Posts Tagged ‘M. Karunanidhi’

CHURUMURI POLL: Has India lost moral compass?

23 October 2012

In its 62nd year as a Republic, India presents a picture that can only mildy be termed unedifying.

Scams are raining down on a parched landscape with frightening ferocity. From outer space (2G, S-band) to the inner depths of mother earth (coal), the Congress-led UPA has had it all covered in its second stint. Meanwhile, Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of the first family of the Congress, has taken charge of scandals at or near sea level.

Salman Khurshid, the smooth-talking Oxford-educated law minister, thinks it is beneath his dignity to respond in a dignified manner to charges of pilfering Rs 71 lakh from the disabled. The Harvard-educated finance minister P. Chidambaram and his family is happily busy gobbling up parts of the east coast from farmers. Etcetera.

But what of the opposition?

The BJP’s president Nitin Gadkari is neckdeep in a gapla of his own,  one that threatens, in fact one that is designed to deprive him of a second stint in office. “Scam”, of course, was the middle-name of party’s Karnataka mascot, B.S. Yediyurappa. From Mulayam‘s SP to Mayawati‘s BSP to Sharad Pawar‘s NCP, from Karunanidhi‘s DMK to Jayalalitha‘s AIADMK, money-making is the be-all and end-all.

The less said of the corporates who have pillaged the country since time immemorial the better but Vijay Mallya presents its most compelling side as he shuts down his airline while his son hunts for calendar girls. The do-gooders of Team Anna and now Team Kejriwal are themselves subject to searching questions on their integrity levels. And the media is busy getting exposed as extortionists and blackmailers.

Questions: Have we as a country completely lost our moral and ethical compass? Are we going through an “unprecedented” phenomenon or is this what the US and other developed democracies like Japan have gone through in their path to progress? Or does it not matter in the greater scheme of things? Is all this leaving the citizenry cynical and frustrated or do we not care because all of us are in it, in our own little ways?

Does jail mean ‘guilty’, bail mean ‘innocent’?

23 January 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji gawked at the TV screen as she watched the news.

“What happened, Ajji? Something wrong?”

“This fellow kammenwelthnalli Englandninda dodda chhatri chhatri tharisda alva?”

“Yes, Ajji. That is Suresh Kalmadi. He was the chairman of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), who organised the import of jumbo-size umbrellas!”

“Wasn’t he sent to jail for wrong doing while organising the games?”

‘Yes. He was in jail for nine months; now he is out on bail. Along with him all his colleagues have also been released.”

Hagandre? They are all innocent or guilty.”

“Nobody knows that yet, Ajji.”

Shiva, Shiva. They also released all company people, fillum people on two gee skyam.”

“Yes.”

“They released that girl, Thiru Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi also?”

“She was released last month, Ajji.”

“If they released Kalmadi, Kanimozhi et al, who is the kalla/kalli in CWG or 2G?”

“The real thief? Nobody knows, Ajji. They have all got bail now. By the time they decide that, your granddaughter born last month would have become an Ajji!”

“How come these people who are coming out of jail want their positions back. Yediyurappa wants to become CM,  his supporters are disrupting meeting of present CM asking him to  resign and keep up the ‘promise’ given to Yedi. Kalmadi’s supporters already want him as chief of IOA for the extraordinary general meeting, and are talking about the great service rendered by him.”

“Yes, Ajji.”

“Isn’t there any sense of shame left any more? People who were arrested on serious charges, just because they get bail, they are treated like heroes as if they have done something fantastic. Crackers are burst, sweets are distributed. What is this nonsense, kano?”

“They think bail = not guilty, ashte Ajji.”

“Now I hear that the ‘Trichy 29’, the group of robbers who robbed cashiers in a bank have also applied for bail! They will also get bail I am sure.”

“Quite  possible, Ajji.”

Rama, Rama. Then who is left in jail, only petty thieves, pickpockets, chain snatchers who can’t afford  money to get bail, I guess.”

“Yes, Ajii.”

Devare kaapadbeku ee deshana!”

“Even God has given up, Ajji. He seems to have abdicated his responsibility. Now it is taken over by swamigalu, matadhipathis. Some swamijis have petitioned that Yediyurappa should be brought back as CM.”

Ayyo devare! At this rate I am sure the ‘Trichy 29’ will come to power in Tamil Nadu and form a ministry. This has happened before there.”

I agreed with Ajji.

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Jayalalitha PM material?

28 June 2011

Tamil Nadu has generally played a big role in the formation of coalition governments at the Centre for nearly 15 years now, and the size and scale of the victory of the AIADMK in the assembly elections recently—and the current shape and state of the Congress, BJP and Left—has put plenty of fuel in the political tank of Jayalalitha Jayaram.

Suddenly, the controversial Mysore-born actor-turned-politician is holding all the cards as both the main parties bend backwards to woo her. For someone whose sole agenda till last month was dislodging the DMK government of M. Karunanidhi, she is now holding forth on national and international issues in a manner born.

In an interview with Arnab Goswami of Times Now yesterday, the Puratchi Thalaivi offered plenty of insight of how she views her enhanced role on the national stage, cryptically suggesting that “anything can happen before 2014″, meaning she could go either way or her own way, or that there could even be a mid-term election before 2014.

Since anything is possible in politics, as the sad cliche goes to explain H.D Deve Gowda becoming prime minister, is it also possible that Jayalalitha, if she stays away from both the two main formulations, could well end up heading the third front? And, if that is the case, could namma hudugi well emerge as a prime ministerial face?

Could her face, voice and demeanour, not to mention the fact that she is a woman, attract voters? Will she gain acceptance across the nation or will her confrontational style put off coalition partners? Could she be a better bet than whoever the Congress and BJP  decide to go with? Or is she counting her vada maangas before they pickle?

Do Tamilians have more asmita than Kannadigas?

3 June 2011

PRASHANT KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: It is three weeks since the results of the assembly elections in the five States tumbled out, signalling change in four States (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal and Pondicherry) and continuity in one (Assam).

Of the many post-facto buzzwords that I have heard on TV since May 13, one word stands out: asmita.

Asmita, loosely translating into pride.

Asmita, loosely meaning self-respect, self-esteem.

Several times over the last three weeks, the Janata Party gadfly Subramanian Swamy has invoked the A-word to drive home the presumed wisdom of the Tamil voter in kicking out the DMK family concern of M. Karunanidhi, and in ushering in Jayalalitha‘s AIADMK.

