Posts Tagged ‘A. Surya Prakash’

They don’t make journos like VNSR any more

9 October 2012

churumuri records with regret the passing away of V.N. Subba Rao, the former chief reporter and chief of bureau of the undivided Indian Express—and a guru and mentor to hundreds of young journalists—in Bangalore, on Tuesday morning. He was 81 years old and had been ailing for a few months.

VNSR, as he was known to his myriad friends and colleagues, was brilliantly bilingual, churning out thousands of words each week in English and Kannada at frightening speed, from the intricacies of Karnataka politics, most of whose practitioners he knew on first-name terms, to the shenanigans of the Kannada film industry.

He wrote his weekly political commentary column “In Passing” on a typewriter with barely a mistake in the copy, the rhythmic sound of the carriage making music across the corridor of No. 1, Queen’s Road where the Express was nestled in its glory days. That column shifted to Deccan Herald, where he worked briefly.

Upon his retirement, VNSR launched a tabloid political weekly and a film weekly, both of which folded in quick time. Unlike modern-day political commentators, Subba Rao proudly wrote Kannada movie reviews with the zeal of an intern and attended every press conference without fail.

The New Delhi-based political commentator, A. Surya Prakash, who got his first job with the Express in Bangalore under VNSR in 1971, said: “The net value of all the journalists who learnt their craft under Subba Rao must run into a few hundred crore rupees.”

K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, the resident editor of The Week in New Delhi, who too worked under VNSR, sent this message to friends: “Let us remember his great leadership, quest for exclusive news, soaring prose, unquenchable curiosity and grooming of many of today’s stars of journalism. A life fit for celebration.”

For one who dealt with the high and mighty of Karnataka politics, VNSR had the unique ability to be surprised even by a small fire. His trademark reaction to every story and tip-off, big or small, was a simple “Howdaa?” (Is it so?) followed by a noisy hands-free swipe of the nose which seemed to suffer from a perpetual cold.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

J. Dey: When eagles are silent, parrots jabber

E. Raghavan: Ex-ET, TOI, Vijaya Karnataka editor

Pratima Puri: India’s first TV news reader passes away

Tejeshwar Singh: A baritone falls silent watching the cacophony

K.M. Mathew: chief of editor of Malayala Manorama

Amita Malik: the ‘first lady of Indian media’

***

K.R. Prahlad: In the end, death becomes a one-liner

M.R. Shivanna: A 24×7 journalist is no more

C.P. Chinnappa: A song for an unsung hero

‘Politics is about solving, not evading, problems’

9 August 2010

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express:

“The scandal of Indian politics is not simply that the prime minister is politically weak; it is that those who are politically strong are constantly running away from political responsibility. This is diminishing the ability of the government to do anything imaginative.

“[This government] is also founded on the illusion that politics can be detached from policy. Andhra should have taught the Congress the lesson how quickly it can become vulnerable because of casual political judgments. But exempting Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from serious political responsibility is beginning to extract a toll.

“It is letting the Congress get away with the illusion that the hubris, callousness, even charges of corruption that are now sullying the party will somehow not affect its core image. It is as if in case the Commonwealth Games turn out to be a bit of a financial scandal, it has nothing to do with the party as such. Second, it has created a political culture where Congress politicians always seem stuck in a nether zone: many are smart, have independent ideas, but are simply unable to move. And it has sent a message: the purpose of politics is not solving problems; it is the evasion of responsibility.”

R. Jagannathan in DNA:

“It is a tragedy to see a Gandhi scion hiding behind mamma, shying away from the real challenges of life. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru battled sectarianism and put his political prestige on the line to fight Hindu traditionalists in the Congress party and outside.

Indira Gandhi took on all the party bosses to establish her power and take the country forward. She took the fateful—unfortunately, wrong—decision to storm the Akal Takht and paid with her life. But she did not shrink from taking a decision. Rajiv Gandhi learnt from her mistakes and handled the next Golden Temple crisis intelligently. He also tried to bring peace to Sri Lanka by sending the IPKF to deal with the murderous LTTE. He too paid for it with his life.

“The mark of a good leader is not that he or she always takes the right call, but that they are never afraid to take a decision in the national interest. In contrast, Sonia and Rahul have made no wrong move ever. They are courting power by abandoning the idea of leading. They are opportunists. This country needs leaders, not opportunists.”

