Sitaram Yechury addressing the Left rally in Hissar, but without the “Jimmy Jib” cameras
The point has been made before, that the current political coverage, especially on television, is more than somewhat skewed, tilting unabashedly towards Narendra Damodardas Modi of the BJP vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.
Now, the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri explicates it a bit more in the Hindustan Times, comparing the TV coverage of Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party vis-a-vis the Left parties and unions.
“This is not surprising. Earlier, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was on in the Capital, over two lakh workers organised by the central trade unions had converged at Parliament against corruption and price rise. While the former hogged 24/7 media coverage, the latter hardly found any mention.
“Clearly, for the corporate media, a so-called ‘morally’ upright alternative that does not adversely affect profit maximisation is always better than an alternative that aims at improving people’s livelihood while not excessively promoting profit maximisation!”
For the record, though, Kejriwal launched into the media at the Rohtak rally, inviting a statement from the editors guild of India.
Rahul Gandhi‘s interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has already led to a torrent of scrutiny and criticism, and there will be more tonight as the wise sages in Bombay and Delhi sit down to parse every paragraph and syllable.
But how did smalltown India receive Gandhi’s arangetram against the stylish backdrop of an M.F. Husain painting?
Last evening I had my sundowner early enough to be ready to watch the TV channel Times Now at 9 pm waiting for the soon-to-become prime minister of India, Rahul Gandhi. He was to appear before Arnab Goswami, that loud-mouthed Times Now anchor who loves his own voice more than those whom he interviews and tackles in a panel discussion.
I was ready with a writing pad and a pen to write about the interview.
This interview, Arnab claimed, was Rahul’s first since he won the 2004 parliamentary elections. Rahul’s response was a denial saying he had given many press interviews but dodged the crux of the question that it was Rahul’s first TV interview.
Now, after I laboured through a languorous interview of over an hour, I discovered that this was the way Rahul was answering every one of Arnab Goswami’s questions. I am sure many attentive viewers too may have made the same discovery as yours truly.
Rahul, apparently in a show of bravado, told Arnab Goswami, who was going back in time, “…draw me back as much as you want.”
Arnab grabbed the opportunity and asked why Congress was avoiding announcing the prime ministerial candidate. The answer was something like this: “Issue is how a Prime Minister is chosen. It is MPs who select the Prime Minister. We have respect for the process.”
Arnab Goswami: What about 2009?
Rahul Gandhi: There was an incumbent Prime Minister.
In fact, knowledgeable people know whenever there is a person available in the Gandhi dynasty to become Prime Minister, that office would go to the member of that dynasty only.
In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi was sworn-in as prime minister, soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination without consulting the MPs. It was the majority of CWC that chose the prime minister even though, left to the MPs, Pranab Mukherjee, being No. 2 in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet, would have been chosen.
In fact, that was the reason for Pranab Mukherjee to leave Congress. Rajiv Gandhi too ignored him after assuming power. Let it be.
Sadly, Rahul Gandhi was unable to explain convincingly about this contradiction in what he told Arnab Goswami and what had happened in the Congress Party in the matter of choosing a Prime Minister.
Rahul Gandhi, in his detour of an answer, denied there was ever any arbitrary decision taken in choosing a PM, whatever it meant.
Questioned if he would face Narerddra Modi in a debate, once again the answer was devious and said, ‘You must understand Rahul Gandhi. I want to ask you a question…’ For this, Arnab’s answer was, ‘I can’t be a half journalist. I ask this question because Narendra Modi is challenging you on a daily basis.’
Answering further questions, Rahul went rambling — people of honesty are destroyed by the ‘system,’ question of losing or winning an election does not arise, etc.
After the interview, Arnab Goswami invited Vinod Mehta, that veteran journalist and mentor of Outlook magazine along with another author for their opinions about Rahul’s interview. Vinod Mehta rightly said, recalling Rahul’s concern for correcting the ‘system,’ that all these years, all those who tried to fix the system got themselves fixed and threw up their hands in despair.
I thought of Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi to whom the ever helpful media gave the reverential epithet Mr. Clean. This Mr Clean went to Bombay soon after becoming the Prime Minister, delivered an India-shaking speech criticising the power brokers in his party and vowed to end this menace that was the cause for corruption.
What happened? Soon Rajiv Gandhi himself got mired in corruption scandal of Bofors gun deal, lost the election to V.P. Singh and the rest was tragic history.
Question: Narendra Modi calls you Shehzada. Are you afraid of losing to Modi?
The answer was again abstract and irrelevant. ‘Rahul Gandhi wants to empower women. We will defeat BJP etc., etc.’
Question: Is Narendra Modi responsible for Gujarat riots? Courts gave him clean chit. Congress wants to put Modi on the back foot on this issue. What about 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi? Was Congress responsible?
Here, Rahul Gandhi had a new take by way of answer. According to him, in Gujarat, the government headed by Narendra Modi abetted the massacre, while in Delhi the Congress government tried to contain the killings.
Arnab Goswami told Rahul Gandhi that while Narendra Modi got the army in 48 hours, in Delhi, it took 72 hours and many Congress leaders were arraigned in criminal cases in this Sikh massacre and the cases are still being dragged on.
Listening to this part of the interview, I was wondering why the learned media wizards and the smart politicians don’t see a distinction between 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 Delhi massacre. The Gujarat violence was a communal riot. It is not important who provoked it because that will not justify killings at all.
The law of the land should prevail, not mass violence.
Here, both Hindus and Muslims died, but majority of people who died were Muslims. However, in Delhi, it was not a communal riot. It was a pogrom, like what happened to Jews during World War II in Germany.
Just because two Sikh security guards killed our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, some Congress party members and admirers of Indira Gandhi allegedly massacred innocent Sikhs in a sudden, surprise attack. Now, 30 years on, our country’s legal system could not punish the culprits!
Will Rahul Gandhi, if and when he becomes the Prime Minister fix this ‘legal system’ so that aam aadmi gets justice without delay. Can he? I doubt.
To be honest, much as Congressmen would like to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of India, my gut feeling, after seeing him face the interview, is that he will not fit into the Prime Minister’s slot.
He was simply not clear in his mind what he wants to do for the country’s many challenging political, economic and social issues.
Yes, I must mention here that Rahul was asking Arnab Goswami why he was not asking questions about issues related to corruption, women empowerment, bringing youngsters into politics, etc. This was when Rahul was unable to face the tricky, difficult questions from Arnab Goswami.
Rahul did not seem a person with intellectual streak or with oratorical or debating skill.
Power of speech is what makes a leader.
History is replete with such leaders — Julius Caesar, Antony, Hannibal, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose…. At present Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal.
After seeing the interview, I don’t think, Rahul has what it takes to make one a Prime Minister or a great leader.
He was asked: If he wants to end corruption, how can he have alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav of Bihar who has been convicted of corruption? The clever answer from Rahul was that the alliance was with the Party RJD and not with Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Likewise, he was asked about the ‘dynasty’ of which he is the No. 1. His answer was again a clever one: “In every party one could see ‘dynasty.’ I did not sign up and say I must be born in this dynasty or family,” etc., etc.
He further clarified in his own rambling, inchoate manner, to a question, his opinion about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It was a non-answer ! He was for opening the ‘system’ to end dynasty but there is no Abracadabra to do that.
I must appreciate here that for once that talkative, argumentative, belligerent Arnab Goswami was too condescending to Rahul Gandhi; too patient, too gentle and may I say too sympathetic to a person sitting before him, tensed up, with a smear of sweat on his pink visage, not sure of himself in answering the questions.
And I thought it was rather rude and even unkindly on the part of Arnab Goswami to ask Rahul Gandhi if he was prepared for a TV debate with Narendra Modi.
By now I had come to anticipate Rahul’s answer to such direct, taunting question and, as I correctly guessed, he said ‘his party would be ready for such a debate’. Now Manish Tewari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Digvijay Singh… please get ready to face Narendra Modi.
And finally, it was interesting to hear in the beginning of the interview itself about Rahul Gandhi’s educational qualification about which that acerbic Dr Subramanian Swamy had some doubts. Surprisingly Rahul in turn asked Arnab Goswami if he was ever in Cambridge.
When the answer was yes, Rahul mentioned about an ‘affidavit’ he had filed etc., etc. about his having a degree from Trinity College.
Well, that was an insipid, boring interview, but I was left wondering, as I retired to bed, how could Vinod Mehta say Rahul’s was a creditable performance? Honesty in journalism may not always be the best policy.
After all, his own magazine Outlook has described Rahul Gandhi as ‘Sunset Prince’ and after watching this interview, I don’t think Outlook was wrong in its opinion.
(This piece was originally published in Star of Mysore)
VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Ever since AAP came to power in Delhi, they seem to have become the favourite punching bag of the media, intellectuals and politicians.
Arvind Kejriwal was declared a threat to Indian democracy — an ‘Anarchist.’
Yes a dose of criticism is healthy, but to speak in a tone suggesting that voting for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was a mistake and that they have become a menace is not only unfair, but also a disservice to a nation that is in the threshold of change. It also reeks of fear and propaganda.
All this sudden blaming and name calling of AAP by many Indians makes one wonder if most Indians really want a corruption-free India?
It seems many want AAP to fix just enough corruption to make life convenient?