Dr Swamy’s point: the Tamil voter, urban and rural, was angry and disgusted with the bad image that the 2G scam that (as of now) is mostly populated with Tamil protagonists (A. Raja, Kanimozhi, Sadik Batcha and now Dayanidhi Maran, C. Sivashankaran & Co ) and Tamil outfits (Kalaignar TV, Sun TV) was bringing to the reputation of Tamil Nadu and Tamilians.

In other words, the Tamil asmita was in danger.

So, goes Dr Swamy’s reasoning, in spite of the elitist belief that country bumpkins are more tolerant of corruption, Tamilians voted to restore their asmita. And, by extension, have managed to do a damn good job of it by stumping pundits and pollsters and consigning DMK to less than a 10th of the size of the Tamil Nadu assembly.

The scoreline: Asmita 1, Arrogance 0.

Compelling as Dr Swamy’s contention is, the invocation of asmita—an oft-used word in the political vocabulary of the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi—has left me both confused and angry. And, frankly, as a proud Kannadiga, I have been tearing my hair out.

Reason: if the 2G scam and the accumulated loot was cause enough for Tamils to boot out the DMK in the name of their asmita, how come Kannadigas seem to be so much more insouciant of B.S. Yediyurappa‘s BJP government which has had more scams and scandals in its three years in office, albeit not of the same size?

How is it that Kannadiga asmita seems be unaffected by all the puerile antics of the BJP on display in the last three years—Operation Kamala, the resort and spa politics, the mining mafia, the rigged up confidence motions, the roadside dramas, the shameless samaveshas, the sex scandals of ministers, their financial transgressions, the church attacks, the attacks on pub-going girls—and all of it playing endlessly on televison?

And how is it that Kannadigas seem to hide their asmita and vote for the BJP in election after byelection, to the assembly, to the civic bodies, to the gram and zilla panchayats? On the day Karunanidhi was being booted out, the BJP was winning three by-polls held on the rotting carcass of Operation Kamala?

What do so such BJP election victories in the face of BJP non-performance tell us?

That the Kannadiga voter—numbed by silly TV megaserials—has lost the ability to think?

That the rural Kannadiga voter is wiser than we urban, educated Kannadigas think?

That she is is unaware of the damage that three years of BJP rule has caused to the image and reputation of Kannadigas and Karnataka on the national and global stage?

To Karunanidhi’s credit, at least his government could boast of some semblance of governance. Tamil Nadu ranks high on most indices and is easily among India’s developed States. Yediyurappa’s only achievements are in the mighty advertisements his government releases to keep the media happy.

So, what accounts for the easy run BJP is getting, around a mountain of corruption and comical inefficiency that it has erected in the “Gateway to the South”? Is it simply that Kannadiga asmita is unmoved and unattracted by the kind of alternative that the Congress and JDS present?

Or has “progressive” Karnataka been collectively brain-washed? Has it entered the hallucinatory Hindutva zone as Gujarat, whose denizens too seem completely blase about the damage that Modi’s regime is causing to the image of Gujarat and Gujaratis on the national and global scene?

Is it just possible, to take Subramanian Swamy’s argument forward, is it just possible that Tamilians value their asmita more than us, Kannadigas?

Or them, Gujaratis?

File photograph: The daughters and daughters-in-law of chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa perform arathi on him, after he won the vote of confidence in the legislative assembly, in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

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Also read: Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t we Indians?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

GAURI LANKESH: How Karnataka is becoming Gujarat of South

ARAVIND ADIGA: A 21st century Adiga’s appeal to Kannadigas

CHETAN BHAGAT: Chetan Bhagat has some advice for Lingayats

SANTOSH HEGDE: BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

 

CHURUMURI POLL: Who is next in 2G arrest list?

20 May 2011

Make no mistake, 20 May 2011, is a red-letter day in contemporary Indian politics.

A serving politician, the daughter of a mighty regional satrap who is a partner in the ruling alliance, has been arrested and sent to jail for her involvement in the country’s largest scam. While we may quibble over whether the CBI would have been given the freedom to do this by the government of the day if it weren’t for the fact that the Supreme Court is directing it, there is no denying that this is not a everyday occurrence.

Kanimozhi‘s arrest is not the end of the 2G investigation and hers is certainly not the last arrest. She represents only one side of a hydra-headed scam that involves bigger corporate and political fish. Already Sharad Pawar‘s name has been mentioned in the Swan-DB Realty linkup; even bigger political names are being hissed about. Tata Teleservices and Reliance Telecommunications, the construction company Unitech, the corporate titans Ratan Tata, Anil Ambani, Venugopal Dhoot, Prashant and Shashi Ruia have all been mentioned in some form or the other. Etc.

Questions: Did you think you would see this day? Will Kanimozhi sing in concert with A. Raja? Will more politicians go behind bars? Will Niira Radia be next? Will the arrest of corporate chiefs shake the “confidence” of investors in the “India Story”? Was telecom really the “success story” it was made out to be? Will such arrests put the fear of god in politicians and businessmen? Or will it be business as usual after a few days?

CHURUMURI POLL: Assembly polls, UPA or NDA?

10 May 2011

Friday the 13th, of May 2011, is clearly D-day in Indian politics.

The fate of the assembly elections in two States—West Bengal and Kerala—over which the Left parties have lorded over for decades will be known. While Kerala has been a five-yearly, on-off affair, it is Bengal that stands at the cusp. Will the Left step back from the abyss, or tumble over against Mamata Banerjee‘s Trinamul?

In Tamil Nadu, the ground zero of the 2G spectrum allocation scam—home of the DMK, A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, M. Karunanidhi‘s daughter Kanimozhi, and Kalaignar TV and Tamil Meiyyam and other dramatis personae—is facing an onslaught from Jayalalitha Jayaram and the AIADMK.

If the DMK-Congress pulls off a surprise win, and the Left is humbled in Bengal and Kerala, the assembly verdict will be a shot in the arm for the Congress-led UPA, which has been on the backfoot against a relentless torrent of corruption charges.

If the Left loses both States, it also means that the political centre well and truly belongs to the Congress and throws a big question mark over the BJP’s (and NDA’s) ability to capitalise on big issues like corruption.

What do you think is likely to happen? Is it advantage UPA or NDA? Is it a good thing for Indian democracy if the Left is wiped out from the political map? What does it say about the electorate if voters care two hoots for mind-numbing corruption? Or, are we all speaking too early?

