Posts Tagged ‘The Indian Express’

Not yet MP, could Nandan Nilekani become PM?

11 December 2013

On December 8, as the results of the assembly elections in the four States showed that opinion polls are not always wrong, and as the clamour for clarity on the Congress’s “prime ministerial candidate” a la the BJP grew in overheated TV studios, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said:

“I think people need not worry. At the opportune time, the name of the PM candidate… the name of him will be announced.”

Despite the ungrammatical awkwardness of “him”, the invocation of the male gender in her response triggered instant speculation. Was it going to be son Rahul Gandhi, or could it finance minister P. Chidambaram, or could it be a totally new face?

The Times of India, which broke the news in September that former Infosys man and UID chief Nandan Nilekani was being thought of as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South, now reports that Nilekani could be Sonia Gandhi’s “him” with a boiler-plate denial.

When TOI called him, Nilekani’s immediate and only reaction was, “Complete rubbish. This must be a figment of someone’s over-active imagination.”

Obviously, Nilekani’s candidature is predicated on several imponderables. That Rahul Gandhi may not want the top job, should he by a stroke of miracle become eligible for it. That other potential candidates in the Congress will quietly acquiesce should Nilekani’s name come up. Etcetera.

But the Congress moves in mysterious ways, often with some fingers of the left hand not knowing what the other fingers of the same left hand are doing.

In an interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, for NDTV’s walk the talk programme, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah takes a few questions on Nilekani’s predicted candidature. The responses are mighty revealing.

Is Nandan Nilekani going to contest one of the three Bangalore seats?

He has not discussed this with me, but it is news which has appeared… Don’t know whether he is contesting or not.

Do you think it is a good idea if he contests ? Will you be happy?

I don’t know because I have not discussed it with him. And he has also not discussed it with me. About 15 days back we met, but he did not discuss it with me.

As a friend, will you advise him to contest, or not?

It is for the Congress to decide. If he wants to contest, then the Congress has to take a decision now.

But will you recommend his name?

Let him say whether he is interested or not. I do not know whether he is interested.

That’s the problem with your party, everybody has to go and ask.

If he comes to the party, I will welcome him. But I don’t know whether he is ready to contest or not, he is willing to contest or not. But ultimately the high command has to decide.

So, not yet an MP, does Nandan Nilekani stand a chance of being PM?

Dream on.

Photograph: courtesy Namas Bhojani/ Forbes India

Also read: Can Nandan Nilekani win from Bangalore South?

Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

Wodeyar got more than what he leaves behind

11 December 2013

Photo Caption

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar (third from left) with his wife Pramodadevi (third from right), and his sisters (file photo)

As Mysore observes a spontaneous bandh, as plebs and celebs spill platitudes, as newspapers and TV channels plunge into panegyrics, Dr Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi of the department of history at the Karnataka state open University provides a much-needed critique of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last scion of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, in The Indian Express:

“Wodeyar’s more notable public preoccupation in the last decade had been the legacy of his family. He spiritedly contested a script written by Lingadevaru Halemane, a Marxist playwright and linguist, which was to be used for a “sound and light” show at the Mysore palace.

“Wodeyar contended that his family’s history and accomplishments ought to be highlighted as the singular factor in creating modern Mysore.

“He demanded that everything else, including the contributions of people such as Sir M Visvesvaraya or the history of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, be deleted from this hour-long show. Halemane’s script was altered several times but Wodeyar wasn’t satisfied.

“Even though the “sound and light” show has been occasionally held, it hasn’t become a permanent feature at the Mysore palace. Wodeyar’s resistance has been a determining factor.

“Wodeyar’s inheritance was immense. His legacy isn’t. His royal counterparts from northern Indian states have had greater success both in politics and especially in business. Such success may have eluded him but in Mysore he remained a simple, decent but significant presence, especially during the annual Dasara celebrations.”

Read the full article: Mysore ‘last prince’

Also read: Tell the full, fair, undistorted story: Wodeyar

Srikantadatta Wodeyar: part of Mysore’s royal history or not?

Should Indian TV introduce ‘equal coverage’?

31 October 2013

modibse

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 media, not surprisingly, responded with circumspection bordering on suspicion.

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.

International news agencies were getting soft-ball interviews, top journalists were asking if there was a middle-ground; media groups with corporate backing host tailor-made conferences; friendly newspapers were getting 16-page advertising supplements; “bureau chiefs” were finding stories that showed Modi’s detractors in poor light.

Why, the coverage of Modi seems to have been a key editorial driver in the recent change of guard at The Hindu, and—pinch yourself—Modi was launching an edition of Hindu Business Line.

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.”

Read the full story: The chosen one

Photograph: courtesy NewsX

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

Gavaskar vs Vishwanath = Tendulkar vs Dravid?

12 October 2013

20131012-121925 PM.jpg

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.

Action replay.