Convenient enough that they don’t have to bribe to get a Driver’s License, but then not so efficient that it becomes impossible to bribe a Policeman when caught riding without a helmet or jumping traffic lights. Is that what it is? Selective anti-corruption options.
First, the Congress and BJP called Arvind Kejriwal’s two-day protest an anarchist movement. Really? For starters, where was this fear of anarchy when L.K. Advani took his chariot of fire all the way to Ayodhya and the BJP lotus bloomed from 84 seats to 183 in 1999?
Where was this fear of anarchy when Bajrang Dal ran amok beating up young girls across the nation on Valentine’s Day teaching them lessons in morality?
As for Congress, where was their fear of anarchy when Sikhs were massacred? Has any party even apologised for these acts? Where was the Indian upper middle class and intellectuals’ fear of anarchy then?
Now, a party very different, has come to power in the capital. It feels helpless as it is unable to control its own Police force and stages a peaceful dharna because the Union Government is unwilling to even discuss the issue and every one calls it ‘anarchy.’
Yes may be there may have been a slight traffic inconvenience to the Delhi citizens, but can’t a citizen handle being inconvenienced a little by a protest which will give him better policing?
We always want someone else to fight out fights, to make our lives better, without inconveniencing ourselves. How selfish is that?!
Indeed we want AAP to work within the framework of the law, but isn’t peaceful dissent within this framework as well? Yes, when it comes to politics, everyone suffers from amnesia. Indeed two wrongs don’t make a right, but still, to call AAP’s protest in Delhi ‘anarchy’ is just plain unfair.
While they say Kejriwal is turning India into a Banana Republic why is no one asking about the Bill to bring Delhi Police under the Delhi Government which has been pending for 15 years? What is waiting for? Is it on purpose?
After all ‘timing’ of passing certain laws or bills is in fact a political strategy. More than to benefit the citizens it is meant to win elections. This what creates a Banana Republic, not a government that sits in peaceful dharna.
The Delhi CM wants to give good governance to his people and good law and order is part of it. So he wants control of law and order, which he is not being given, so the protest. Is that wrong?
In that case, when H.D. Deve Gowda, a former PM of this country sits in dharna on Mysore-Bangalore road to get us Cauvery water for agriculture, drinking and cooking, does it make him an anarchist?
Now the Delhi Police say they act only upon issue of a warrant, but still when a crime is underway do they need a warrant?
Everyone in Delhi knows the area between Saketh and Malviya Nagar has had issue of prostitution. The residents of Hauz Rani which lies between these areas, had complained repeatedly for months and no action was taken.
Finally when a Minister goes to have a look, orders the Police to act, it is termed ‘vigilantism.’
How would the upper middle class “cultured” citizens react if they had a “Service Centre” next door? We are sure, they would have called the Home Minister and warrant or no warrant it would be cleared in a jiffy.
The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.
The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.
The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?
So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?
The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.
Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP which is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?
Also interesting is the fact that as one watched the AAP Minister wagging a finger at the Policeman, the Policeman too wagged his finger right back! Wonder if he would dare to do so at a BJP or a Congress Minister?
He knows very well what will happen. It seems it has not sunk in the officialdom that an aam aadmi has come to power, because AAP does not project power like traditional politicians do, which can be brutal and leave one in a perpetual vindictive legal limbo.
In fact, our politicians follow the same principle as that of the British. Independence ushered in only a change in management and not swaraj. No wonder the laws that British used to suppress us is still in use and no party wants to change it.
Forget the laws and attitudes; even the residences did not change. Soon after independence Nehru moved into Flagstaff House (Teen Murti Bhavan), the palatial residence of the former British Commander-in-Chief, our President moved into the palace built for the then Viceroy of India.
This is why it is said, “Democracy did not adopt India, Indians usurped democracy because it could be moulded to fit earlier structures without threatening them. It caught the popular imagination not for the new values it symbolised, but for the possibilities it opened up for the consolidation of the old. The miracle of India is that the practice of democracy has flourished within its boundaries for over six decades in the absence of a democratic temperament.”
AAP, it seems is here to rewrite democracy and they must be critiqued but not shouted down into oblivion and death.
True, AAP is in a hurry to become a National Party without getting its structures in place. They are advised to prepare well, for they need to survive, grow and deliver us not just from corruption, but help us rewrite our democracy, that will allow us to transcend into pure patriotism.
(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of Star of Mysore where this piece originally appeared)
VASANT SHETTY writes from Bangalore: Bangalore is home to “Sandalwood”, the Kannada film industry.
The industry produces 120-130 movies an year and, like other major film industries in India, has about a 10% success rate.
Unfortunately, unlike other film industries, Sandalwood is known for banning dubbing of content to Kannada.
This unofficial ban on dubbing content effectively isolates Kannadigas who know only Kannada (approximately there are 2.5 to3 crore Kannadigas who know only Kannada and no other language) from the sea of knowledge and entertainment that exists in other languages.
We must note that the ban has no legal sanctity and is put in place by a private trade bodies like Karnataka film chamber of commerce (KFCC) and other similar organizations.
The private ban was put in place six decades ago in order to give boost to the then ailing Kannada film industry under the aegis of the legendary actor Dr Raj Kumar. The protectionist measure helped the novice industry to scale from less than 10 films a year to more than 100 films a year.
But like other typical protectionist schemes, the continued “PRIVATE” protection has resulted in isolating Kannadigas from receiving worldly knowledge in visual form and is fast turning counter-productive from the view point of increasing language’s reach.
Several past attempts by concerned individuals to debate the unconstitutional ban on dubbing was shot down in the guise of protecting of language and culture by vested interests.
Last year when the Hindi cinema actor Aamir Khan set out to do a social awareness program called Satyameva Jayate, he wanted to make this program available in most Indian languages using the means of dubbing.
In Kannada, the general entertainment channel Suvarna was planning to air this program in Kannada and as soon as the news broke out, sundry trade organisations affiliated to Kannada film and TV industry made sure that Suvarna channel backed off from that idea.
When Suvarna put the first episode of Kannada version on YouTube, it received more than 30,000 views in 24 hours and strangely the very next day the video was pulled out from the internet too. Cartels from the film and TV industry were suspected to be behind this.
Amidst all this, Competition Commission of India (CCI) entered the scene after a complaint was lodged with it on the grounds that the ban violates the freedom of choice of a Kannadiga consumer from watching the best of entertainment and knowledge programs from across the world in his mother tongue.
The dubbing debate seems to have entered the last leg with recent media reports (Udayavani, 7 January) indicating that the CCI has come down very heavily on all associations affiliated to Kannada film and television industry for their blatant anti-consumer and anti-competition actions. This has triggered raging debates on Kannada TV and social media about pros and cons of dubbing once again.
On a serious note, is there anything to debate at all?
It’s an open and shut case. Whoever wants to see original content, they should have their choice, and whoever wants to see dubbed content, they should have their choice too.
In this context, we are running a petition requesting the chief minister of Karnataka and his administration to ensure that the citizens of Karnataka are able to exercise their freedom of choice.
I request all those individuals who believe in liberty, freedom of choice, democracy and rule of law to sign this petition and show your support for this people’s cause.
The elevator implosion of Tarun J. Tejpal and the plight of Tehelka as a result have been discussed ad nauseam after the first emails were leaked on 20 November.
But the commentary, outrage and sympathy have come from the usual set of bold-face colleagues, rivals, friends, socialites, feminists and lawyers, among others.
But how is a scandal like this viewed in smalltown India?
K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, dips into his reading to offer a mythological perspective.
By K.B. GANAPATHY
In a city, on the banks of the sacred Ganga, called Makandika, there lived a Sadhu. He was well-known for his seeming simplicity and piety.
He had taken a vow of silence and lived wholly on alms.
He lived inside the precincts of a temple and often seemed in a state of samadhi (trance). Visitors to the temple were impressed and revered him.
Whenever he felt hungry, he would walk the streets of the town to beg.
On a particular day, he went to a rich merchant’s house and stood in front of the door silently because he was under a vow of silence about which people in the City knew.
The merchant was taking bath.
His beautiful unmarried daughter saw the Sadhu.
In keeping with the tradition of giving to the less fortunate and the holy persons, she came with a measure of rice to give to the Sadhu.
At the sight of the beautiful daughter of the merchant with her perfectly moulded breasts, her slender but not too angular hips, her graceful movements and her lustrous smile and sensuous eyes, the Sadhu was overwhelmed with desire for her.
As she poured the rice into his begging-bowl, he forgot his sacred vow of silence and let forth a groaning sound from his lips: “Oh no, oh no, oh yes, oh no…”
The merchant, who heard the Sadhu groan, looked out through the window only to see the Sadhu walking away in haste, moaning and groaning.
The merchant was disturbed.
Such a sacred person leaving his house with such seemingly hurt feeling! He rushed to the temple post-haste and begged the Sadhu to tell him the cause for the agonising sounds from his lips.
The Sadhu remained motionless and the merchant thought he would not speak, continuing with his vow of silence. But the Sadhu spoke — in a feeble, disembodied voice: “I was distressed at your house as I suddenly saw into the future. That beautiful daughter of yours carries a curse. When she marries, you and your wife, your sons and other daughters will all die”.