(This churumuri poll allows you to post multiple responses)

CHURUMURI POLL: Spare 2G scam-tainted Kani?

7 May 2011

The order of the special court hearing the 2G spectrum allocation scam on the bail application of the former Hindu sub-editor turned poet turned parliamentarian, M.K. Kanimozhi in the 2G spectrum allocation scam has been reserved (tellingly) till next Saturday, May 14, the day after the assembly elections come out.

However, the bail plea has been remarkable on three counts. One, the DMK, which was “backing” A. Raja, the disgraced former telecom minister, who is a Dalit and close friend of Kanimozhi, when the Tamil Nadu elections were in the air, seems to have abandoned him completely after the DMK’s fate has been sealed in the EVMs.

Two, there is the weird but not unwelcome spectacle of Ram Jethmalani, a BJP member of Parliament of the Rajya Sabha, representing Kanimozhi, who belongs to the DMK, which is a constituent of the Congress-led UPA. There is yet, a third dimension to the bail plea, which is Jethmalani’s handiwork.

The maverick lawyer has said Kanimozhi should be granted bail because she is a woman, although the CBI had called her a co-conspirator in the scam, and an “active brain” who was “controlling everything” in Kalaignar TV, which received a Rs 200 crore bribe from one of the beneficiaries of the Rs 173,000 crore scam presided over by A. Raja.

“Bail is a right and should be treated as reward for my sex, motherhood and my clean record,” Jethmalani said, speaking for his client, even as Kanimozhi was accompanied to the court by her Singapore-based husband and their 11-year-old son, neither of whom were in the picture .

“I hope we have not lost the Victorian sense of chivalry.”

Questions: Should the sex of an accused person be a condition for bail? Are all mothers naturally entitled to bail, regardless of the extent of the scam? And with the NGO with which she is connected having received donations worth crores from the telecom majors, does Kanimozhi really have a “clean record”?

postscript: for eyes which were moistened by Jethmalani’s argument to miss this real gem, let the record state that poet Kanimozhi’s husband was reading Islam and Muslim History in South Asia in court.

Also read: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

Has Ratan Tata ruined the Tata brand image?

29 November 2010

Although it has a finger in every pie, the Tata group has enjoyed a sterling reputation as a cut above the rest. Unlike the Ambanis and Birlas and everybody else, the group boasts of a “clean and incorruptible” image. Unlike others, it has been known to do things differently, keeping the “community” at the core.

Is that well-earned image in danger, judging from a bunch of recent incidents? And as he prepares to step into the shadows, having turned a quiet Parsi outfit into a global conquistador, will Ratan Tata—under whose leadership the revenue of the Tata group has gone up 40 times—go down as the dikra who messed with the holy grail?

For starters, the Tata group is smack bang in the middle of the Rs 173,000 crore 2G spectrum allocation scam. The tapped conversations of Ratan Tata’s chief lobbyist, Niira Radia, reveal how a gang of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, and journalists re-inserted the tainted A. Raja into Manmohan Singh‘s cabinet in 2009.

# One key conversation (on 13 June 2009) between Radia and DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi‘s third wife Rajathiammal matches with the contents of a set of documents that were doing the rounds earlier this year, that revealed that the Tatas (through their subsidiary Voltas) had agreed to build a building in Madras, apparently as a payoff to DMK for keeping Dayanidhi Maran out of the telecom ministry.

# And, for another, the Tatas come out poorly in a Radia conversation that reveals that former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda had demanded Rs 180 crore for a Tatas’ mining lease to be extended. Radia gets the lease extended through the governor Syed Sibte Razi, and she is rewarded a “success fee” besides a Rs 1 crore reward to her team.

In conversations with Radia ranging from the cute to the colourful, Ratan Tata reveals more than just passing interest in the retention of A. Raja in the telecom portfolio. “I’m surprised that Raja after all that you supposedly did for him is playing this game,” he says in one conversation. “I guess the only concern I have is that Maran is going hammer and tongs for Raja. And I hope Raja doesn’t trip or slip or…”

These one-liners only add grist to a delicious rumour, twice repeated, that Ratan Tata actually wrote a hand-written letter to Karunanidhi on Raja’s “rational, fair and action-oriented leadership” in December 2007. To now see the same Ratan Tata say that if the government did not step in and uphold the rule of law, the environment of scandals could see India slide into becoming a “banana republic” and to see that he is thinking of invoking the right to privacy and moving the Supreme Court is revealing in a Freudian sort of way.

Obviously, doing business in India and growing at the kind of rate the Tatas have, is not a walk in the park. Equally obviously, the Radia conversations do not represent the full story. Still, have the tapes removed the halo from around the head of the Tatas? Is Ratan Tata right in seeking shelter under right to privacy, or is he trying to hide more dirt from coming out? And has Ratan Tata proved no different from his much-reviled peers?

The most noise usually comes from the people who have the most to hide.

Also read: Tatas, turtles and corporate social responsibility

External reading: The Niira Radia tapes and transcripts

CHURUMURI POLL: Dalits being taken for a ride?

6 May 2010

“The Dalit Defence” is increasingly becoming the ultimate move on the chessboard of Indian public life. Those charged of corruption, malfeasance, rape, murder and other misdemeanours claim shelter behind the nearly impenetrable shield of “harassment” by the power elites aka upper castes.

Twice in recent months “The Dalit Defence” has been played masterfully, first by “supporters” of the tainted chief justice of the Karnataka high court, P.D. Dinakaran. When charges of landgrabbing (ironically of land belonging largely to Dalits) were levelled against him to block his elevation to the Supreme Court, the Dravida Kazhagam sprang to his support.

“The real agenda is to prevent a member of a backward community from entering the ‘sanctum sanctorum’, now a monopoly of the upper castes,” K. Veeramani, general secretary of Dravida Kazhagam, the parent organisation of the DMK, was quoted as saying.

“The Dalit Defence” has now been moved by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, M. Karunanidhi again. When his partyman and Union telecom minister A. Raja is facing charges of corruption of astounding proportions in the auction of 2G spectrum, the DMK supremo has blamed opposition parties seeking his resignation for targetting him because he is a Dalit.

“Raja is a Dalit. That is why dominant forces are levelling malicious charges against him,” he said when asked for his comments on the opposition demands for his resignation in the wake of allegations of scam in 2G Spectrum allocation.

Questions: Are Dalits being unfairly targetted by the dominant communities even after half a century of constitutional guarantees? Or is “The Dalit Defence” just a fig leaf? Are Dalits incapable of misdemeanours? Or should we turn a blind eye merely because dominant communities have been doing it for a long time?