A. Surya Prakash in The Pioneer:

“The situation in Kashmir has spiraled out of control. The preparations for the Commonwealth Games are a shambles. The Maoists have carved out their own State and hapless constables of the Central Reserve Police Force are routinely slaughtered by those leading the armed insurrection. Food prices have hit the roof and rail and air accidents are the order of the day. Members of the Union Council of Ministers have given a go-by to the concept of collective responsibility and flung governance and accountability out of the window.

“Suddenly, everything appears to be falling apart. Threats to India’s constitutional well being and territorial integrity unfortunately coincide with non-governance. Amidst all this chaos, the lead actor appears to have deserted the stage. That is why there is just one question on the lips of many citizens these days: Where is the Prime Minister?”

Also read: After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apun ka Rahul

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: a foregone conclusion?

Such sweet lies you could’ve missed the truth

3 November 2009

indira

The 25th anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi has produced reams of fawning tributes, leaving you to wonder how low today’s supine, profit-hungry, ratings-driven media would have crawled had “the only man in her cabinet” reimposed censorship in the year of the lord 2009.

In an era of austerity (remember?), the Congress-led UPA government splurged shameless millions on newspaper ads; Doordarshan began live coverage from the very moment she received the first bullet that morning on October 31. Magazines produced thick special issues. And television was a hagiographic bore.

In The Pioneer, Delhi, Arkalgud Surya Prakash strikes the right note of dissent:

“All those who value democracy must challenge the contents of these advertisements for the following reasons: Mrs Gandhi turned a vibrant democracy into a dictatorship and presided over a fascist regime that jailed political opponents and independent journalists when she imposed Emergency in 1975. Her Government was responsible for many despicable acts, including forcible sterilisation of citizens, bull-dozing of Muslim-dominated localities like Turkman Gate in Delhi, and incarceration of Government employees who failed to obey her illegal orders. These are just a few of the most horrendous, inhuman and undemocratic acts committed by her regime. All these terrible deeds have been fully documented by the Shah Commission which probed the Emergency excesses.

“Once this infrastructure for dictatorship had been laid, other things followed. Her government suspended Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (no deprivation of life and liberty except by procedure established by law). With the passage of these orders, citizens of India lost their fundamental right to life and liberty. They were also prohibited from moving courts. The Attorney-General virtually conceded the fascist nature of that regime when he confessed in the Supreme Court that if a citizen was shot dead by a policeman, the victim’s family would have no right to seek relief before a court.

“Here is a short recapitulation of some other things Mrs Gandhi did as Prime Minister: She bamboozled the judiciary, superseded judges and repeatedly amended the Constitution to protect herself. The 39th Amendment was meant solely to prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing the election petition against her; the 41st Amendment declared that no civil or criminal cases could be filed against her; even more reprehensible was the 42nd Amendment which abolished the need for quorum in Parliament and gave the President the right to ‘amend’ the Constitution through an executive order. With this amendment, Parliament allowed the President to tinker with the Constitution when ‘necessary’. Further, since there was no requirement for quorum in Parliament, Ministers could push through anti-democratic laws in late night sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the presence of just a handful of Congress MPs. These were ideas which were taken straight out of Hitler’s book.”

Read the full article: Travesty as tribute

Cartoon: courtesy The Economist, London

Also read: The people, not the press, are the real Fourth Estate

A single shoe is mightier than a pen and a sword

H.Y. SHARADA PRASAD: Middle-class will never understand Indira

What’s in a name? What’s in a bold-faced name?

18 August 2009

Anil Dharker, the chemical engineer turned journalist, once wrote a famous TV review in the now-defunct Sunday Observer, in which he wrote Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi a few hundred times from start to finis to drive home the Rajiv Gandhi overkill on the State-owned broadcaster Doordarshan.

Rajiv Gandhi is now history, but life imitates art in strange ways. Congress governments at the Centre and in the States have made it their life’s mission to immoralise Rajiv Gandhi‘s name till kingdom come, with project after project after project being named after the late prime minister with monotonous imagination.

Question: How many projects in the country are named after Rajiv Gandhi?