“What do I do?” asked a distraught merchant in great anxiety.
“There is only one solution,” said the Sadhu. “Put your daughter in a basket, close the lid and set her adrift in the Holy Ganga. However, tie a lamp to the basket and tether it to the bank of the river with a rope.”
Unquestioning piety has its dangers.
The merchant carried out the Sadhu’s instruction at night to the letter by doping his daughter, without telling anyone in the house.
As the basket with merchant’s daughter was wobbling in the water like a buoy, the Sadhu put his own plan into action. He called his two disciples and asked them to go to Ganga, look for the basket with a light and bring it to him without opening the lid, no matter what.
However, before the disciples could reach the Ganga and sight the basket, a local Prince who had gone to the Ganga for bathing, saw the basket, took it to his Palace and on opening the lid, was overwhelmed looking at a sleeping beauty.
When she opened her eyes, her peerless beauty mesmerised the Prince instantaneously and she too was immensely pleased and overjoyed to see a handsome Prince by her side.
They get married.
The Prince then orders his soldiers to put a monkey in that basket and leave it in the place where he had found it.
At last the Sadhu’s disciples sight the basket, carry it dutifully, despite the jumping noisy animal inside and place it before the Sadhu who by then had become impatient and even a bit angry too towards his disciples whom he asked to leave the place and leave him alone.
By now, the monkey was exhausted trying to escape and was quiet.
Alone in the shadowy darkness behind the temple, the Sadhu prepared to open the basket with pent-up passion and lust. His body chemistry changed awakening the coiled serpent all set to strike at the merchant’s beautiful, nubile daughter!
But when he opened the lid of the basket he was horrified to see a bony, hairy hideous monkey that sprang and attacked him furiously.
It was as if his own vile lust had jumped out of the basket, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life.
Like it was to Tarun J. Tejpal, the founder and editor of Tehelka, where his own vile lust had jumped out of the lift, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life — no matter he is acquitted or not.
However, fate may have a different plan for both — the victim and the tormentor. The victim of sexual harassment and rape (now under the new, amended law after Nirbhaya’s rape and death in Delhi), a junior journalist of Tehelka, if not married, may find her prince charming in time, but I am optimistic of a bright future for Tarun Tejpal as well, knowing my country, its political leaders and pseudo-intellectuals.
Public memory is short.
You can kill innocent Sikhs or you can kill innocent Muslims. You may utter a belated sorry when the day of reckoning comes during the election or use some subterfuge and indulge in rigmarole to soothe the seared souls of the survivors of these pogroms. And the perpetrators of the evil are again seen ruling us!
In a similar manner, who knows, the stigma and painful pecking at his once glorious persona may make him even more successful.
What could be the theoretical cause for Tarun Tejpal’s present predicament and plight suffering the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to quote Shakespeare in Hamlet.
Aroon Purie, the editor-in-chief of India Today explains it this way: “It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many successful men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour do not apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”
Many of the stakeholders in his mushroom companies numbering about eight, are all suspect. There seems to be reasons for this, which only an IT or ED department can unravel.
We find his business empire stinking and also sinking as we access internet. DLF and 2G Spectrum of Unitech, with names of Robert Vadra floating around, do give us a murky picture of his activities — a kind of Tughlaq Durbar.
When at parties, it was ‘who is who’ of Page-3.
I was reading a book titled ‘Tales’, a collection of stories by Acharya Ratnananda. Let me re-tell the story before taking leave.
There lived a proud but benevolent King.
One day he called his Prime Minister and said, “Mr Prime Minister, there is a misgiving in my mind that worries me and it is this: As you know, all of us in this creation have some definite work to do. A King rules, a soldier fights in war, a trader trades, a teacher teaches, a preacher preaches, a mason builds, though as people they do other things also. This is law of the nature. Likewise, even the creator, God, should have a job to do. What is that? I would like to know.”
The Prime Minister, unable to answer, suggested that since the question borders on spiritual and metaphysical studies, it be put to the Bishop. Accordingly, the Bishop was called before the King. The King repeated the question.
The Bishop did not know the answer but sought time for fear of punishment.
Next day, the shepherd boy of the Bishop saw his master worried and silent. “What troubles you, Master?” the shepherd boy asked. The Bishop dismissed him in the beginning but later relented and told him the King’s question, “What is God’s work?”
The boy told the Bishop that he knew the answer but would reveal it only before the King personally. Helpless, the Bishop took the boy to the King and said, “This shepherd boy would answer your question. Please ask him the question.”
The benevolent King, though seemed offended at the audacity of the Bishop, all the same, agreed to the suggestion and repeated the question.
The shepherd-boy heard the question and said that it was a very simple question but since the person asking the question becomes a Shishya, a disciple, and the person giving the answer becomes the Guru, a Master, the Guru should go up and occupy the throne and the disciple must come down and sit on the floor, which is the protocol.
The benevolent King accepts the proposition and vacates the throne which the shepherd-boy immediately occupies.
“Come on, give me the answer. What is God’s work?” The King was in a hurry and impatient.
The shepherd boy said in great aplomb: “Here is my answer. What is God’s work? Well, God’s work is to push down the Haughty and push up the Humble. The God’s work is seen right now here.”
To return to Tarun Tejpal, God seems to be working overtime to cut him to size and put him in his place. For now the Police lock-up in Goa is his place!
Tarun Tejpal and his cronies, always busy partying with social celebrities and political honchos, must have raised their cut-glasses of joy year-round and clinked them in toast to the chorus: “Cheers, let us screw India.”
This kind of non-patriotic cheering must have stopped since Tejpal’s arrest. So be it. And who has the last laugh? BJP!
(A longer version of this piece appeared on two consecutive days in Star of Mysore)
As the TV channels go through the same motions in an election season—predictable opinion poll by predictable pollsters, followed by predictable panel discussion with predictable panelists and predictable cliches, followed by predictable conclusions—Malvika Singh asks a not-so-predictable question, in The Telegraph, Calcutta.
Is the media’s task to supply what it thinks the public wants, or is to shape what it should want?
“When confronted with this question of supreme superficiality laced with high-voltage ego, media men and women explain away their inadequate rendering of events by suggesting that ‘the people’ want the mirch masala and the sensational, not substantive information, and that they are, in fact, reflecting the level and interests of the public.
“Is that what, say, the school curricula should do too? Should university lecturers dumb themselves down for lazy students? Should novelists and storytellers write junk because there is a market out there for the sub-standard? Should Bharatanatyam dancers do the hip-hop? It sounds so frightfully absurd that it merits no discussion when one is told that ‘the market wants it’.
“Surely, the challenge is to shape the market with facts, ideas and wonderfully crafted entertainment based on great stories?”
For most TV news consumers, Arnab Goswami is both a name and a phenomenon. But there are still large parts of the world to be conquered by Times Now‘s bulldog of an inquisitor. Here, B.V. Rao, editor of Governance Now, and former editor of the Indian Express in Bangalore and Bombay, explains the name and the phenomenon to a childhood friend who lives in Canada.
Sometime ago during a Googlegroup discussion you innocently asked: “But who is Arnab?”.
In India not knowing Arnab is against national interest. You are lucky you live in Canada. But if you don’t want to be deported on arrival on your next visit, you better pay attention to this complimentary crash course on the subject.
Arnab, as in Arnab Goswami, is India’s most-watched prime time news anchor and editor-in-chief of Times Now*. But designations don’t even begin to describe him or what he is famous for.
You must have heard about hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Arnab is also a storm, a news-storm that hits India every night via his show, the “Newshour”. Nobody is quite sure how, but somehow Arnab gets to know the questions that the “whole nation” wants answers for, or the sinners the nation wants hanged before midnight that night.
In effect then, Arnab speaks for a “billion-plus people” each time he takes centre-stage.
I can’t say for sure if he took this burden upon himself voluntarily or if his employers made it a contractual obligation. Whatever it is, the fact is that Arnab has come to relish asking the most “simple and direct” questions to the most dubious people demanding instant answers to complex problems because the “nation wants to know” and it wants to know “tonight” as in right now.
That’s how impatient India has become while you’ve been away, Sharada.
The Newshour airs on weekdays from 9 pm and continues till Arnab’s pleasure lasts. Often the show stretches up to 10.50 pm. That’s actually “News hour-and-three-quarters-and-then-some” but I guess Arnab has not asked himself a “simple, direct” question: how many minutes make an hour?
That, or his primary school maths teacher is not his viewer. In which case it is safe to say Arnab speaks for a billion-plus minus one Indians.
You will see that at the altar of national interest it is not just the hour that is stretched.
About two decades ago, Dileep Padgaonkar was the editor of the Times of India owned by the Jains of Bennett & Coleman who also own Times Now. Padgaonkar had pompously proclaimed that he held the second most important job in the country after the prime minister’s.
Arnab hasn’t said it, but I think he disagrees with Padgaonkar on the pecking order: it’s now the prime minister who holds the second most important job in the country.
Hence Arnab runs the show like he would run the country or like the prime minister should but doesn’t.
You see, Sharada, there’s an awful lot of stuff the nation wants to know by nightfall but our prime minister isn’t much of a talker. Arnab fills the need gap. He opens his show with a passionate agenda-setting preamble that spells out all the problems of the day and how he wishes to solve them. We gratefully receive this wisdom and call it Arnab’s Address to the Nation, a prime ministerial duty that has fallen on his broad shoulders because the real guy has abdicated it.