Does “The Dalit Defence” work in its intended constituency? Or are Dalits being taken for a ride by wily politicians and political parties?

Also read: Should IAS, IPS officers play politics on the side?

In PC age, is nothing about the Manusmriti right?

Should Abdul Kalam say sorry to Dalits on I-Day?

Money for everything Dalit except the right thing

Now is the time for all our Tamil brethren to rise

26 October 2009

Prof. V.K. Natraj, former director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Mysore, writes an original and outstanding letter to the editor of The Hindu, a proactive epistle that underlines the role that public intellectuals ought to play:

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“I am writing to share my anguish and disappointment over an event that has largely gone unnoticed in the media except for a few letters to the editor in the Kannada print medium. I refer to the absence of sympathy and a sense of shared loss from friends in Tamil Nadu for all those who have been devastated by the ravages of the floods in northern Karnataka.

“Expressing sympathy, indeed sorrow at the suffering visited on thousands, most of them thoroughly ill-equipped to withstand this onslaught, is what sensitivity is all about. When in 2005 Tamil Nadu suffered unimaginable horrors from the tsunami, the citizens of the city of Mysore under the leadership of the pontiff of the Suttur Math came forward to raise funds to rehabilitate the victims and built dwellings for them in Mudaliarkuppam.

“Prior to this, interim measures of relief were provided to school children and fisherfolk whose livelihood was threatened. I understand that a whole colony rehabilitated with assistance from Mysore is now called Mysore colony. When in neighbouring Karnataka people suffered something similar one would expect Tamilians to rise to the occasion. Sadly no such thing has happened.

“Let me add that I write as one who has enjoyed the hospitality of Tamil Nadu in Chennai for over half a decade and know that deep down there is nothing but goodwill between the peoples of the two States. Even now I hope my Tamilian friends will do what we know they expect of themselves. It would be a sad travesty of the enormous universality represented by Tiruvalluvar and Sarvajna whose statues were unveiled not long ago in Bangalore and Chennai respectively.

“May I express the hope too that Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, one of the last in the lineage of senior political leaders in this country, will seek from Tamilians what they owe to themselves. I also add an appeal to the socially and morally conscious class in Tamil Nadu to further a cause which they must hold dear to their hearts.”

Photograph: courtesy Institute for Social and Economic Change

Periyanna has some advice for the Chinna Thambi

26 August 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: They met again, sans sidekicks and other official paraphernalia at Ulsoor Lake.

They were not exactly incognito, but nobody recognized them. The elder man, instead of Chennai Super Kings yellow, wore a red and yellow mundu in honour of his partner. The younger one had dressed in his usual spotless white safari suit but had a pair of dark goggles on him.

The elder person was seated on the wheel chair which the youngster manoeuvred with alacrity.

After going round the Thiruvalluvar statue, they parked the wheel chair next to a reclining bench facing the lake.

As they sat, a vendor came hailing ‘Maanga, Thenga, Batani Shundal!’ instead of the usually heard ‘Chukkli, kodubale’ in other parts of Bangalore. They bought two packets for which the host paid.

Periyanna! How is the shundal?’ asked chinna thambi.

Thambi! It is just like what I get on Marina beach. Pramadam!”

After chewing the shundal to his satisfaction, Periyanna continued, “These goggles suit you very well. I didn’t know your size, but it fits you very well. You look like our Rajni.”

“I thought you had donated your goggles to me! Thanks Anna. By the way we sent Rajni to you, remember!”

They munched in silence for a while.

Then Periyanna opened up.

Thambi! The main reason why I dashed to Banglur is, I want to go ahead and complete the Hogenakal project. Please make sure your Karave, Jaya Karnatakam and others don’t create any disturbance at the site.”

This was a bombshell for Chinna Thambi.

Periyanna! Hogenakal is a part of Karnataka and I have already said I will never compromise with regard to our ‘Nela-Jala-Bhashe’ on any account. Sorry, Periyanna. You can ask for anything else.”

Thambi, Yedi. Hoge is smoke or Poge. Kal is stone. You will not break your promise if Hogenakkal comes to Tamil Nadu. By the way how is our Kolandai?”

Kolandai yaaru, Periyaana? I didn’t get you.”

Namba kolandai Rakavendra!”

“Oh, my son Raghavendra! He is fine. Thanks for enquiring about him.”

Thambi Yedi… It looks you are not interested in his future.”

Chinna Thambi froze like a statue.

“Why do you say that, Periyanna? I have just made him an MP from Shimoga.”

“I don’t know where Shimoga is and what poor Rakavendra is doing there. If you want him to come up in life, get him to Banglur and keep him with you. Make him mayor of Banglur or minister for urban development or something like that. Let him start a campaign like ‘Singara Chennai’ or what you say in Kannadam, ‘Sundara Banglur’? I put Stalin thro’ all this and now see where he is. He is my deputy. Do it quickly otherwise it will be too late and he will be lost in Delhi heat or Shimoga mosquitoes. Thambi… you have to be fast in these things. Otherwise in Karnatakam some ‘appa, ‘ayya or Gowda will grab the throne from you and our Raku will miss his chance.”

Romba thanks, Periyanna, for your timely advice! I will ask him to resign his MP seat and stand for some by-election for MLA.”

Thambi Yedi! You have to learn these things from Madam or your own Deve Gowda. Ask the Ulsoor MLA to resign.  I will ensure Thiruvalluvar helps Rakavendra get elected from Ulsoor!”

“Thanks a lot, Periyanna. I will never forget your advice.”

“You are my Chinna Thambi. We are one family. Hope you don’t have succession headaches that I have. So do it quickly, OK?  I should be leaving now. By the way, I will change the name of Hogenakkal to ‘Pogenakkal’. Nobody will object to this. Na varen. Parkalaam.”

Parkalaam, Periyanna,” said, a happy Chinna Thambi.

CHURUMURI POLL: Judge vs Union minister

6 July 2009

The case involving the Madras High Court judge who reportedly received a call from a Union minister on granting anticipatory bail to two persons is remarkable for the u-turn it has taken—or has been forced to take.

On June 29, the judge R. Reghupathy, without naming anyone, said a Union minister tried to influence him to pass orders favouring the petitioners. According to this report, in which the reporter also mentions an off-the-record briefing by the judge after court, the minister is categorically reported to have spoken to the judge: “A Union minister talked to me. He influenced me to release this petitioner on anticipatory bail.”