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)

Read the full article: Since 1989

Also read: India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

Why some of us just love to hate Sunil Gavaskar

From Bhadravati, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

Sunil Gavaskar: India’s most petulant cricketer ever?

The spotlight is now on ‘Make Up’ Naani’s son

31 August 2013

bala

In Lounge, the weekend section of the business paper Mint, the columnist Aakar Patel doffs his hat to Prakash Belawadi.

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.”

Read the full article: A restless Renaissance man

“prabel” in churumuri: Everybody loves his own Jnanpith winner

Also read: For some journalists, acting is second string in bow

Finally, Karnataka gets an acting chief minister

CHURUMURI POLL: Who should be IT minister?

31 May 2013

What qualifications must an elected MLA possess to become a minister? Whose prerogative is it to nominate a minister?  Who decides what portfolio a minister must be allotted? Should ministers of certain specific portfolios possess some certain attributes? And should external inputs be given consideration at all in the ministry-making process?

These are evergreen questions and they gain currency in the light of the decision of the new Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah to name S.R. Patil as the State’s information technology minister—and the quite extraordinary intervention of former Infosys man T.V. Mohandas Pai and Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

# “Surprised at choice of minister for IT/BT. Need a person who can work with global companies and a lot younger. Sad day for us,” tweeted Pai.

# “CM can’t afford to be seen to be viewing IT/BT lightly — these are priority sectors for Karnataka,” said Shaw on her micro-blog account.

In a report for the Indian Express, correspondent Saritha Rai writes:

“Pai and Mazumdar-Shaw were only echoing the widespread feeling in the industry — though no one else said it openly and even these two later backpedalled — that a suave, urban-educated, technology-savvy minister would have better suited.

“The industry was backing choices such as Krishna Byre Gowda and Dinesh Gundu Rao — both dynamic, articulate legislators in their forties. Patil, from backward Bagalkot district, is a lawyer by training with a background in the co-operative movement and is not exactly known for his tech-savvy.”

In a report for The Telegraph, correspondent K.M. Rakesh writes:

“I thought either Krishna Byre Gowda (son of former minister C. Byre Gowda) or Dinesh Gundu Rao (son of former chief minister R. Gundu Rao) would get the IT/BT portfolio,” said a Congress lawmaker.

Rahul Karuna, crisis manager with a BPO, said the IT/BT ministry deserved a heavyweight. ‘We were expecting a big name or a young minister. It’s not about the age or looks of the man; it’s that this portfolio deserves a more powerful politician.'”

Obviously, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but implicit in these statements are stereotypes that boggle the mind and should shame the likes of “suave, urban-educated and tech-savvy” Pai and Shaw. That a 65-year-old man from Bagalkot (still very much a part of Karnataka)  is not cut out for the likes of them in Bangalore. That his age, language and tech skills, and mofussil background are all against him in the slick world.

But above all, the arrogant assumption that the IT/BT industry shall decide the choice of IT minister, not the chief minister. If the children and women of Karnataka (whose number vastly outdoes the number of IT/BT professionals) cannot decide who the next women and child welfare minister will be, what right does the IT/BT industry have?

Yes, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna did wonders for the industry. But do M/s Pai & Shaw know if he knew how to switch on a computer via UPS, send an email or write a blog before he took over as chief minister? And didn’t he come from Somanahalli in Maddur taluk of Mandya district? And where specifically have the dynamism of Dinesh Gundu Rao and Krishna Byre Gowda been displayed for the industry to be batting for their case?

Question: is the pampered IT/BT industry batting out of its crease?

5 talking points you won’t hear on TV tomorrow

7 May 2013

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.

***

2013 election coverage

12 ways Karnataka politicians con EC, buy votes

Why Modi will address only one rally in Karnataka

When a wife-beater campaigns for the Congress

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

They cry before the polls, so we can cry after

‘Diminishing returns from aggressive Hindutva’

Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka opinion polls go awry?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘?

It’s unofficial: our democracy has a bribe future

Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka poll?

12 April 2013

Photo Caption

As the election scene hots up in Karnataka, the commentariat is swinging into action.

Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi writes in the Indian Express:

“Over the past decade, Karnataka has acquired the dubious distinction of being among the most corrupt states, competing with the likes of Jharkhand. Yet, discomfort over the issue of corruption has been restricted largely to the English media, and possibly some upper-class activists. Why, then, has corruption not become a core electoral issue, despite the nationwide anti-corruption campaign in recent times.

“Consider this: corruption is no longer a visible act, like bribe-taking or collecting commission on state projects. Rather, it has become broad-based manipulation of public policy for private profit and hence, invisible. Notions of the public good are absent from policymaking, as the politician-entrepreneur has taken centrestage.