Let me tell you this, however. Arnab is a very reluctant power-grabber. It is not his intent to upstage the prime minister or make him look silly.
He gives the prime minister an entire day to prove his worth and gets to work only at 9 pm when it is clear that the latter can’t handle stuff.
He then solves all outstanding national issues of the day in just one 110 minute-hour of feverish debates where he grills the skin off the back of everybody who dares to stand in the way of India’s national interest.
He is unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth and doesn’t give up unless everybody has agreed with him.
“I am worried”, “I am concerned”, “I won’t let you politicise”, “I don’t agree”, “you can’t get away….” are some of the phrases he uses to suggest he is in complete control and that endears him to a nation starved of decision-makers.
Arnab hates home work. He wants to settle everything here and now, tonight. As a result, in Arnab country, there is no trace of the policy paralysis that has grounded the prime minister in the real country. Here you get resolutions, decisions, orders, diktats, judgements, justice and denouements all in one place, one show, by one man.
The only people paralysed are the subjects of his grilling and the bevy of experts he gathers around himself, not because he needs them, he doesn’t, but because it must feel awfully good to invite experts and out-talk them on national prime time.
Like confused baboons trapped in little boxes, the experts, who are neatly arranged around Arnab’s own imposing self in the centre of the screen, keep staring into nothingness most of the time.
Yes, you get the drift, Sharada, Arnab is the main dish here. The rest are just intellectual dips.
For most of their airtime the experts keep putting up their hands or calling out “Arnab….Arnab….” to indicate they want to make a point. Arnab is too engrossed in disagreeing with what he has not allowed them to say to care too much.
Some clever guests try to appeal to his Assamese roots by hailing “Ornob…Ornob”. He ignores them as well.
Nationalism, after all, is above parochialism. The cleverer among them have cracked the code: they just agree with Arnab in exchange for a little extra air time. These are usually the people who have paid close attention to Arnab’s Address to the Nation and picked up the right cues on what to say that will get them his benefaction.
It is tough to figure out why Arnab needs any experts at all because he knows the answers to all his questions. Times Now insiders say that more often than not he finds questions to the answers he already has. On his show, politicians can’t politicise, bureaucrats can’t beat around the bush, sportspersons can’t play games and lawyers can’t use legalese.
In fact anybody who is good at something can’t do what they are known to do, to the extent that even civil society can’t be civil, especially if it wants to get a word in sideways. Everybody has to be direct, honest, blunt and keep things simple because that is what the (one-man) nation wants.
Corruption, political expediency, opportunism, forked tongues, doublespeak, dishonesty and hypocrisy, are red rags to Arnab. He takes them head-on with the help of his reporters who keep throwing up “documentary” evidence ever so often to expose scamsters.
Usually this is a thick sheaf of indistinguishable papers that Arnab holds up threateningly. It could be a bunch of used airline e-tickets for all we know, but since we don’t, he waves the sheaf confidently in the face of the enemies of the nation and it is generally assumed he’s got some incendiary stuff in there.
Arnab’s problem-solving repertoire is not restricted to national boundaries. In fact, he is at his best when dealing with nations that have evil designs on India. The patriot in Arnab is best aroused when he is dealing with that evil, failed, rogue nation called Pakistan.
He deals with Pakistan like no prime minister has ever been able to or decimates it like no Army has ever managed to. Each time a blade of grass bends to the breeze on the LoC, Arnab breathes fire at Pakistan for trying to sneak in terrorists into the country. He lines up a battery of serving and retired generals of Pakistan and conducts the verbal equivalent of a summary execution.
Yet, the same generals keep resurfacing on Arnab’s show each time he feels the urge to have a Pakistani or two for dinner. This causes much wonderment among Newshour hounds on the masochist streak that makes the Pakistani generals offer themselves up as bait repeatedly.
So, it is assumed the money must be good. But since Arnab insists that Pakistan is the way it is only because the generals have sold their country cheap, it is unlikely he is blowing his budget for this routine cross-border target practice. Of course, left to Arnab Pakistan would have existed only as the largest crater on earth since the meteors wiped out all life on the planet. Yes, he would have nuked it many times over by now.
The Times of India, the country’s oldest English newspaper and the mother brand from the Times Now stable runs Aman Ki Aasha (Hope for Peace), the widely-acclaimed campaign for ending India-Pakistan hostilities.
Just as Arnab doesn’t seem to know of this campaign, the Times of India seems quite oblivious of the fact that the last time there was absolute peace on the LoC was when Arnab took a two-week holiday in early September. It could be the marketing genius of the Times group to milk the issue from both ends or it could also be that their internal boundaries are not as porous as our LoC.
Apart from conducting war exercises against Pakistan, Arnab land is eyeball-to-eyeball with China, exposes the double standards of America in almost anything it does and highlights the hypocrisy of racist Australia which loves the education dollars from India but not the brown students who come along with.
His blood boils so much when an old Sikh is roughed up by a bunch of racist women in the UK that he almost gets the whole of Punjab to rise in revolt against the Indian government’s inaction–even though there is nothing it can do as the gentleman is a citizen of the said country–or builds a tide of emotional revulsion against “inhuman” Norway for snatching an infant from his Indian mother’s custody for alleged physical abuse.
I can go on and on, Sharada, but everything good must come to an end and so must my Arnab eulogy.
So, in short and in conclusion, here’s what I have to say: Arnab is not just the editor-in-chief of Times Now. He’s India’s protector-in-chief. He is the guy who is keeping India safe while you are away on selfish pursuits. You are lucky you can get away by not knowing him.
For a billion-plus Indians,minus of course his maths teacher, that is not even a distant option. Because, truth told, Arnab is the best we have got!
As the mammon-worshipping mavens of the cricket board turn a team sport into an individual one in Bombay, as a cash-strapped media engages in a cloying overkill of its original cash cow, as the devout get confused about ‘God’, the BBC asks a simple question.
Was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar—in whose name a Test match is being played, a gymkhana usurped from children has been renamed, a postage has been issued—is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar really the greatest ever batsman?
Or, just a fine batsman of the TV age who handled the “pressure of a billion” with quality and equanimity, who never put a foot wrong, whose humility and modesty despite his accumulated millions, and whose motivation was an object lesson to those of us who give up easily?
In the midst of all the hagiography—no different from the bhajan sandhya, sangeet, mehendi and shaadi of a typical Punjabi wedding that Rupert Murdoch‘s Star TV is famous for, with guests from all over—it’s difficult to find a word of criticism, as Tendulkar stands on a mountain of runs, records and reputation.
Still, it must be asked: was he really that good?
The BBC’s Ben Carter throws up three key sets of numbers:
# The highest rating given by the International Cricket Council ratings to Tendulkar was 29 in 2002, after a series against Zimbabwe—below not just the invincible Don Bradman, but also his contemporaries Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, in that order.
# When Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilson compiled the 100 greatest centuries, again factoring in “intangibles” like conditions, rivals, pitch quality, match impact, series impact, etc, only one of Sachin’s 51 centuries came in, at no. 100. Lara had five.
# When Jaideep Verma compiled the the “impact index”, measuring performances with other performances in the same match, Tendulkar (5) had fewer series-defining shows than Rahul Dravid (8) although he had played more matches. Even Inzamam-ul-Haq fared better.
“Vinaasha kaale vipareetha budhdhi,” is a saying which captures the mood of the Congress-led UPA government very well. As it swerves into the final lap of its second term in office, as bad news swirls all around it, as the foreboding gets grimmer with each passing day, the 128-year-old party has turned its eyes, well, on opinion polls.
“Opinion polls during election are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls… our party fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during the election.”
Random surveys “lack credibility”, and could be “manipulated and manoeuvred” by persons with “vested interest”, is the Congress’ conclusion, which is broadly in line with attorney general Goolam E. Vahanvati‘s legal opinion to the law ministry in which he said a ban on opinion polls would be “constitutionally permissible”.
For a government which has consistently trained its guns on free speech, the latest move is par for the course.
There is no question that many opinion polls are dubious exercises undertaken by fraudulent agencies with little no field presence; sponsors, sample sizes, date of polling, margins of error (all pre-requirements in reporting a poll) are opaque. There is also no doubt that many cash-strapped media houses are happily carrying polls with an eye on the future.
Still, is a ban the only solution? Would the Congress and UPA be in favour of a ban on polls if the Congress was doing well in them? Do polls really influence voters, who chose just the opposite of what opinion polls advised them in 2004 and 2009? Whether dubious or not, does a ban on polls restrict the media’s fundamental freedoms?
Above all, wouldn’t Indian democracy be healthier if a voter is exposed to what his co-citizens are thinking in other parts of the country, rather than being denied access to it?
The relationship between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the media, especially “English maedia” as he puts it, has followed two distinct trends over the last ten years.
The first trend was of unbridled distrust on either side. Modi had nothing but contempt for those who sought to buttonhole him on the ghastly incidents of 2002. He walked out of TV interviews or stared blankly at interviewers who reminded him of his role, if any. Ours was not to question.