The disclosure saw the usual to-and-fro from the political parties, with the BJP and Left united in their condemnation. Although the judge had not named the minister who talked to him, the BJP’s Arun Jaitley demanded that he be sacked.”The minister is not ‘a raja’ who was not accountable to anyone,” Jaitley, a Supreme Court advocate said, in a thinly disguised attempt to name the minister.

Kapil Sibal, a former Supreme Court lawyer now a serving cabinet minister, joined former atttorney general Soli J. Sorabjee, in demanding that the judge make the name public.

After the AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha named A. Raja as the minister who spoke to the judge, the DMK chief M. Karunanidhi sought a clarification from the telecommunications minister. Meanwhile, MDMK chief Vaiko, an electoral ally of Jayalalitha, has suggested that Raja could have used another minister to pressure the judge. (The film star-turned-politician-turned Union minister D. Napoleon hails from the same area as Raja.)

A day after the incident became public, the chief justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, said “if the Minister had spoken to the Judge [as stated by him] then really it is an interference with judiciary.” Now, in an extraordinary turnaround, Justice Balakrishnan has said the judge did not really talk to the minister and that the counsel of the petitioners had held out a phone.

Clearly, there has been some hectic backpedalling. Who do you think is telling the truth?

As Tom said, price of freedom is eternal vigilance

25 May 2009

The saga surrounding the inclusion of various members of the Karunanidhi family in the Manmohan Singh council of ministers continues. As per current indications, MK’s eldest son M.K. Azhagiri and grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran are to be given cabinet berths.

And, as per current indications, his daughter Kanimozhi has opted to sit out.

Presumably, the poet-cum-sub-editor is miffed at the precedence to Maran but she is not saying it. But the curious thing is the lady’s Rajya Sabha webpage. It doesn’t throw too much light on her educational qualifications, profession, positions held, books published, countries visited, and sundry other activities.

But on one key question, it is dead sure: Yes, the 1968-born Kanimozhi is a “freedom fighter”.

Also read: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

Will DMK join UPA team? Will Sun rise tomorrow?

23 May 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: My friend, the Ace Political Expert (APE) who reads political moves like the back of his hand even in his dreams, tried to avoid me when I spotted him at a distance on the lawns of our club.

After I managed to buttonhole him, he agreed to have a drink with me after much coaxing. He ordered for fresh lime and soda instead of his usual whisky-soda combine. The electoral verdict seemed to have sobered him.

“What happened to all your predictions? You were predicting a hung Parliament!” I asked.

“I have never had it so bad in my entire career. The only consolation is I am in the august company of pundits who predicted 1 to 2 % swings, similar to the bowling of Albie Morkel and Praveen Kumar in IPL2 , but were also way off the mark. Nobody takes them seriously anymore.”

“Tell me, did anybody in their wildest dreams expect this kind of result?”

“Nobody. Who could have guessed that the Congress would beat the BJP, beard Lalu and Behenji in their owns dens, rout Chandrababu Naidu and TRS, outwit Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena, erase the Left from the political map of India and cut their own allies to size? It couldn’t have happened so well even if they had planned it out. It all happened at the press of a button and electronic counting.”

“Was it in the Congress grahas (stars)?” I queried.

“Again, no is the answer. Most of the astrologers, who did homas by the dozens in the last two weeks, have lost their deposit too—meaning trust—with their clients. Both political pundits and astrologers have become pariahs after the verdict. It will take a long time before anybody takes us seriously.”

“What is happening right now?”

“Television channels that have done this before are redoubling their efforts. Everyday new terms are being coined such as ‘Rahul Effect’; ‘Rahul Factor’. Soon, other terms such as ‘Rahul Theorem’, ‘Rahul Lemma’, ‘Rahul Express’ will start appearing.  It is not new to them.”

“Do you think Karunanadhi’s DMK will ultimately join the cabinet?”

“Now that his bosom buddy Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead, Karuna is fighting solo for the cause of “Tamils’ rights”. He has taken it up at the highest level, no less than the Prime Minister of India himself. As always, no fight of Karunanidhi is complete without a quick “breakfast–fast-lunch” and a Tamil Nadu bandh. The Tamil problem will be solved as soon as Congress agrees to give plum posts to his children; and some sundry posts to his grand-nephews etc!”

“One final question. You had visited Washington with our Prime Minister  as a part of the press corps. When will US understand India’s point of view on anything?”

“They will never understand. From the time of Eisenhower till now they have always brushed aside India and its concerns. Our external affairs ministers and ambassadors generally have a nice time there. No one has succeeded in making US understand India’s point of view. There is only one way to do that.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“Make Pakistan present our problems and concerns. They will accept it and reward Pakistan handsomely for bringing it to their notice!” replied the APE as he finished second glass of fresh lime and soda.

And Abdullah and Gowda and Patnaik and Pawar

12 May 2009

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Jawaharlal Nehru did not hope or desire that his daughter should succeed him as prime minister — a fact that is not as widely known as it should be. On the other hand, Indira Gandhi worked to make first Sanjay and then Rajiv her political successor. Sonia Gandhi has followed her mother-in-law scrupulously in this respect, for she has likewise ensured that her own son would head the party, and, perhaps in time, the government.

“The example set by India’s greatest political party has been followed by many lesser ones. Had Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi not acted in this fashion, perhaps Bal Thackeray, Parkash Singh Badal, M. Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav would not so brazenly have treated their own political parties as family firms.”

Read the full article: Its own greatest enemy

If you have to die, can you please do so in Delhi?

28 June 2008

The passing away of the only Indian to be appointed Field Marshal when in active service has been remarkable for the warmth of the ordinary men and women who queued up to say meebeenamet to the adorable dikra who put his life on the line for them.

It has also been remarkable for the complete lack of grace and gratitude, civility and courtesy, decency and decorum on the part of the bold-faced names rapaciously grazing the lawns of power in Delhi and elsewhere, for the brain behind India’s only decisive military victory.

Sam, the Bahadur, had been unwell for a while now. From about 1000 hours on June 26, reports of his being “critically ill” had appeared in the media. Yet, when the “expected tocsin” sounded at 0030 hours till the guns were fired in salute around 1500 hours on June 27, “civil society” chose to show its uncivility.