“Perhaps this was true even two decades ago, when politicians began establishing capitation-fee-paying medical and technical institutions, or started mining granite. But now the scale of profits, especially from mining (iron ore in Bellary and surrounding districts), as well as the real estate industry in Bangalore, has transformed political culture and policymaking.

“Note that the beneficiaries of this new corruption aren’t the old elite from the landowning castes, but upstarts from all caste and economic backgrounds. Invariably, they have entered politics to consolidate their burgeoning business interests and mould public policy for their benefit. Janardhana Reddy is perhaps the best known example of this new breed of politician.

“If there hasn’t been vocal opposition to such manipulation of public policy, the reason is simple: this new corruption is often justified as a victimless crime, since only the natural resources owned by the state are being exploited, and no single individual is victimised. More significantly, the spoils of this new corruption are generously shared and percolate to different sections of society. Sharing the wealth of these illicit activities has become the basis for a new political populism in Karnataka.”

Samar Halarnkar in the Hindustan Times:

“If there is to be a barometer of India’s soaring aspirations — and its grim political and administrative realities — look no further than Karnataka, a microcosm of emerging India, which goes to the polls next month and could serve as a precursor to next year’s national elections.

“If corruption was institutionalised by successive Congress governments, the state’s first BJP government made it a way of life, with more heart than it did Hindutva, its Hindu-first ideology. So it is that B.S. Yediyurappa, the former BJP chief minister who handed out crores to Hindu religious institutions (the latest budget sets aside more than Rs. 182 crore) and shut out minorities from his Cabinet, declares that his new outfit, the Karnataka Praja (People’s) Party, is strictly secular.

“If Narendra Modi showcases his administrative acumen, his party in Karnataka represents a baser, corrupted, caste-ridden avatar. Even if Modi, who is popular in urban Karnataka, campaigns for the BJP, the state may dump his party.”

Photograph: A dry borewell opposite the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: How BJP pushed Karnataka into cesspool of caste

How BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

How BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

‘BJP’s lotus grows in the muck; so do BJP people’

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

How media, police stereotype ‘terror suspects’

27 February 2013

Deccan Herald journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui has walked out of the central jail in Bangalore a free man, six months after being named by the city’s police in an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba plot to target two Kannada journalists and the publisher of the newspaper they were earlier employed in.

Siddiqui had been accused of being the “mastermind” of a gang of 15 in August last year to kill editor Vishweshwar Bhat, columnist Pratap Simha and publisher Vijay Sankeshwar, allegedly for their “right-wing leanings“. The journalists were with Vijaya Karnataka of The Times of India group, before they joined Rajeev Chandrasekhar‘s Kannada Prabha.

The national investigation agency (NIA), which investigated the case, didn’t name Siddiqui in its chargesheet on February 20 following which a special court trying the case ordered his release on February 23.

On Monday night, Siddiqui walked out of jail and on Tuesday, he addressed a press conference.

Reporting for the Indian Express, Johnson T.A. writes:

About six months ago, when he appeared in court for the first time after being named by the Bangalore Police, Siddiqui, 26, still had the glint of youthful exuberance in his eyes.

But now, the first thing that comes to mind on seeing Siddiqui after his release from prison on Monday, is the disappearance of that enthusiasm from his face. Gone is the glint in his eyes, and in its place is a serious, sad man.

Even so, Siddiqui, whose thesis suggestion for his PG diploma in mass communication—‘Media coverage of terrorism suspects’—was struck down by his supervisor pulled no punches in describing his own ordeal before his colleagues, compatriots and competitors.

***

siddiqui

# “The media has forgotten the ‘A’ in the ABC of Journalism [Accuracy-Brevity-Clarity].”

# “I always thought the police, media and society at large do not treat terror suspects fairly. That thinking has been reinforced by my experience.”

# “Security agencies are not sensitive towards the poor and weaker sections of society. If you look at the way the entire operation was carried out by the police and reported by the media, this insensitivity is clear.”

# According to the [Bangalore] police and the media, I am the mastermind. If I am the mastermind, why are the others still in jail? I hope they too will get justice.”

# “The media and the police need to be more sensitive toward the downtrodden, Dalits and Muslims. The way the media and the police behaved raises basic questions about their attitude toward Muslims.

# “Muslims are often cast by the media and police in stereotypes. There is an institutional bias which manifests in such cases. This is not just about me; it is about hundreds like me who are in jails [across the country] on terror charges. Muslims are not terrorists.”

# “If I was not a Muslim the police wouldn’t have picked me…. They first arrest people, then find evidence against them. What happened on August 29, 2012 was no arrest but downright kidnapping. A bunch of strong men barged into our house and forcefully took us away in their vehicles. This even as we were pleading and asking why we were being taken out.”

# “They kept interrogating me as if I was the mastermind and kept saying that I’d be in for seven years for sure. Everyone knows that jail is no fun place. For the first 30 days we were cramped in a small room. The confinement itself was torture.  They did not inform our families. They did not tell us what we were being arrested for. They made us sign 30-40 blank sheets of paper. One of these papers was used to create fake, back-dated arrest intimation.”