The second trend emerged in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat, which Modi used as his launchpad, first to become the chairman of the BJP campaign committee and thereafter as the BJP’s self-proclaimed “prime ministerial candidate”. Suddenly, influential sections of the media were eating out of his hands.
The key player in the turnaround of the Modi-media relationship, however, has been television, which has unabashedly been used and turned into a soapbox for advertising the latest detergent from the land of Nirma that promises to wipe Indian democracy clean.
To the exclusion of all else.
As Modi—decidedly more macho, muscular, articulate and telegenic than the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi—drives his brandwagon around the country, most news TV channels have dropped any pretence of trying to stay non-partisan, covering every speech or parts of it, conducting opinion polls, setting up nightly contests, etc, as if the end of the world is nigh.
All this, of course, is before the Election Commission’s model code kicks in.
In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai asks an important question: has the time has come to consider “equal coverage”—where all players, not just Modi and Rahul but even leaders of smaller parties get equal space and time—so that the field is not unduly distorted?
“Countries such as the United States try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate, as Modi has been.
“Recently, the Republicans threatened that TV channels, NBC and CNN, would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man, to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.”
Although they were part of the same Indian team—sharing the dressing room, sharing partnerships, sharing victories, defeats and draws—cricket fans detected a faint undercurrent of competition and conflict between Sunil Gavaskar and G.R. Viswanath.
On one level, this was the old battle between two stellar domestic Ranji Trophy sides, Bombay and Karnataka, playing out subliminally through its two leading lights, one a fearless opener who faced the fast and the furious without a helmet; the other an artist who wielded the willow like a brush.
On another level, it was a deeply ingrained stereotype, that “Sunny”, for all the records against his name, was a selfish, mammon-worshipping run-machine with one eye always on the right-hand column of the scoreboard, as opposed to the selfless “Vishy”, who put the team’s interests before his own.
It would have been easy to blame the media for the Gavaskar vs Vishwanath row, but this was in pre-television, pre-internet India of the 1970s and ’80s.
Gavaskar’s pathetic gesture of batting left-handed, down the batting order, in a Ranji match Bombay were losing against Karnataka only confirmed the worst suspicions of cricket followers, but all was forgiven when Gundappa chose Sunny’s sister Kavitha to be his wife.
Was there a similar vibe between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid? The former, a run-machine from Bombay who adored Gavaskar, and the latter, a touch artist whose idol was Vishy?
Like their icons, Tendulkar and Dravid were kingpins of batting. Without the other, each would have had less to show; without both, the side would have suffered. They played hundreds of matches, scored thousands of runs together.
Still, was it all hunky-dory between the two?
Did Dravid have his team’s interests when he declared the Indian innings in Pakistan even as Tendulkar was within striking distance of his first double-century? Did Tendulkar conveniently lose his form when Dravid was captain?
Two days after Tendulkar announced his pre-retirement from the game, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes:
“My most revealing journalistic Sachin moment came in an NDTV Walk the Talk.
“‘If you had to take one stroke from each one of your four great batting peers, Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman, what will it be,’ I asked.
“‘It will be Sehwag’s cut, nobody cuts like him,’ he said, ‘Ganguly’s cover drive, Laxman’s flick off-the-hip and Dravid…’ he paused for a moment to think.
“And what will you take from Dravid, I asked, my mischievous journalistic sensors abuzz, thinking of the little issue the two had just had in Pakistan (Multan) when Dravid had declared with Sachin not out at 194.
“‘I will take Dravid’s defence,’ he said, ‘nobody has a defence like his.’
“I called 10 self-proclaimed cricket experts to ask if that comment was bitchy or brilliant. The verdict: 10:0, brilliant.
Now, wasn’t that a stroke of cricketing genius?
Photograph: Sachin Tendulkar takes a nap on the floor of the dressing room in 1989, as New Zealand swing legend Sir Richard Hadlee (right) and left-arm spinner, Saggi Venkatapathy Raju, look on (courtesy H. Natarajan)
Let me come to the point, for you are a busy man. And it is the busy man who has time to spare. Please spare a few minutes to peruse what I have written here concerning Karnataka, my State and its Chief Minister of a little over 100 days old, Sri Siddaramaiah.
I know him from the day he was a lawyer, law teacher and then an angry young politician inspired by Jayaprakash Narayan and the socialist leaders of Nehru-Gandhi years. Hailing from a backward village of an industrially backward district Mysore, he had the dream of ameliorating the living conditions of the oppressed and the have nots.
Since you will have a dossier on Siddaramaiah, I will not dilate.
However, what prompted me, rather provoked me to write this letter of appeal to you is the news that broke out last evening on TV channels and that appeared in cold print this morning saying that about 20 Congress MLAs have sent a complaint against Siddaramaiah to the Congress high command.
As if to prove the blind belief of many earlier Chief Ministers of Karnataka that whoever visited Chamarajanagar — whose inhabitants are mostly Dalits and Scheduled Tribes — would lose power, these 20 MLAs must have submitted their complaint.
It may be their belief that the bold decision of Siddaramaiah to visit the “cursed” district could be an auspicious moment for them to conspire to bring down Siddaramaiah and then allow the TV and the Press to go to town saying, “didn’t we say he would lose power after visiting Chamarajanagar?”
Dear Sri Rahul, I want you to congratulate Siddaramaiah for his deliberate, daring visit to Chamarajanagar despite advice to the contrary. In doing so, he has led the motley crowd of people steeped in superstition from the front urging them to give up such blind belief. Siddaramaiah, thus, has set a personal example, unlike other Chief Ministers. Now, it should not be shown as if he made a mistake by going to Chamarajanagar.
I will only say this. If you listen to these disgruntled MLAs and sack Siddaramaiah, it will tantamount to yourself subscribing to the superstition and thereby perpetuating the same in this century of reason and scientific temperament.
And in any case, the people of Karnataka know what could be the nature of their complaint. The MLAs generally want their favourite (read corrupt) officers to be posted in most ‘revenue” generating departments like police, revenue, PWD and zilla panchayat. The deputy commissioners (DCs) are tough nuts, being IAS.
So these MLAs want the Chief Minister to give them their favourite police inspectors, tahasildars, executive engineers and CEOs of ZPs.
Totally self-centric, not Karnataka-centric in their conduct as MLAs.
In the past, the Chief Minister, in order to remain in his seat, used to oblige these MLAs. But, have we seen corresponding increased development in the constituencies of these MLAs? No. Reason: Self-aggrandisement.
However, there is another complaint tagged on to the first one, “that Siddaramaiah is ignoring the MLAs’ requests and he is surrounded by his old friends and old gang etc.” This one is to provide a moral facade to an untenable complaint. They alleged that Siddaramaiah goes by their advice.
Ramakrishna Hegde had his “Brains Trust.” Every Chief Minister will have to consult, apart from the Cabinet colleagues, somebody in whose wisdom, expertise and experience he has trust.
According to reports, Siddaramaiah has five such advisors. I understand they are not only committed and loyal to Siddaramaiah but also to his party, Congress. They are: 1. Kempaiah, IPS, retired. 2. Ravi Bosraj. 3. Chenna Reddy. 4. Konanakunte Laxman. 5. MLA Bhyrati Suresh of Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore.
If it is true, it will be perceived by the people, not by politicians and bureaucrats, that these five will be like ‘Pancha Ratnas’ similar to the ‘Navaratnas’ in the courts of Ashoka and Akbar. Like your mother listened to her inner voice about 10 years back, you had better listen to the voice of the people of Karnataka.
More importantly, development of the State is possible only if the Chief Minister is allowed to complete his term, unless he is incompetent or corrupt. For now, Siddharamaiah is competent, what with many years of experience in the earlier governments of JD(S) and he is our Mr. Clean.
For Kannadigas, development is more important than 2014 Parliamentary election.
File photograph: Karnataka governor H.R. Bharadwaj administrating the oath of office to Siddaramaiah during the swearing-in ceremony at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)
In a cash-strapped election season which has seen “corporate interest and media ownership” converge, it is arguable if Narendra Modi is getting a free run. Every whisper of the Gujarat chief minister and BJP “prime ministerial aspirant” is turned into a mighty roar, sans scrutiny, as the idiot box ends up being a soapbox of shrill rhetoric.
In marked contrast, there is only grudging media adulation for the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi even on the odd occasion he does something right, like two Fridays ago, when he barged into a Press Club of India event to stymie an ordinance passed by the Congress-led UPA government, intended at shielding criminal Members of Parliament.
“The press and the Opposition leaders began to pontificate on the language used by Rahul Gandhi. They spent hours damning the use of the word ‘nonsense’, which only meant that something makes no sense.
“They were clutching on to whatever they could find to ensure they gave no credit for Rahul Gandhi. The bias was crystal clear and gave the game away.
“Why is the press distorting the simple truth? Is it because the press would have to doff its hat to Rahul Gandhi, about whom it has been rude and sarcastic? Why is the press being partisan? Why the double standards?”
Pratap Bhanu Mehta president of the Delhi-based thinktank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), in an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN:
Karan Thapar: How do you view the Indian media? Do you share justice Markandey Katju‘s concern, that by and large it is obsessive, it is narrow-minded, it focuses on middle class – urban concerns, ignoring the real problems that affect India such as poverty, such as joblessness.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta: My concern is not so much the issues it covers. It is that whatever it does, with a few exceptions, it is not bringing sufficient rigour and it is not performing frankly the function of being an honest broker in very, very important debates. The media is failing Indian democracy, I would agree with justice Katju to that extent.
