Corporate Affairs) Nandini Verma. It also sought a compensation of Rs 1,00,000 to the cricketer`s family towards the cost of the notice.

Harbhajan and Dhoni endorse rival brands. The Indian skipper, in an McDowell`s No 1 Platinum advertisement, allegedly made fun of Harbhajan, who had featured in a advertisement for Royal Stag.

Both Royal Stag and McDowell`s No 1 are competing whiskey brands in the market, coming in the same price band. The ads, however, were for the soda brands.

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