Pratibha Patil, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces with all the time in the world: Absent

Hamid Ansari: Vice-president releasing books and writing reviews of books by fellow-travellers: Absent

Manmohan Singh, the prime minister who could do with a bit of the field marshal’s charisma and heroism: Absent

Sonia Gandhi: daughter-in-law of the woman the field marshal called “sweetie”: Absent

L.K. Advani: prime minister in waiting of the party which would like to do to Pakistan what Manekshaw did: Absent

M. Karunanidhi and Surjit Singh Barnala: chief minister and governor of the state which Manekshaw had made his home for 35 years: Absent

Politicians may have their reasons. They always do. Maybe, there are issues like protocol. Maybe, this is one way in which “civil India” shows the armed forces its place. Maybe, this is why we are not as militaristic as Pakistan. Maybe, the knees are just too old to climb the hills.

But what about the armed forces itself?

A.K. Antony: the defence minister “now behaving like the chairman of the confederation of the armed forces’ trade unions“: absent “due to prior political engagements”

The chief of army staff: absent (away in Russia)

The chief of navy staff: absent

The chief of air staff: absent

The fact that the defence minister was represented by his deputy Pallam Raju, the fact that the navy and air staff sent two-star general rank officers, shows that however high or mighty, however rich or powerful, civilian or military, if you should die as you must, you should do so somewhere in the victinity of New Delhi—or Bombay. Or else, they must have some use for you.

Or else, too bad.

As he rightly surmised once: “I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla — although a great many of them in the past have resembled the latter.”

The contrast couldn’t be starker:

# When Amitabh Bachchan was ill after being socked in the stomach during the shooting of Coolie, Indira Gandhi flew down to Bombay to show her concern.

# When Dhirubhai Ambani died, L.K. Advani cut short his Gujarat tour to pay his respects to an “embodiment of initiative, enterprise and determination”.

# When Pramod Mahajan was shot dead by his brother, vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekawat had the time to attend the funeral.

Our VIPs and VVIPs have time for dead and dying celebrities, crooks, charlatans, fixers. Not for a field marshal?

***

In his biography of K.M. Cariappa, the only other field marshal India has had (and who too died at age 94), air marshal K.C. Cariappa writes of his father’s cremation in May 1993:

“Honouring him in death as they did in life were Field Marshal Manekshaw, the three service chiefs all of whom belonged to the same course and at whose passing out parade from the joint services wing father had presided, the gracious chief minister M. Veerappa Moily and C.K. Jaffer Sharief, Minister for Railways representing the President as the supreme commander of the armed forces.”

Somebody should have told the geniuses in Delhi that Sam, the Bahadur, passed away in Wellington, Ooty, not Wellington, New Zealand. The nearest civil airport is Coimbatore, just 80 km away.

If this is how we say goodbye to our only Field Marshal, any wonder why Rang de Basanti could successfully tap into the angst of an entire generation?

In picture: (left to right) Admiral L. Ramdas, General S.F. Rodrigues, and Air Chief Marshal N.C. Suri in their final farewell, 43 years later, to the reviewing officer who took the salute at their passing out parade in December 1950 (From the book Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, by Air Marshal K.C. Cariappa, published by Niyogi books).

This piece also appeared on rediff.com

Also read: 93 seconds to knock 93 years of a hero’s life

Sam Manekshaw: hero or villain?

CHURUMURI POLL: Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi?

15 April 2008

In a marketing campaign that should shame even the sharpest whiz kids, the injection of Rahul Gandhi into the national consciousness as the brave white hope is picking up steam. Appointed general secretary barely seven months ago, making a case for “meritocracy”, going on a tour to discover India, bumping into L.K. Advani in an airport lounge, plumping for the induction of youth in the cabinet, reading from a prepared text in the Lok Sabha, declining a ministerial berth… it’s all happening for the 37-year-old son, grandson and greatgrandson with India’s bestknown surname.

But Rahul Gandhi as prime minister? HRD minister Arjun Singh says Rahul baba has all the qualities of his late father Rajiv Gandhi to be prime minister. If a Congressman is expected to only say that, look at who else is piping in. Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi says he “will be happy if Rahul is made the prime ministerial candidate.” And even the mighty Sharad Pawar who once took on Sonia Gandhi‘s foreign origin says “it is the Congress’ prerogative to choose Rahul or Sonia” after saying just the week before that Manmohan Singh would be a good choice for the UPA.

Questions: Is Rahul Gandhi a potential prime minister? Does he have the parliamentary or administrative acumen or experience, or even the political record, for the job? Is our polity so completely devoid of tall figures with national reach? Are our geriatric politicians running out of ideas or are they preserving themselves by seeming to promote a fresh face? Does Rahul Gandhi stand a chance against L.K. Advani? And what does it say about our democracy that we should so easily fall back on the “dynasty”? Or is all fair in love, war and politics as long as you win?

Photograph: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta

Also read: Is this the democracy our founders fought for?

What Rahul Gandhi can learn from Brad Pitt?

And the parrot said, Rahul will be the next PM

Next change: Rahul Gandhi?

‘The Hogenakal row is about land, not water’

8 April 2008

The temporarily-suspended row between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Hogenakal drinking water project has been remarkable for the almost complete lack of nuance and expertise in the articulation of the dispute. The key players on both sides — politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, lawyers, journalists — have been happy to let a complex legal issue be thrashed out at an emotional level on the streets.

Aside from the existence of a decade-old No Objection Certificate, there has been little or no effort to dig deep and explain the genesis of the row; how it suddenly erupted at this point in time; what the legal position is; what could be the way out, etc. The intellectual darkness proved to be fertile ground for language chauvinists and film parochialists on both side to whip up passions.

One exception has been the former Karnataka irrigation minister and former member of Parliament, H.N. Nanje Gowda, who gave a long interview to S.R. Aradhya of Udaya TV (above) and followed it up with comments to N. Niranjan Nikam of Deccan Herald. Gowda may not be the last word on the subject, but still his effort to explicate the controversy, as is, in a superheated atmosphere is unexceptionable.

The main points Gowda makes are:

# The Hogenakal row is not about water, it is about land. If it is just about drinking water, then let me state categorically that there is no problem at all. After all, it is just 1.46 tmc ft of water that Tamil Nadu is seeking for Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. To draw this water, no dam is required to be built. All it requires is just a jackwell.

# There are four dimensions to Hogenakal. They are drinking water needs, irrigation needs, power project, and the holiday resort. As far as I can see, the real bone of contention is the resort. Both States claim that the 500-600 acre island, on which the Tamil Nadu tourism department is trying to build a resort, belongs to them.