Thapar: I know you are not a participant on television debates but do you watch them or do you find them off putting or irritating?
Mehta: You watch them in the way you would watch an entertainment show. In fact my own sense is that I think people are very wisely making the distinction that news is entertainment. It is not news.
Thapar: But of course it should not be entertainment at all.
Mehta: But of course it should not be. It’s exactly that confusion of roles that is crippling us.
Thapar: So TV debates may be entertaining but in terms of informing, educating, illuminating, they fail.
Mehta: Actually they are quite dangerous because they present a false construction of what public opinion is.
Former Rajasthan Royals opening bowler S. Sreesanth has just been banned from cricket for life, for putting his hand-towel out of his pant pocket, as a signal to bookies that he will concede “14 runs”, while bowling in the Indian Premier League.
But such stern action against our Malayali brethren doesn’t seem to deter former Indian prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda from openly and even more conspicuously flaunting his towel on his shoulders, at a cricket match, in Bangalore on Saturday.
BCCI officials, Delhi police and ICC “anti-corruption unit” investigators will, of course, note that this is the second time in as many months that the ex-PM has taunted the “towel rule” that felled Sreesanth for “spot-fixing” in this year’s IPL, and that this time his towel has a green border.
On both occasions, “Mr Deve” has done so in the full presence of mediamen, this time with the president of the Press Club of Bangalore, Ramakrishna Upadhya, bang behind him.
The engineer-son of ‘Make Up’ Naani and Bhargavi Nagaraj who became an Indian Express reporter, who became a magazine correspondent, who became a television chat show host, who launched a journalism school, who launched a weekly newspaper…
And who made a national-award winning English film, who made a hit Kannada TV serial—and who is winning accolades for his role as a Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent in the just-released Hindi film, Madras Cafe:
“Prakash Belawadi started and edited a weekly newspaper, Bangalore Bias (it shut down). He has begun so many enterprises, a media school among them, that I have lost count just of those he has been involved in since 2000, and would not be surprised if he has too.
“Belawadi began his career as a journalist and worked for Vir Sanghvi’s Sunday. He remains a columnist and a first rate one. He has the best quality a columnist can have and that, according to Graham Greene, is never to be boring.
“Belawadi has a dangerous lack of ideology that makes him an aggressive and unpredictable debater. He can casually assume a position, often contrary to one he held a couple of days ago, and unpack a ferocious argument. Like all good men, he likes a fight, and like all good men it is promptly forgotten. He has a quality that is admirable among men.
“He is restless and tireless, and totally uncaring for the middle-class ambitions that most of us cannot let go of, and few of us ever achieve.”
As if the “idiots” in the media didn’t have enough problems to deal with—paid news, corruption, wage board, 12-minute-per-hour ad caps, cross-media controls, job losses, recession etc—the Union information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari has now floated the kite of a “common examination” for journalists as a precursor to giving them “licenses” to operate, a la doctors and lawyers.
Bearing an eerie resemblance to press council chairman Markandey Katju‘s “order” advocating “some legal qualification” before one can enter the profession, Tewari’s proposal has the stamp of the control-freakery which has convinced the Congress-led UPA that the media is its chief problem—not the scams, scandals and shenanigans that have pockmarked its second term.
“I think a good starting point (for media education) would be that rather than prescribing a curricula which is then standardised across institutions, possibly the media industry could think about at least having a common exam. Like you have a Bar exam, like you have a medical exam or exams which are conducted by other professional bodies, which then issue a licence, which enables you to pursue your profession,” Tewari has said.
Even more dangerous is the thought of “licensing” journalists? Who will do that? The government of the day? A press council appointed by the government of the day? The local journalists union? Can this license be revoked or rewarded depending on favours rendered? Will a licence in one language, one state be valid in another? Etcetera.
Above all, could an examination and licence impact the freedom of the news media?
VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Recently, I was caught in the rain and I took shelter in a teashop.
Wet, and sipping on tea, I couldn’t help but notice the chatter of two older gentlemen who were sipping, puffing and professing. They seemed involved in an animated and heated discussion and I couldn’t help myself but eavesdrop.
Just as I got close to them, the discussion ended with the older man claiming, “None of the Congress fellows today have the guts of Sanjay Gandhi. If Sanjay Gandhi was alive, India would have been in a better state. I challenge.”
All that I could think of was “If Sanjay Gandhi had been around, I doubt this man would be a father and may be the word ‘nasbandi’ would have triggered an involuntary action of cupping his crotch and running for cover. I challenge.”
But was there any truth in the old man’s claim?
This reminds me of what Sanjay Gandhi’s son Varun Gandhi said to the media: “Wherever I go people say, if Sanjay Gandhi was alive India would not be what it is today.”
What they obviously meant was that India would be in a better state.
Better, how and why?
Because Sanjay had his own vision of what India should be and was authoritarian in pursuing them?
Well… if that’s the case, then it seems like we have a modern and better version of Sanjay Gandhi in Narendra Modi. True?
Well, we’ll know after 2014; until then we’ll keep our fingers crossed… well, had it been Sanjay Gandhi’s 1977, we’d have to keep our legs crossed.
The Narendra Modi and Sanjay Gandhi comparison crops up because they both are known to “get things done.”
In fact, the legendary journalist Khushwant Singh put a picture of Sanjay Gandhi on the cover of Illustrated Weekly of India magazine with a headline “Sanjay, the man who gets things done.”
Today, Modi is in every middle class urban Indian’s mind, and every time they think of him they see the same hope Khushwant Singh saw: “A man who can get things done.”
Fears that Modi will become authoritarian like Sanjay and will take us to the Emergency days of gag and imprisonment could be far-fetched because they operated at different times in our democracy.
Sanjay Gandhi was trying to find quick and simple solutions to complex problems. Sanjay was a Political Rambo in a young democracy and in a hurry to see change even if it meant mowing down slums or squeezing out manhoods.
The best example would be the unplanned execution of the sterilisation programmes. People were not educated about what it was and rumours spread that it was an operation that would render women unable to bear children and men impotent.
No one came, so they were dragged out and the rest is disaster as recorded in history.
Sanjay Gandhi had a five-point programme for India: tree planting, abolition of caste and dowry system, eradication of illiteracy, family planning and eradication of slums. All of them failed.
Sanjay may have been known as a man “who got things done…,” but if only he had planned them… Unfortunately he didn’t and he became a “man who got things wrong.”
Journalist Vinod Mehta concluded his book ‘The Sanjay Story’ by saying: “Had Sanjay possessed more finesse, had he not been in such a tearing hurry, had he been slightly more intelligent, he would have become ‘the national leader’ he so wished to be.”
Seems like Modi possesses the above qualities.
Also, Modi is more educated; he has a Master’s in Political Science. Sanjay was 11th grade pass and earned a course certificate from Rolls Royce.
Modi is a smart operator who plans and delivers. Sanjay and Modi have many similarities — both obsessed with development, both inclined towards technology. Coincidentally, both helped start the first indigenous Indian cars, a venture of “Indian pride” — Maruti for Sanjay, Tata Nano for Modi. Both have an image bigger than their party itself.
More importantly, both have used their party ideology partly to put themselves in a place of power from where they can force down their own vision of development.
For example, while analysts say Modi is a Hindu fundamentalist, no one talks about how when it was brought to his notice that 310 religious structures in Gandhinagar had encroached on government roads hindering road widening, he demolished them!
First, he demolished temples. This he did in spite of VHP, his party BJP’s strong arm, taking offence. VHP formed a Mandir Bachao Samiti and screamed “development cannot be achieved by demolishing temples.”
It did not stop him. Roads were widened, to be used by all. May be he came to power on his party’s Hindu ideology, but delivered on his Indian ideology.
Yes, of course, both leaders obsessed over infrastructural delivery and industrial development model. But what about the social aspect? Can Modi handle that? After all, this is where Sanjay failed ever so miserably and Modi too is criticised for his dismal social development record.
What’s he going to do when he has to deal with the whole nation?
For now, he is the CM of Gujarat where the only distractions for its citizens are supposedly Bollywood and stock market, makes it easier to administer. He also has to ask himself if Gujarat is truly democratic, then why are people drinking stealthily in Gujarat?
Why do non-vegetarians have to go all around the town looking to buy meat?
Why have minorities suddenly huddled in silence on the outskirts of urban Gujarat?
He has to answer these questions because soon he may have to deal with the booze-enjoying Bangaloreans, bar dance-loving Mumbaites, Fenny-loving Goans, meat-loving Punjabis, all perceived as sins in the puritan Gujarat.
Then there is the Kashmir issue, not to forget environmental and mining issues where his industrial friends have been known to run riot displacing indigenous people.
All these are important social factors. So far, Modi has been enjoying a saucer of dhokla; can his political palate handle the plate full of socially psychedelic India? Only time will tell.
But is 2014 election really about Rahul Vs Modi? It seems more like Rajiv Vs Sanjay.