Answer: Below

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

It is the eternal, inviolable law of democracy: You serve the people meaningfully, they will reward you with votes; you fool the people, they will bide their time to punish you.

This law was dramatically in evidence in this year’s election. Congress gained significantly because it was seen actively promoting a programme that helped jobless masses, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

It was not politics, but service.

Alas, it is now going to be politics. Recognising the voter appeal of the programme, state government leaders began exploiting what was a hundred percent centrally sponsored scheme. Mayawati has launched a campaign in UP with her portrait in all publicity material as though it is her idea and her implementation.

But this is a game the Congress can play more brazenly than any other party.

In order to stop others from hijacking its scheme, the Congress is now moving to put an indelible party stamp on it. It plans to name the programme after, who else, Rajiv Gandhi.

Will Mayawati lend her portrait to publicise Rajiv Gandhi?

Naming a government-funded public programme after a single leader is an established Congress trick. We have always been aware of Indira Gandhi This and Rajiv Gandhi That.

Journalist A. Surya Prakash now shows us how this has grown into a national disease. In a petition to the Election Commission, he has listed 450 central and State government activities named after three members of the dynasty Jawaharlal, Indira and Rajiv.

It’s a frightening list.

He questions the political morality of attaching a politician’s name to government programmes aimed at improving the lives of citizens. The Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Yojana (with government funding of Rs 28,000 crore), and the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission (Rs 21,000 crore over three years) give the impression that Rajiv Gandhi is to be thanked for the electricity and the water that citizens get.

Surya Prakash cites the case of an ambulance service in Andhra that provides emergency help quickly and efficiently. The expenditure is borne out of public funds, but each of the 650 ambulances carries a portrait of Rajiv Gandhi on both sides of the vehicle with the legend Rajiv Arogyasri thus giving the impression that this ambulance service is a gift of Rajiv Gandhi and his party to the people of Andhra.

By contrast, only the Backward Region Development Fund is named after Mahatma Gandhi. And not a single central programme is named after Ambedkar or Sardar Patel whose roles as builders of India remain unique.

In the dynastic naming spree, even Jawaharlal Nehru looks like an after-thought.

The formidable listing ranges from Indira Gandhi Calf Rearing Scheme and Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana (Haryana) to Rajiv Gandhi Kabaddi Tournament, Rajiv Gandhi Wrestling Gold Cup, Rajiv Gandhi Stadium (three in Kerala alone), Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship for SC/ST, Rajiv Gandhi Wild Life Sanctuary, Rajiv Gandhi Mission on Food Security, Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme (Pondicherry), Rajiv Gandhi Bridges and Roads Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute.

There’s even a peak in the Himalayas named Mount Rajiv.

The latest addition explains why and how this happens. Sharad Pawar, at a loose end with his NCP getting nowhere, has been anxious to curry Sonia Gandhi‘s favour.

So he proposed that the new sea bridge in Bombay be named Rajiv Sethu. And so it was, scheming politicians turning India into a family estate.

At this rate, Bharat may soon be re-named Rajiv Rajya.

BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

23 June 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and SHARANYA KANVILKAR in Bombay write: The stunning defeat of the BJP in the general elections has been dissected so many times and by so many since May 16 that there is little that has been left unsaid.

What has been left unsaid is how the BJP’s defeat also marks the comeuppance of a certain breed of journalists who had chucked all pretence to non-partisanship and made it their mission to tom-tom the party, in print and on air, for a decade and more.

The Congress and the Left parties have had more than their share of sympathetic “left-liberal” journalists, of course. And for longer. But most were closet supporters unwilling to cross the divide from journalism into politics, or unwilling to be seen to be doing so.

However, the rise of the “muscular” BJP saw the birth of a “muscular” breed of journalists who unabashedly batted for the party’s politics and policies—without revealing their allegiance while enjoying its fruits “lavishly“—in a manner that would have embarrassed even the official spokesmen of the “Hindu nationalist party”.

Little wonder, Arun Shourie, the granddad of journalists turned BJP politicians, alleged at the party’s national executive meeting that “the BJP was being run by six journalists.” There are different versions doing the rounds on who the “Gang of Six” were, but some names are no longer in the realm of speculation.

# Sudheendra Kulkarni an assistant editor at The Sunday Observer and executive editor at Blitz, rose to be a key aide to both prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and prime minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani, even drafting the latter’s controversial Jinnah speech.