# Hogenakal was part of Coimbatore district till 1956 when it was handed over to Karnataka. The Cauvery river forms the border between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for about 64 km. This is called the “common reach”. Hogenkal is at the 40th km. By international convention, if a river lies between two states or countries, then the centre point of the river forms the border. The island where TN wants to build a resort lies in the middle at Hogenakal but TN has not allowed a survey to be held to determine which State the island belongs to.

# The Union Government, way back in 1998, had proposed construction of four hydel projects, viz Shivanasamudram, Mekedatu, Rasimanal and Hogenakal. Karnataka agreed to the sharing of power generated by Rasimanal and Hogenakal which are situated in the common reach of the river Cauvery. However, Karnataka objected to the sharing of power generated by Shivanasamudram and Mekedatu projects on the ground that these projects fall entirely within the territory of Karnataka.

# We have to see is what the project report says. We also do not know whether they have submitted any project report to the Centre or not. Similarly I am not sure if the Karnataka government also has submitted any project report to Government of India or not…. If there is apprehension that Tamil Nadu in the guise of taking up drinking water project will construct a dam, which will result in submersion of the area, then we can approach the Centre at any time.

# The reasons for the current situation are the lack of transparency on the part of governor of Karnataka, Rameshwar Thakur, and the irresponsible, provocative and unwarranted statements of chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi. I wrote two letters to the governor urging him to have consultations with various parties on the irrigation projects but there has not even been an acknowledgement.

# If Karunanidhi is whipping up the Hogenakal issue ten years after the no-objection certificate was obtained, as a member of UPA, he probably has a hunch that the parliament will be dissolved, and maybe wants to hold assembly elections in Tamil Nadu simultaneously.

Videograb: courtesy Udaya TV

Link courtesy Rajeev Rao

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Who is right on Hogenakal?

How does a TV/cinema blackout help Hogenakal?

What your nela and what your jala says about you

How does a TV/cinema blackout help Hogenakal?

4 April 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Hyderabad: Indian politicians and activists have mastered the art of The Utterly Meaningless Gesture. Doing things that have no impact on the issue at hand, but designed to promote oneself and one’s own interests, have become their leit motif, with one eye on the TV cameras.

Exempli gratia: relay stirs, one-day fasts, human chains, candle-light vigils, torch-light parades, and rasta/rail (and, who knows, maybe in the near future, airplane) rokos.

All of these don’t spread awareness about an issue, show or muster support for a cause, or even affect their targets. All they do is add to the existing noise and fury. All they do is harass and inconvenience the people on whose behalf they act. And all they do is promote one’s chances of getting a ticket at the next election or pick up a few crumbs thrown their way.

Make no mistake, most of these forms of protest can’t even be dignified with the label of a symbolic gesture.

To that inglorious list, add the threat of a blackout of Tamil channels on cable in Karnataka (and the move to disallow Tamil films to be screened in theatres).

Thankfully, we are not alone. News reports say lawyers in Tamil Nadu have managed to operationalise a similar blackout of Kannada channels in that State. But should we go in for a tit-for-tat response and join in this self-flagellation?

In this day and age of direct to home (DTH) television and set-top boxes, organised cable operators, and not to mention a Constitution which guarantees the fundamental right of speech and ex-pression, those behind the move are harming their own cause by showing not only a complete ignorance of matters technical, but a total lack of imagination in their modes of protest.

Pray, tell us, how is a Tamil or Kannada TV watcher or movie goer responsible for the Hogenakal project?

And pray, tell us, what is a blackout of television supposed to achieve?

If it is supposed to send shivers down the spines of unsuspecting producers of Tamil shows, it has failed miserably as they are congregating today. If it is supposed to irritate and intimidate the Tamil minority in Bangalore, it has been a grand success. But is either of that going to solve our problem?

If it is to send a “message” down the Cauvery, what “message” have we sent when the other side has shown that two can play the game?

By such cheap displays of chauvinism we have only prompted the other side to take a harder stance and make it an all-or-nothing game, where our chances of “losing” increase. Plus, as history has shown, we are total amateurs when it comes to the fanatic overreaction of the Tamil variety (they invented the self-immolation, the suicide bomber, and Rajnikant fans’ clubs!)

By a giving needless linguistic angle to a water dispute, we have done our cause no small amount of harm. No amount of protests or breast-beating will get us a court or tribunal verdict in our favour if we don’t have a strong case (and believe me there is no other way this is ending, not after the high-pitched rhetoric being tossed around).

Our best chance of getting out of this situation would have been negotiations conducted in a spirit of give and take, ensuring that our interests were protected while the matter was resolved as quickly as possible. Adopting hardline positions which are untenable and likely to be thrown out of a court will get us nowhere.

M. Karunanidhi is probably rubbing his hands in glee at seeing the emotional outbursts “for” and “against” the matter. By encouraging the hotheads and the no-heads on this side of the border, Karunanidhi has in one stroke removed whatever maneouvering space we may have had on the issue.

To react to Karunanidhi’s provocations is to fall into the trap set by him. It is in Karunanidhi’s interests to show us up before the rest of the country as a bunch of hooligans and rowdies who are hellbent on holding back drinking water on the basis of language.

By turning this into an emotive language issue, by targetting television, cinema and newspapers, those behind the protests have greatly helped Karunanidhi.

Congratulations.

Also read: Is it right to block Sun TV?

CHURUMURI POLL: Who is right on Hogenakal?

2 April 2008

True to its name, the Hogenakal row has generated more smoke than light. Both sides are convinced that they are dead right and the other side is dead wrong—and neither side can entertain any other possibility in a surcharged atmopshere.

Karnataka says that since Hongenakal lies in a “disputed area“, TN cannot go ahead with the integrated water scheme till its “inter-State implications” are examined under the inter-state water disputes Act. It says the grant of a no-objection certificate by the Union water resources ministry in September 1998 cannot be considered as a resolution of the “inter-State implications” since the project was not part of TN’s case before the Cauvery water disputes tribunal (unlike the water supply scheme for Bangalore which Karnataka undertook).

For its part, Tamil Nadu avers that Karnataka has no locus standi to oppose the Hogenakal project since it is based on the NOC issued by the Centre 10 years ago. It says the two States had agreed not to object to drinking water supply schemes as long as the State concerned utilised water from its allocated share. It says the project is on the left bank of the border “which is well within Tamil Nadu”, hence there is no border dispute. It says it is using water allocated to it and which runs through TN for the project. And it says that the border dispute was solved fifty years ago.