Rahul, like his father, was a hesitant entrant to politics whereas Modi, like Sanjay, relishes it. Rahul plays by the rules set up by the old fogies in the party; Modi, like Sanjay, is feared in his own party for having a mind of his own.
Rahul, like Rajiv, perpetually seems like a political misfit; Modi, like Sanjay, looks like he was born to be in it.
Unfortunately, both have a disturbing streak of authoritarian model of work. This is where fear sets in and that’s why Vinod Mehta, comparing Modi and Sanjay said: “Narendra Modi type of leadership has a tendency to descend into authoritarian one-man rule.” Warning taken.
But even if the dark side of Sanjay manifests in Modi, is it possible to execute it in the 21st century democratic India where we have a hyperactive media, huge young population and technology at our fingertips? We doubt it.
Sadly in a way, the Indian middle-class is actually looking for an authoritarian leader.
They have tolerated a muted, submissive, incommunicado PM heading a government of inaction for so long that they seem ready to risk an authoritarian leader who can “get things done.” They feel Modi will get things done and if he doesn’t, they can always go back to the good old Indian National Comatose Party.
(Vikram Muthanna is managing editor of Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)
With the economic downturn threatening to turn into a full-blown recession and with the finance minister reduced to going around the world with a hat in hand, the Congress-led UPA government last week increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in telecom, defence, petroleum refining, etc, but…
But, not the media.
On the issue of enhancing FDI in media from 26% to 49% under the automatic route as proposed by a finance ministry panel, two separate ministries swung into action. First, the ministry of information and broadcasting sought the views of the telecom regulatory authority (TRAI) and the press council (PCI).
And then, the home ministry opposed the hike, favouring control of media houses by Indians. The Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted official sources as saying:
# “Opening up of current affairs TV channels, newspapers and periodicals dealing with news and current affairs may lead to meddling in India’s domestic affairs and politics.
# “Increase of FDI in broadcasting and print media may also allow foreign players to launch propaganda campaign during any national crisis as well as when interests of any particular country is harmed through any government decision.
# “Big foreign media players with vested interests may try to fuel fire during internal or external disturbances and also can encourage political instability in the country through their publications or broadcasting outlets.”
These reasons have been touted for 22 years now and will surprise nobody. Last week, The Hindu (which was initially at the forefront of the opposition to FDI hikes in media) reported that the industry was divided on the FDI issue:
“While certain big networks like Times Television Network, Network 18 and NDTV are broadly supportive, others like India TV, Sun, Eenadu and Malayala Manorama group have objected to an increase in FDI caps.”
The Centre’s decision to not go-ahead with FDI in media in an election year will not surprise anybody. After all, it wouldn’t want to rub promoters and proprietors on the wrong side, especially when powerful corporates (potential election donors) have substantial stakes in the media.
Still, the question remains whether the media can be given this preferential treatment and, if so, for how long? Will the home ministry’s fears ever vanish? Or, will the media which talks of competition and choice as the great leveller in every sphere of life, seek the protection of politicians in power to protect its turf?
The request for proposal (RFP) document of the Gujarat government that sets ‘targets’ for the PR firm that wins the contract to promote Narendra Modi’s image
In the latest issue of Open magazine, Jatin Gandhi lays his hand on a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) document of the Gujarat government that shows how “almost every day, the Indian media—and sometimes the foreign media too—is tricked or influenced by Narendra Modi‘s public relations machinery”.
The RFP besides setting targets for the PR firm that bags the contract (see image, above) also lists what is expected of a PR firm if it bags the contract to manage the Gujarat chief minister’s image.
# The hired PR firm should ‘arrange for national and international media to visit Gujarat and attend various events organized by the different departments of the Government of Gujarat’.
# ‘The number of media personnel for any event shall be decided by the Commissionerate of information after deliberation on the scale of the event.’
# “It is the Firm’s responsibility to arrange for the visits of journalists to Gujarat, any other part of the country or abroad. The expenses for the same will be reimbursed by the Commissionerate of Information on the submission of actual bills.’
The story quotes sources as saying the state government has already borne the expenses of scores of journalists, paying for their flights, travel within Gujarat and stay on assorted occasions (and multiple visits in some cases).
“Senior journalists are usually assured of luncheon meetings with Modi, with seating plans drawn up to boost their egos. The current Indian PR agency (Mutual PR) has so far arranged meetings between Modi and a range of newspaper and magazine editors.
“Starting this year, the government also has a budget allocation for taking journalists abroad on Modi’s foreign visits….
“At the Vibrant Gujarat summit earlier this year, a list of 20 journalists was drawn for a luncheon meeting with Modi. On this list was Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi and a fellow at the Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies, who has turned from being a critic to an advocate of Modi.
“Internal communication accessed by Open shows that the agency was wooing Kishwar, something she firmly denies.
She says that she is writing a book on Modi: “I am going to include a chapter, I think, on the myth and reality of Modi’s PR. There is no PR. I have written angry letters to the CM’s office asking for information for which I have been waiting several weeks now. They are so overburdened.”
“With Kishwar claiming she is oblivious to the machinery at work, the Gujarat government nevertheless gave her special attention because she was seen as one of the lone voices emerging from the ‘the Left liberal space’ favourable to Modi’s policies with ‘captive column space available to her in The Hindu, DNA and Manushi…’
After falling hook, line and dhokla for the PR fiction that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi had “rescued” 15,000 Gujaratis in Uttarakhand, The Times of India attempts a feeble course correction on its editorial page today.
Abheek Barman, the former Economic Times editor, does some elemental number-crunching of the sort TOI’s reporter Anand Soondas ought to have done, to show that Modi’s Himalayan miracle was a “barefaced, cynical lie”.
But without once mentioning that it was TOI which was responsible for the original, barefaced, cynical lie.
“Reports say that Modi pulled off this coup with a fleet of 80 Innovas. How did these cars manage to reach places like Kedarnath, across roads that have been washed away, over landslides that have wrecked most access routes?
“But let us assume Modi’s Innovas had wings as well as helicopter rotors. Including the driver, an Innova is designed to carry seven people. In a tough situation, assume you could pack nine passengers into each car.
“In that case, a convoy of 80 Innovas could ferry 720 people down the mountains to Dehradun at one go. To get 15,000 people down, the convoy would need to make 21 round trips.
“The distance between Dehradun and Kedarnath is 221 km. So 21 trips up and down would mean that each Innova would have to travel nearly 9,300 km.
“It takes longer to travel in the hills than in the plains. So, assuming an average speed of 40 km per hour, it would take 233 hours of driving to pull off the feat.
“This assumes non-stop driving, without a second’s rest to identify the Gujaratis to be rescued and keeping the rest of the distressed folk at bay, or any time to load and unload the vehicles. And forget about any downtime for the gallant rescuers.
“That is nearly 10 days of miraculous work. And Modi pulled it off in a day.
“Actually, in less than a day: a breathless media reported that by Saturday, 25 luxury buses had brought a group of Gujaratis back to Delhi. For some reason, four Boeing aircraft also idled in some undisclosed place nearby.”
With Pranab Mukherjee, an acknowledged man of letters, moving into the Rashtrapati Bhavan as President, the library is being dusted and brought back into shape. And the oldest book in the collection, dating back to the year 1800, is on the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, or Tipu Sultaun as he is spelt on the cover.
The book, by Lt Col Alexander Beatson is a narrative of the operations of the army under the command of Lt Gen George Harris that resulted in the overthrow of Tipu and the discovery of his body at “Watergate”. The book was prepared for the attention of the chairman and directors of the East India Company.
The President’s library also boasts of an 1810 volume that contains “historical sketches of the South of India” in an attempt to trace the history of “Mysoor”, from “the origin of the Hindoo government of that state to the extinction of the Mohammedan dynasty in 1799″, with the downfall and death of Tipu Sultan.
“The mainstream media has always had a more uneven relationship with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s acolytes would like to suggest that the mainstream media has always been anti-Modi and has hounded the BJP’s rising star with a ferocity that no other politician in this country has had to confront.
“Modi as victim of an English language media ‘conspiracy’ is a narrative that has been played out for over a decade now by the chief minister and his supporters, a narrative that aims to position Modi as a one-man army standing up to the might of the media.
“The truth, as it often is, happens to be far more complex….
“Journalism cannot be public relations nor can it be character assassination. Now, as Modi is poised for his next big leap, it is time for the media to maybe reset its moral compass: is to possible to analyse the Modi phenomenon by moving beyond the extremes of glorification or vilification?
“Can the media find a middle ground where Modi can be assessed in a neutral, dispassionate manner without facing the charge of bias or being a cheerleader? Or is Modi such a polarising figure that even the media has been divided into camps?
“My own personal experience suggests that it won’t be easy to avoid being bracketed as pro- or anti-Modi. But yet, we must make the effort. Because journalism in its purest form must remain the pursuit of truth shorn of ideological agendas. Modi has become a test case for the media’s ability to rise above the surround sound, unmindful of the rabid fan clubs or the equally shrill activists.”
PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Tomorrow, May 8, is results day for the Karnataka assembly elections. Since I am not going to be in front of a camera, here are five talking points I bet you won’t hear on your favourite news channel, but five points I sincerely wish TV anchors and analysts would use.