# Chandan Mitra, an assistant editor at The Times of India, editor of The Sunday Observer, and executive editor of Hindustan Times, found himself “mysteriously becoming the proprietor of The Pioneer, without spending a rupee thanks to the generosity of the BJP and more particularly that of L.K. Advani“.

# Swapan Dasgupta, the scion of Calcutta Chemicals (which makes Margo soap), rose to be managing editor of the weekly newsmagazine India Today, before emerging the unofficial media pointsman of sorts for Arun Jaitley and through him for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

# Balbir K. Punj, the sugar correspondent of The Financial Express, who churned out masterly theses on conversions and other sundry diversions for Outlook magazine, was nominated to the upper house of Parliament by the BJP like Mitra.

# And then there’s a motley crew of fulltimers and freelancers, including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta, who did a spell in Vajpayee’s PMO, and weighty political correspondents and editors of The Times of India, The Economic Times and Dainik Jagran.

“Journo Sena” was what the tribe came to be called, an allusion to the “Vanara Sena” (army of monkeys) that helped Lord Rama fight the armies of Ravana in Ramayana.

However, in the unravelling political epic, the “Journo Sena” stands trapped in the crossfire of a party struggling to come to grips with a gigantic electoral loss, firing wildly at each other—or are being fired at by the big guns.

***

First, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s “candid insider account” in Tehelka, a magazine whose website was hounded out of business by the Vajpayee government, came in for searing criticism from Anil Chawla, a classmate of his at IIT Bombay, for blaming the RSS for the BJP’s plight.

“The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state,” he wrote in a widely circulated “open letter”.

Kanchan Gupta, who many believe was eased out of Vajpayee’s PMO by Kulkarni, took a potshot at his erstwhile colleague.

“Kulkarni who undid the BJP’s election campaign in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ slogan and fashioned the 2009 campaign which has taken the BJP to a low of barely-above-100 mark has written an article for Tehelka, the magazine which tarred the NDA government, causing it irreparable damage, and is now the favourite perch of those who inhabit the BJP’s inner courtyard, blaming all and sundry except those who are to blame,” Gupta wrote on rediff.com.

In a rejoinder in Tehelka, Swapan Dasgupta welcomed Sudheendra Kulkarni’s mea culpa calling it “a welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the BJP’s 2009 election experience,” but couldn’t resist himself from sticking the knife in.

“Kulkarni has provided some interesting insights but has also cluttered the picture with red herrings. This isn’t surprising.

There are many in the BJP who insist that the problem with Advani was Kulkarni“.

When former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha resigned from party posts, ostensibly miffed at the elevation of Arun Jaitley as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha despite leading the party to defeat, Dasgupta rushed to Jaitley’s defence, wondering how the resignation letter had made its way to NDTV.

“TV editors I have spoken to have indicated that there were two parallel points of leak. The first was through an associate of Pramod Mahajan (who hates Jaitley) and the other was was the unlikely figure of a cerebral Rajya Sabha MP.

“I gather that the follow-up was done by a disagreeable journalist (one who signed the 20-points during the Emergency) whose nomination to the Rajya Sabha has been blocked by Jaitley on two separate occasions,” he wrote on his blog.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting, the “cerebral Rajya Sabha MP” Arun ShourieMagsaysay Award-winning former investigative journalist and author who became a minister in the Vajpayee government—”blamed six unnamed journalists who, he said, were responsible for articles damaging the [BJP] party interest.”

Whether the journalists were all members of the BJP or merely sympathetic to it, Shourie didn’t make clear.

In drawing attention to the journalists in specific, the former journalist may only have been indulging in the nation’s favourite sport of shooting the messenger but he was also underlining the role his compatriots were playing in the BJP’s affairs.

In his column in the media magazine Impact, Sandeep Bamzai writes:

“Arun Jaitley and his band of journalists-turned-politicocs misread the ground realities and the tea leaves completely. Buoyed by several wins in key States, this core team thought that the mood in the States would be mirrored at the Centre when the general hustings came along.

“Price spikes, terror threats and fulminations against a decent PM Manmohan Singh were the new imperatives crafted by Jaitley and his journo boys.