But the intemperate statements of Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, the call for a Karnataka bandh on April 10 issued by language activists, the blackout of Tamil TV channels, disruption of bus services on either side, and the call for a Tamil film industry fast on Friday have queered the pitch.

Questions: Is the Hogenakal controversy only about water or is it also about land?
2. Is this an issue to be settled on the streets through the show of emotions by language chauvinists, writers and cinema stars, or in calm environs by water experts, people’s representatives and lawyers?
3. How specifically is Karnataka’s interests harmed? Will farmers or consumers be deprived of water because of the project, or is Karnataka wary that allowing water use will open the floodgates?
4. Can 30 lakh people of two districts (Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri) be deprived of drinking water merely because there is an resolved border row between two States for 50 years?
5. If more Tamil Nadu districts suffer from water shortage, can TN build similar dams downstream and seek a corresponding increase in Cauvery water allocation to meet the new requirements?
6. If Tamil Nadu’s intentions are entirely honourable and above-board, why was it so difficult for their State government to divulge the details of the project before formally launching it?
7. Would the Japan Bank for International Co-operation have agreed to fund the Hogenakal project if the legality of the location or the status of the river water dispute was not so clear?
8. Is Karnataka (and are Kannadigas) gaining any friends through knee-jerk reactions which seem to convey as if the people speaking a certain language (and their property) are the target?
9. Why in democratic India has it become so difficult for two States of the Union to sit and resolve an issue amicably? Why can’t the tribunal adjudicate on the “inter-State dimensions” expeditiously?
10. Has Hogenakal become an election issue? Are DMK in Tamil Nadu and the BJP in Karnataka trying to take electoral mileage out of it? Has Karnataka’s case been hurt by the absence of a popular government?

Also read: What your nela and what your jala says about you

Photograph: Kannada activists, including former minister B.T. Lalitha Naik (second from left), the BJP’s Mukhya Mantri Chandru (third from left) and T.A. Narayana Gowda of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (second from right), take out a torch-light march in Bangalore on Wednesday in protest against the statements of Tamil chief minister, M. Karunanidhi (Karnataka Photo News)

When my newspaper is no longer my newspaper

19 March 2008

THEJAS H.K. writes from Madras: There was a time not too long ago when I used to walk a couple of miles to get a copy of The Hindu in Mysore. Here, in the City of its birth, it is delivered to my room at 6 am, but over the last few years, a strange feeling of unease, even disgust, makes me run away from a newspaper I used to pursue.

Today, when the paper lands at my doorstep, I wonder if it is the same publication that professors used to goad us to read for its English; if it is the same publication that parliamentarians used to cut and quote; if it is the same publication that our parents used to say was the last word in correctness and credibility.

The unease, the disgust, has been building up for a while now.

Contributing factor number one has been the ridiculous reverence of all things communist: The one-sided coverage of the killings in Nandigram, which even the readers’ editor K. Narayanan noticed; the exaggerated coverage of the affairs of the CPI(M) and AIDWA despite the magnitude of their influence in society; the flip-flop on the nuclear deal.

Contributing factor number two has been reverence of all things DMK: M. Karunanidhi is called “a statesman of our time”; the distribution of free colour TV sets is hailed as a giant leap forward in terms of establishing social equality; the violence of M.K. Azhagiri, the splurge of money on the huge banners and cut-outs of M.K. Stalin go unquestioned.

And when the Cauvery tribunal hands out its award, the daily forgets that it is not just a Madras newspaper but a South Indian paper also published from Bangalore, and rejoices, hailing the decision of the tribunal to ask Karnataka to release double the amount of water it can keep for itself. Its sister publication, Frontline, runs it as a cover story.

Some of those actions can be traced to ideological kinks (“avoiding the traps of anti-left campaign journalism that various other newspapers and television channels”, as editor-in-chief N. Ram put it in response to the criticism of the Nandigram coverage), and to keep its core constituency—Tamils—happy.

But it is the national paper’s coverage of matters concerning China—be it its claim over Arunachal Pradesh or the uprising of Tibetans in Lhasa last week—that is deeply troubling, and has well and truly turned me off.

Exhibit A: When the Chinese foreign minister asserted during a visit to India that Arunachal Pradesh belonged to India, the paper ignored the report, but carried a mysterious editorial suggesting that the border row can be solved by adopting a “give and take policy”. India should give and China should take?

Exhibit B: The uprising of Tibetans in Lhasa has seen The Hindu go overboard, censoring, blacking out, polishing and giving a spin to everything, as if it is China’s National Newspaper, not India’s. And this after a recent piece on the Dalai Lama resulted in a Tibetan protest in front of the head office of the paper.

Just one example will suffice. On the day, the Dalai Lama was talking of “cultural genocide“, on the day The Times of India was saying that “Tibet unrest spreads beyond Lhasa“, The Hindu was saying, “Lhasa returns to normality“.

Result: “The Mahavishnu of Mount Road” is collecting labels by the lorryload. B. Raman calls the paper the “People’s Daily of China“. Nitin Pai calls the paper “Beijing’s Mouthpiece“.

Which is all so surprising.

When N. Ravi and Malini Parthasarathy were removed as editor and executive editor of the paper in an overnight bloodless coup in 2003, and replaced with N. Ram, joint managing director N. Murali (elder brother of Ram and Ravi) was quoted as saying this: “It is true that our readers have been complaining that some of our reports are partial and lack objectivity.”

The Hindu is open to precisely the same charges of partiality and lack of objectivity now. In fact, if anything, things have only gotten far worse. And this when Deccan Chronicle is around and this when The Times of India is slated for launch soon. Yet there is not a whisper at what this motivated and slanted coverage is doing to the core strengths of a great newspaper, built over 125 years by the sweat and toil of scores of journalists and non-journalists.

A newspaper is entitled to its views, of course, but when it starts twisting and distorting the news to suit the ideological inclinations of those at the helm, and his ideological blood-brothers, we have a problem on hand.

As it is, some newspapers now sell their editorial space to the highest bidder, there are wheels within wheels in advertising, and so on. If a newspaper, revered and trusted by hundreds of thousands of South Indians, joins the ranks, we have Big Trouble in Little China indeed.

Either we could be seeing a great institution being dismantled, brick by red brick, or we could be seeing the end of a free, fair, unbiased, vibrant media. Or both.

Cross-posted on sans serif


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