# “Some fair play is still possible in the system. Though justice was delayed, it wasn’t denied in my case.”

Siddiqui, who is still on Deccan Herald‘s roster, says he wants to go back to journalism, for that is his passion, but wants to spend time with his family first.

Two other journalists—Jigna Vora of The Asian Age and S.M.A. Kazmi—have been arrested in recent times on terror charges, only to be freed later.

Photograph: Journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui at a press conference in Bangalore on 26 February 2013 (courtesy Md. Asad/ The Times of India)

Also read: Bangalore journo in plot to kill editor, columnist?

Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?

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

How ‘trial by media’ turned into media on trial

13 September 2012

Is it a good thing that the Supreme Court of India has not announced clearcut guidelines for media coverage of court cases? Or has it opened the floodgates by introducing a “neturalising device” that underlines the right of the accused to seek postponement of coverage on a case-by-case basis?

By introducing a “constitutional principle” has the judiciary appropriated to itself the power of the legislature to make law? And by giving credence to the complaints of corporates, has the SC sacrificed the interests of faceless and voiceless millions seeking justice and guidance from the top court?

***

The Tribune, Chandigarh: Thoughtless curbs

The Supreme Court judgment that courts can defer media coverage of a case for a short period if there is a danger to an individual’s right to fair trial will curb freedom of the Press, limit the people’s right to know and unnecessarily encourage litigation. Growing complaints of “trial by media” had prompted Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia to initiate a discussion on framing guidelines for court reporting….

There is a growing tendency in the judiciary as well as the executive to curb free speech. The Allahabad High Court banned all media reporting of troop movements after a news report hinted at a coup attempt. The government recently gagged social media sites on the pretext of restoring order. The arrest of a West Bengal professor for circulating a cartoon, the removal of cartoons from school textbooks and the slapping of a sedition case against a cartoonist for disrespecting the national emblem are other instances of executive intolerance of dissent. Vague judgments like the one in the Sahara case will only fuel this tendency.

**

Deccan Herald, Bangalore: Gag on media

A fresh threat to the right to free speech and expression, which has been sanctified by the Constitution, has come from an unlikely place, the Supreme Court of India, which has in the past protected and promoted it as a basic entitlement of citizens. Its judgement empowering courts to ban reporting of hearings in cases where there is a perceived chance of interference in free and fair trial amounts to muzzling media freedom. It needs to be opposed like all other assaults on the functioning on the media, which are becoming frequent now.

The court has propounded a  ‘constitutional principle’  which would allow aggrieved parties to seek postponement of the publication of hearings if they are seen to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. But this is disguising an unfair restriction as a constitutional doctrine, creating a devious device to undermine a basic right.

**

The Indian Express: Lines of control

This “doctrine of postponement” of reporting is meant to be a preventive measure, rather than a punitive one, and is intended to balance the right of free speech with the right to a fair trial. The courts, the SC said, will evaluate each appeal carefully, guided by considerations of necessity and proportionality. However, the very outlining of the principle, in effect, leaves journalism at the mercy of the high court, rather than being internally regulated with better editorial gatekeeping.

**

The Hindu: Don’t compromise open justice

The Supreme Court’s judgment justifying a temporary ban on the publication of court proceedings in certain cases is likely to have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and the very idea of an open trial…. Indeed, by emphasising the right of an aggrieved person to seek postponement of media coverage of an ongoing case by approaching the appropriate writ court, there is a danger that gag orders may become commonplace. At a minimum, the door has been opened to hundreds and thousands of additional writs — a burden our legal system is unprepared to handle — filed by accused persons with means.

**

Mint: Judgment and some worries

While the court prescribed tests of reasonableness, among others, on deciding issues of postponement, time is of the essence for media and citizens dependent on it for information. It is not far-fetched to presume that during this period of stasis, reporters and editors, can be arm-twisted into submission. The judgement whittles down an already embattled freedom available to the Press. It will add psychological pressure and uncertainty in an already difficult environment.

**

Business Standard: Tilting the balance

Tuesday’s judgment has done is to tilt the balance in favour of litigants seeking court interventions — which might well result in the imposition of such gag orders on the media. To that extent, the apex court’s order is prone to misuse…. The legal process (of deferement) is certain to cast an adverse impact on the freedom of the media and undermine the people’s right to know about such cases before the court.

Instead of paving the way for such curbs, it would perhaps make more sense if the courts took upon themselves the responsibility of allowing independent and comprehensive electronic coverage of court cases that both the people and the media can freely access for information or reportage. That would be a more effective way of ensuring that the coverage of court proceedings does not create the risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice or to the fairness of trials.