“The entire strategy fell flat on its face and all the journos who hogged prime time on new telly in the run up to the elections turned into disillusioned critics immediately after the results.”

In the India Today cover story on the BJP’s travails, Swapan Dasgupta’s former boss, Prabhu Chawla, seen to be close to incumbent BJP president Rajnath Singh, found fault with Singh’s bete noire Arun Jaitley for being spotted at Lord’s, applauding a boundary by Kevin Pietersen during the India-England Twenty20 match:

“Jaitley, a hardcore cricket buff, was in London with his family on holiday while his party back home was imploding, just like the Indian team.”

On a yahoogroup called “Hindu Thought”, the former Century Mills public relations officer turned columnist Arvind Lavakare, attacked Swapan Dasgupta, presumably for urging the BJP to junk the “ugly Hindu” image engendered by its commitment to Hindutva.

“After quitting a salaried job in a reputed English magazine a few years ago, Swapan’s livelihood may well be depending on his writings being published in a wide range of prosperous English newspapers which are anti-Hindu and therefore anti-BJP. If that is indeed so, Swapan simply cannot afford to project and push the Hindu line beyond the Laxman rekha. Poor dear,” wrote Lavakare.

The comment would perhaps have gone unnoticed, but Dasgupta gave it some oxygen by responding in kind in a post-script on his blog:

“I have no intention of affirming my credentials. To do so would be to dignify Lavakare’s personal attacks as a substitute for an informed debate on ideas.

“I merely hope that the attacks on where I write, who went to college with me and who are my friends are not in any way an expression of envy. It is a matter of satisfaction for me that I get a platform in the mass media (cutting across editorial positions).

“Engaging with the wider world is daunting but much more meaningful than gloating inside a sectarian ghetto. I strong recommend Lavakare also tries earning a livelihood out of writing for “a range of prosperous English newspapers”. It could be a humbling experience.”

Among the few journalists to have spotted the travails of the “Journo Sena”, or at least among the few to have had the courage of conviction to put it on paper, is Faraz Ahmed.

He writes in The Tribune, Chandigarh:

“When the BJP lost power in 2004, all the branded BJP editors—Kanchan, Swapan, A. Surya Prakash and Udayan Namboodri—were pensioned off to Chandan Mitra’s Pioneer. Today, however, each one of them is finding fault with Advani, the BJP and some even with the Sangh.

“These are ominous signs of the demise of a political party and reminds one of the slow and painful death of Janata Dal in the early ’90s when the ‘Dalam’ was dying and BJP was on the upswing and everyone was joining it or identifying with it because that was the most happening party.

“To be fair to these people who naturally represent the rising middle class, they waited patiently for five years in a hope that the UPA government would be a one-election wonder and would die a natural death in the next round. So much for their political understanding.”

Obviously, everybody loves a winning horse and doubtless the antics of the “Journo Sena” would have made for more pleasant viewing had the election verdict been the other way round.

Still, their antics in the aftermath of defeat raise some fundamental questions about their grand-standing in the run-up to the elections: Are all-seeing, all-knowing journalists cut out for politics? Do they have the thick skin, large stamina, and the diplomatic skills required for the rough and tumble?

From the embarrassment they have caused and are causing to their party of choice, it is clear that there is an element of truth to BJP president Rajnath Singh’s statement that he can “neither swallow nor spew out” the journalists.

Then again, L.K. Advani started his career as a journalist.

Also read: How come no one saw the worm turn?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

A civil servant, or just a very civil servant?

21 April 2009

A. Surya Prakash boils down five years of Manmohan Singh to four men—Jagadish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, Ottavio Quattrocchi and Navin Chawla—in The Pioneer:

“How will history judge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, specially when it evaulates him through the prism of constitutionality and the rule of law?

“As an honourable, ‘secular’ man as his shrill declamations would have believe or as a Prime Minister who lacked the moral fibre to stand up for the Sikh community, of which he was himself a member? As a man who enforced the rule or law or as one who ducked responsibility to help the Italian friend of his mentor? Will history remember him as a man who had deep respect for constitutional and democratic values or as one who sacrificed these values at the altar of political survival and admitted an unfair person to the sanctum sanctorum of democracy—the Election Commission?”

Read the full article: The man behind the mask

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal on the uber babu


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