First, despite what everyone has said in the last month, there hasn’t been any discernible change in the fundamental poll dynamic since the elections were announced. What this means is that despite the month-long campaign and all that comes along with it (read money and other gifts to the voters), nothing much changed that actually altered the political climate.
What are the fundamentals that I refer to here?
The anti-incumbency of a largely ineffectual, scandal and dissension-ridden BJP government had created a small undercurrent of support for Congress. However, that advantage has been difficult to quantify and that’s because politics these days, especially at the state level, is local and very competitive. Further, political advantage doesn’t mean a wave in favor of a political party.
I am tempted to say the era of waves is over.
Congress stuck to its strategy, didn’t recruit too many outsiders (especially those who had ties with BJP), and focused mostly on consolidating its base.
True, its ticket distribution strategy seemed chaotic and the party took too much time to complete the process. There seemed to be much dissension, with ticket aspirants and activists demonstrating regularly in front of the party office. But much of this is media-driven to make the elections more interesting, and generate some stories.
BJP somehow managed to stop its bleeding just in time when its leaders managed to convince the four Lingayat ministers (Umesh Katti, Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani and V. Somanna) not to leave the party.
This action enabled the state BJP leadership to save some credibility with its national leaders but more significantly increased its competitiveness in 12-15 constituencies and dealt a crushing blow to Yediyurappa’s dreams of consolidating his hold over Lingayats in north Karnataka.
Second, I want to submit that all the predictions, including the exit poll based ones, are bunkum.
I haven’t looked at the methodology and sample size closely. Yet, I suspect that extrapolating results from voting percentages is not accurate. The Janata Dal (Secular) and BJP are not strong in the same areas, which means that there are fewer triangular fights.
Hence, if Congress is competing strongly everywhere, even if its vote share goes up, it may not win a commensurate number of assembly segments.
This complementary nature of JD (S) and BJP’s support base introduces an element of uncertainty and I don’t know enough about our pollsters to believe they take into account all these variables.
My scepticism about predictions leads me to my third point: that the political culture in Karnataka (in fact, this is also a broader argument that could be made nationally too) has changed dramatically. Hence, history is not a good guide not only to make predictions but more importantly to assess political strategies.
What has changed in the last decade?
In a nutshell, Karnataka has seen a new breed of politician, who has had substantial business interests and is willing to plough back huge amounts of money back into electoral politics. This new politician is in politics to manipulate public policy, further his business interests and secure maximum profits.
He doesn’t have any ideological commitments or a substantial notion of public good.
His political strategy revolves around using his personal fortune (often ill-gotten from real estate, mining or some such natural resource owned by the state) to secure the loyalty of his constituents to himself and this has been the basis for a new form of populism in Karnataka.
There have been many consequences but let me list here only two.
First, the political space available for other kinds of politics, especially the ones inspired by ideology, socio-political movements and a substantial notion of public good, is entirely absent. Be surprised if any candidate who has spent less than five crores actually wins.
Second, even old-school politicians have reinvented themselves along the same lines. In order to understand the truth of this, you only have to look at Yediyurappa and the Deve Gowda family.
In this new political culture, we need a different theory of political strategies, especially in the electoral realm. But we haven’t even had a decent explanation until now about BJP’s own electoral success in 2008. So, I am not very hopeful that we will get a good theory in tomorrow’s shows when Ramachandra Guha and Yogendra Yadav hold forth on our TV screens.
There is much to say on this topic but in brief what we need to recognize is that BJP and JD(S) have recognized the changing tides very quickly and hence have been very nimble in making their strategies.
On the other hand, Congress is burdened by its past and seems like an elephant in its efforts to maneuver around the more nimble, more tiger like opponents. It still has to accommodate all the social classes and its base is largely made up of old time loyalists. The party continues to look to its high command for guidance.
Thus Congress continues to rely on its 20th century political culture/strategizing in what has been a dramatically different 21st century political reality. Most of the stories about Congress bungling (especially this OPED piece by James Manor in the Indian Express) its poll strategy do not recognize this simple fact: it couldn’t have avoided these pitfalls and the magical wand called leadership doesn’t exist.
So, if any analyst tells you that Congress lost because S.M. Krishna was ignored, consider that a load of bull crap. Active participation by Krishna wouldn’t have increased Congress’s total vote tally in the state by 100,000 votes. His counsel wouldn’t have made ticket distribution any more efficient.
If anyone says wrong ticket selection contributed to Congress losing, take that with some skepticism.
For example, at a constituency level there might have been mistakes but Congress had a larger goal. For example, giving tickets to C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson in Hebbal and Shamanuru Shivashankarappa in Davanagere might have been problematic but if the goal is also to send a message to specific communities, then Congress will have succeeded.
This is where BJP, KJP and JD (S) are more nimble in picking candidates and they can afford to make tactical decisions in each constituency.
For example, former minister A.Krishnappa was fielded by JD (S) in Hiriyur after Congress refused to give him ticket in K.R. Puram. Krishnappa, a Golla (cowherd), is likely to win this constituency where his community is in large numbers and who along with Vokkaligas form a potent combintion. His opponent, D. Sudhakar, former minister who joined Congress just before the elections, was seen as a sure shot winner in this contest when elections began.
Here is the takeaway. Politics is extremely competitive and resourceful newcomers are ready to enter the electoral arena. They are trolling different parties in search of opportunities. Nobody can take elections easily these days.
If Siddaramaiah has sleepless nights caused by a political nobody, whose sole claim to fame is that he was Yediyurappa’s former aide and his sole strategy to secure political loyalty is to distribute large sums of money to all comers, then no leader is safe.
Fourth, I really, really wish our analysts would display a better understanding of the caste-politics equation. We really don’t have a good 21st century theory of caste loyalties inspire electoral politics. It is grating to see Yediyurappa described as the “sole leader” of Lingayats and Deve Gowda characterized as the Vokkaliga “strong man”.
Please internalize this: caste support to political parties and leaders is tactical and local; it is not strategic and translocal. I know this claim demands a research paper and not simply an assertion.
However here is the simple takeaway: Subcaste and matha-influence is more important than the kind of translocal caste loyalties that I referred to.
In Hiriyur, Kunchatiga vokkaligas are in large number but they are not strong supporters of the Gangadakara-dominated JD(S). If they vote for JD (S), it is not because of some caste loyalty to Deve Gowda. In fact, if you do a survey of Vokkaligas, most actually very strongly dislike the Gowda family, even if they vote for JD (S) most of the time.
In the same way, Lingayat solidarity across the state is a myth.
Surely, it is possible to secure broad based support from the community in favor of a party like BJP if someone like Yediyurappa is at the helm. But such a strategy would be predicated on finding the right sub caste candidate in each constituency.
Picking a Jangama candidate in a Sada or Panchamasali dominant area will result in huge electoral backlash.
Similarly, backward castes are also not a uniform entity. Siddaramaiah is a backward caste leader but unlike the 1970s and 80s when one could claim that mantle fairly easily these days all the backward castes have become highly politicized and do no want to be represented by someone from outside.
So, Siddharamaiah found himself challenged frequently by backward caste opponents, especially Nayakas, who are a large backward caste community spread across the state, just like the kuruba community to which Siddaramaiah belongs.
So, dear analyst, please do not speak use caste as an analytical category if you don’t understand the local dynamic. You will only sound like a fool.
Fifth, Karnataka saw the emergence of some new political outfits. B. PAC or the Bangalore Political Action Committee represented an alliance of new age entrepreneurs who wanted to influence electoral politics and public policy. This seemed to be inspired by American PACs, which play an enormous role in electoral politics.
Then there was Loksatta, which fielded several naïve, well meaning but political neophytes in urban areas.
All these efforts to build an alternative politics appeared half-assed, pretentious and frankly, quite insulting to the voter. It is not enough to claim that the political class is corrupt and inefficient. It is not enough to claim their own personal cleanliness, educational qualifications or industry experience.
What they lacked is a substantial movement or a public project that they could claim ownership over. Or if any of the candidates had even been a bureaucrat, something that would have brought them in contact with the public, where their conduct would have been monitored by people, such a person would have some claim to seek public trust.
A politician once told me: “What matters is not incorruptibility when you don’t have an opportunity to take a bribe. If you are incorruptible when you actually hold a public office and then work for public good, then you have a claim over public trust.”
The new, middle-class political aspirants seem to miss that simple truth.
The blazing row between India and Italy over the latter’s refusal to send back the two marines accused of killing two fishermen is proof, if proof were needed, that in the globalised world, the political interests of the States are beginning to have a say in the manner in which national diplomacy is framed.
If it is Kerala in this episode, it is Tamil Nadu vis-a-vis Sri Lanka on the issue of Tamils or Russia in the case of the Koodankulam nuclear plant. Orissa has draw India into a diplomatic kerfuffle with South Korea over Posco, while West Bengal is drawing the contours of ties with Bangladesh on the issue of Teesta waters, and so on.
In Italy’s case, of course, the matter gets all the more complicated given that country’s deep and subliminal link with India. Two countries joined at the hip in its fractious coalition politics, the corruption of its leaders, its food, Ottavio Quattrocchi, Agusta Westland choppers and of course, Sonia Gandhi.
The Italian marines’ issue as seen by Talk, the Bangalore weekly edited by S.R. Ramakrishna. Illustrations by Satish Acharya.