**

The Times of India: Chilling effect

The bench headed by outgoing Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia came up with an alternative approach to maintaining the balance between free speech and fair trial. Drawing upon the contempt law, the apex court devised a judicial power to order the postponement of publication as a last resort. Even this, however, may negatively impact the salutary principle that trials be held in public, as powerful defendants could routinely invoke such postponement orders….  The media is anyway a heterogeneous entity and the right of journalists to cover court proceedings is an essential attribute of a fair trial.

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Why Adiga’s wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

21 May 2012

Vasudev Adiga, whose parents started the legendary Brahmins’ Coffee Bar in Chamarajpet, wants to take the Adiga’s chain beyond Bangalore, take it beyond the South, and take it to the highways—and standardise South Indian vegetarian food like other fast food joints.

Saritha Rai throws light on his delectable plans in the Indian Express:

“For generations, instinct and experience have guided the cooks who prepare the dosa batter and sambar mix. But a determined Adiga wants his brand in India’s metros by 2018. He wants the Adiga’s sign to beckon travellers on major highways, though McDonald’s and KFC have already preceded him there.

“So, conquering his twin fears of losing control and of outsiders meddling in his business, Adiga has brought in venture capital (Infosys co-founder N.S. Raghavan’s VC firm New Silk Route has invested in the chain.)

“South India’s idli-vada-dosa restaurants have remained largely standalone or single-city brands. Their owners’ ambitions have been thwarted by the challenges of standardising recipes and sourcing ingredients. For example, the dosa batter, a ground mixture of dal and rice, depends on such variables as the quality of water, grinding time and fermenting time, besides the quality of the dal and rice….

“But all that cannot see him through the risks of expanding countrywide, acknowledges Adiga. He is hiring a chief operating officer to take charge of the expansion. The chain is corporatising on many others levels. Like the multinationals, all sourcing will be centralised, except for perishables like vegetables and milk.

“The back-end will be automated by bringing in industrial-style machines to chop vegetables and wash dishes. Just like the MNC chains, which get outside agencies to dice the potatoes just so, Adiga’s too wants to “outsource” such tasks.”

File photograph: The BJP’s Ananth Kumar dives into a plate of idli-sambaar in Basavanagudi while campaigning in the 2009 elections (Karnataka Photo News)

Read the full story: Sambar, extra tangy please

Also read: Real-estate sharks gobbling up our best eateries

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

Adolf Hitler reacts to Indian Express ‘C’ report

2 May 2012

Just as the world was consigning the Indian Express ‘C’ report—the full page, three-deck headline, three-byline story of the coup that wasn’t—to the dustbin of history, the Fuhrer steps in.

Also read: Indian Express ‘C’ report: scoop, rehash or spin?

Indian Express stands by its ‘C’ report

How the media viewed the Indian Express ‘C’ report

Aditya Sinha tears into the Indian Express ‘C’ report

‘Most Hindus and most Muslims are communal’

23 April 2012

Even as his observation that “90% of Indians are fools” flatters the other 10%, Justice Markandey Katju, the retired judge of the Supreme Court turned chairman of the press council of India, offers a ten-point defence in the Indian Express.

Defence #9:

“Most Hindus are communal, and most Muslims are also communal.

“As I have repeatedly pointed out, they were not communal before 1857. Before 1857, Hindus used to celebrate Eid, and Muslims used to celebrate Holi and Diwali. Muslim rulers, like the nawab of Avadh, Tipu Sultan et al used to organise Ram Lila, give grants to Hindu temples, etc.

“It was after suppressing the Mutiny that the British decided that the only way to control India was by divide and rule. Hence a deliberate policy was laid down by the British to generate hatred between Hindus and Muslims.

“All communal riots started after 1857. The English collector would secretly call the local panditji, give him money, and ask him to start speaking against Muslims, and he would also call the local Maulvi secretly and give him money to speak against Hindus. This poison was systematically spread year after year, decade after decade, until it culminated in the Partition of 1947 .

“Even now, there are powerful vested interests promoting communal hatred. The truth is that 99 per cent people of all communities are good, but it will take a lot of time to remove the communal virus from our body politic. Today the situation is that whenever any bomb blasts take place, immediately Muslim individuals or groups are blamed for it.”

Read the full article: Ten ways of being foolish

Also read: Tipu Sultan and the truth about 3,000 Brahmins’

Are 90% of Indians “mentally backward”?

If only Girish Kasaravalli was a Bengali auteur

2 April 2012

He doesn’t crow about his feats, appear on magazine covers, or give loud interviews. Why, even in the 21st century, he has the utter indecency to make films with a total budget of Rs 35 lakh (Aamir Khan‘s Lagaan had a marketing budget of Rs 1 crore; Rajnikanth‘s Robot cost over Rs 100 crore).

Yet, staggeringly, the Kannada film maker Girish Kasavaralli has quietly accumulated six national awards for his portrayal of the social landscape, winning  a Swarna Kamal in each of the last four decades—for Tabarana Kathe (1986), Thaayi Saheba (1997), Dweepa (2001), Kurmavatara (2012).

The 61-year-old auteur in an Q&A in The Hindu:

What according to you is a political film?

Political films are not necessarily those that are made about politics, but anything that subverts our perception. No one can make a politically free statement, which is naive or contradictory in nature. The movie “Bairi” is a classic example where institutionalisation of religion is portrayed. What forms our perception by viewing it makes it a political or a non-political film.

Photograph: courtesy The Tribune

Also read: Why national media avoids national awards

When last did both “Bests” hail from the same State?

‘If we are fated to die, no one can stop it…’

Has Bollywood wrecked our film sensibilities?

‘Narendra Modi cannot be the face of India’

31 March 2012

Fareed Zakaria, the Bombay-born anchor of the CNN show, GPS—and son of the renowned Islamic scholar Rafiq Zakaria—at “Express Adda“, the informal conversations organised by the Indian Express:

“My personal opinion is that Narendra Modi is unlikely to be a national leader in India and he may not even be a regional leader come December. He has been able to achieve certain kinds of things, but he cannot be the face of India.

Karl Marx said that history repeats itself twice—first time as a tragedy and second time as a farce. There is not going to be a Hindutva takeover of India—this is one stream that will be diverted in the long run.”

Also read: Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

How BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

10 February 2012

Cartoonists and headline writers are having a field day as BJP government in its so-called “Gateway to the South” turns a fine and civilised State into the butt of jokes across the nation. The number of disgraced ministers who have had to sadly wash their hands off the “development agenda” is now 12.

Six ministers charged of corruption: B.S. Yediyurappa, G. Janardhana Reddy, G. Karunakara Reddy, B. Sriramulu, Ramachandre Gowda, Katta Subramanya Naidu.

One minister charged of molestation of a friend’s wife: Hartaalu Halappa.

One minister of molestation of a nurse: M.P. Renukacharya.

One ex-minister in denotification scam: S.N. Krishnaiah Shetty.

Three ministers charged of watching porn: Laxman Savadi, C.C. Patil, Krishna Palemar.

Cartoons: courtesy Rahul da Cunha/Amul, R. Prasad/ Mail Today, E.P. UnnyThe Indian ExpressS.V. Padmanabh/ Kannada Prabha

When Mukesh Ambani writes the media’s cheques

15 January 2012

The fears over what happens when a big business house with deep pockets and political influence across parties funds a big media house to legitimise its hitherto-hidden media interests are coming true even before the controversial Reliance Industries -Network18/TV18-Eenadu Television deal can be inked.

Obviously, the political class is silent. Obviously, TV18’s competitors won’t touch the story for reasons not difficult to imagine. Obviously, The Hindu won’t even publish a media column for reasons not difficult to fantasise.

But there has been no serious discussion of the implications of the deal on the media or on democracy in the mainstream media. Not on any of Network18’s usually high-decibel shows since the tie-up was announced on 3 January 2012. Not even on Karan Thapar‘s media show on CNN-IBNThe Last Word.

Print media coverage too has at best been sketchy. Even the newspapers and newsmagazines which have attempted to probe the complexities of the menage-a-troisThe Economic Times and The Indian ExpressOutlookand India Today, have barely managed to go beyond the numbers into the nuance.

Rajya Sabha TV, the newly launched television channel of the upper house of Parliament, has filled the breach somewhat with a no-holds barred discussion on the subject.

Anchored by Girish Nikam, a former Eenadu reporter who wrote five years ago on Ramoji Rao‘s travails, the RSTV debate flags all the important issues raised by the deal and underlines the role public service television can play in the service of the public when the corporate media gives up—or gives in.

Some of the comments made by three of the four participants on The Big Picture:

S. Nihal Singh, former editor of The Statesman: “My first reaction [on reading of the deal] was that it was time for India to have a really good anti-monopoly law for media, which is the norm in all democratic countries in the world, including the most advanced….

“The press council of India is totally dysfunctional because of the new chairman Justice Markandey Katju, who is baiting the media, who doesn’t believe in conversing with the media, or exchanging views with the media.”

***

Madhu Trehan, founder-editor of India Today and director, content, of the soon-to-be-launched media site, News Laundry: “It need not have happened if the government and corporates were more alert. One person owns much too much….

“Already every policy is decided by corporates as the 2G tapes (of Niira Radia) show. Not only is it dangerous that Mukesh Ambani will be deciding what policy will be decided, as you know has happened in the past, but he will also decide whether we can talk about it, or criticise it or expose it….

“Why is Reliance interested in media? It is not for money; it is obviously for influence. Rupert Murdoch was endorsing PMs and Presidents in three continents. Now we have the richest man in the country owning the largest network. Yes, there is an independent trust, but I don’t believe that. The purpose is to control the media. You are influencing policy, you are influencing how the government decides, and now you are going to decide how the people will hear about about you and the government….

“When a politician or a government spokesman speaks, we don’t believe them, but when somebody like Rajdeep Sardesai or Sagarika Ghose speaks, or anyone at IBN7 or TV18 comes on, we presume we should believe them. Now there is a big question mark [when RIL has indirect control over CNN-IBN]….

“In a deal of this size we are looking at very subtle plants of stories, subtle angles, subtly putting things in a certain way so that people think along in a certain way for a particular way. I don’t know if anyone can shut the door. It’s too late.”

***

Dilip Cherian, former editor Business India, head Perfect Relations: “Globally we have seen when big capital enters media, that is exactly what we are about to replicate for ourselves.

“Oligopolistic tendencies are visible in global media today, whether it is Silvio Berlusconi or Rupert Murdoch, the fact is they exercise humongous influence not on media but politics. Are we headed down the same road? At this time, the answer seems to be yes. Is it good? The universal answer from the question is that it isn’t,  not just because it affects the quality of news but because it affects the quality of politics….

“The entry of big capital is not new or news. What has happened in this case is a big distinction between foreign investment and domestic. Because of 4G, because the same business house owns the pipe, owns the content, there could also be another issue of monopoly. If I were the owner, I would say there needs to be a publicly visible ombudsmanship [to dispel the doubts]….

“There is room for concern, there is room for elements of self-rgulation. As a country we are not able to legislate for two reasons. One because of the influence business houses have on policy making. And two, when you bring in legislation (on regulation) up, the other group that is affected are politicians who own media houses of their own. You are talking about now a coalition of forces which the public is incapable of handling. You won’t see Parliament doing the kind of regulation they should, in an open manner, because there are interests on all sides.”

* Disclosures apply

Also readWill RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

Corrupt, communal, cynical and also casteist?

27 December 2011

Caste is back—and in your face. To pave the way for fixers seeking to stymie the Lokpal match, the Congress-led UPA has envisaged reserving half the nine-member institution on the basis of caste. And, a day before the Election Commission could notify the elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other States, the Centre created a 4.5% subquota within the 27% OBC quota for minorities.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express:

“The Anna Hazare movement has rightly been castigated for the morally obscene use of the caste of children. Recently, it was reported that Rahul Gandhi referred to Sam Pitroda’s caste in an election rally. Is this really the party of Jawaharlal Nehru or even Rajiv Gandhi?

“We ought not to disguise the appalling realities of caste, where appropriate. But using them in this way? Someone remarked on reading this story, “Rahul ne to Sam Pitroda ki bhi jaat dikha di.” Even if the intention was benign there is a truth in this.

“Is it not appallingly diminishing when we create an institutional culture where the first thing we want to point to is someone’s caste? I thought the idea of India was to escape precisely this original sin. And now Lokpals, tomorrow judges, all will be identified through caste.

“Perhaps the Congress is in love with the “C” in its name. Corruption was not enough. It had to become corrupt, casteist, communal and cynical. India’s tragedy is that there is no national level challenger to this party that is diminishing us all.”

Read the full article: The C in Congress

Stepmotherly affection for Father of Constitution

6 December 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For all the lip service it pays “dalits and the downtrodden”, for all the tokenism of a Dalit as speaker of Lok Sabha, and for all the buzz about a possible Dalit replacement for Manmohan Singh as prime minister, the Congress-led UPA government has issued a measly six pages of ads in 12 newspapers to mark the birth death anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution—and the icon of Dalits—Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

In contrast, the State government of Uttar Pradesh, headed by Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has issued seven pages in the same 12 newspapers surveyed by sans serif.

The Centre’s six pages of ads for Ambedkar is in stark contrast to the 393 pages of ads issued by various ministries and departments of the Union government and Congress-run State governments to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in 2011.

While various ministries were falling over each other to sing hosannas for the three ex-PMs, only the ministry of social justice and empowerment is in evidence for Dr Ambedkar. The only State government advertiser is the Delhi commission for safai karmacharis.

***

The breakup of the Ambedkar ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 2 Ambedkar ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 26-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Indian Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 compact page

The Hindu: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Telegraph: 24-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 24-page main issue; 0 ads

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 0 ads

Financial Express: 18-page issue; 0 ads

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

***

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Photograph: courtesy Sepia Mutiny

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

It’s official, RG greater than IG greater than JN

19 November 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For the final anniversary of the year of India’s “Family No. 1″—the birth anniversary of the nation’s first woman prime minister Indira Gandhi—there are 70 advertisements amounting to 32 published pages in 12 English newspapers that have been surveyed through the year by sans serif.

With this anniversary, the total number of government ads to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of the three former prime ministers from the family—Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi—in the year of the lord 2011 goes up to 393.

In effect, the government has bought space amounting to 190¼ pages in the 12 newspapers.

# The Times of India is the biggest beneficiary of the ad blitz to mark the six anniversaries among the general-interest newspapers with 65 published ads followed by Indian Express 62, Hindustan Times 57, The Hindu 42, The Pioneer 41, Mail Today 36, The Statesman 25 and The Telegraph 18 ads.

# The Economic Times and Business Standard top the list of the busines dailies with 14 ads each, followed by the Financial Express with 11 ads. Mint (from the Hindustan Times stable) has received just one ad for the six anniversaries.

# As a group, the Times group has received 79 ads in all, the Express group 73 ads, and the Hindustan Times 58 ads.

While it is natural that ToI and HT should garner so many ads given their large circulations in the national capital, the second place for the Express group is revealing considering it sells less than five per cent of market-leaders ToI and HT in the Delhi market, which both sell in excess of 5 lakh copies.

The tabloid Mail Today, which has the third highest circulation among the Delhi newspapers, too gets fewer ads than the Indian Express.

***

The affection of various Union ministries, departments and State governments for the three departed leaders of the family is revealing.

While Rajiv Gandhi tops the charts with 177 advertisements amounting to 89 pages for his birth and death anniversaries, Indira Gandhi comes second with 134 ads amounting to 64 pages, followed by Pandit Nehru at a lowly 82 ads amounting to 37¼ pages.

***

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 10 Indira ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 4¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 14 ads amounting to 5¾ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 5½ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 20-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 3 broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 18-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 26-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page main issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 18-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ pages

Mint (Berliner): 12-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, culture, water resources, statistics and programme implementation, north eastern region, micro small and medium enterprises, social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, there are ads of the national commission for women.

***

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Nehru’s CTC (cost to country): 58 ads, 26 pages

14 November 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There are 58 government advertisements amounting to 26¼ pages in 12 English newspapers today to mark the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In contrast, there were 108 ads amounting to 48 pages to mark his grandson, Rajiv Gandhi‘s birthday in August.

All told, so far this year, between three death anniversaries (Nehru’s, Rajiv’s, Indira Gandhi‘s) and two birth anniversaries (Rajiv’s and Indira’s), various ministries of the Union government and Congress-ruled State governments have spent taxpayers’ money in buying 323 advertisements amounting to 158¼ published pages in the 12 surveyed newspapers.

The breakup of the Jawaharlal Nehru ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 11 Nehru ads amounting to 4½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 24-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¼ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1 broadsheet page

***

The Economic Times: 30-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 16-page issue; 2 ads amounting to 1 page

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ page

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resource development, micro small and medium enterprises, youth affairs and sports.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan and Delhi. Besides, there are ads of Nehru Yuva Kendra and the national book trust.0

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Indira Gandhi: 64 ads, 32 pages; Vallabhbhai Patel: 9 ads, 3 pages

Congrats, your taxes have helped buy 265 ads

31 October 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: After the advertising blitzkrieg to mark Rajiv Gandhi‘s birth and death anniversaries, and the death anniversary of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru earlier this year, Union ministries and Congress-led State governments and departments have once again splurged heavily to mark Indira Gandhi‘s death anniversary today.

In the 12 newspapers surveyed, there are 64 advertisements of various sizes, amounting to approximately 31½ published pages to mark the assassination of the former prime minister on this day, 27 years ago.

In contrast, Vallabhbhai Patel, the late Union home minister, whose birth anniverary too falls on October 31, gets 9 advertisements in the same 12 newspapers, amounting to 3 published pages. While there are multiple advertisements for Indira Gandhi, no paper has more than one ad for Patel.

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 22-page main issue; 9 Indira Gandhi ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 13 ads amounting to 6¼ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 22-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¾ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 4 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 26-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 2 ads amouning to 1 page

Financial Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to half a page

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the 13 advertisers wishing the dear departed leader are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resources development, development of north east region, and social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, most newspapers carry an advertisement inserted by the Congress party.

All told, so far, this year, tax payers money have been spent in buying 265 advertisements amounting to 132 published pages in the 12 newspapers.

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 newspapers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

‘Arun Shourie: a Hindu, right-wing pamphleteer’

3 October 2011

There are few more polarising figures in Indian journalism than Arun Shourie.

For many of his professional peers, he is everything a journalist should not be: a wonky-eyed, hired gun of the Hindu right, selectively and deviously using facts to push its ideological and political agendas.

Arrogant, intolerant, abusive, dictatorial, .

For multitudes more, he is the proverbial Sancho Panza, tilting at the windmills of political correctness, shining light on the dark corners of Indian political and business life, with his exposes and editorials.

Saying it like it is, without fear or favour.

In his just released memoirs, Ink in my Veins, the veteran editor Surendra Nihal Singh, who was Shourie’s boss at the Indian Express, dismisses Shourie as a pamphleteer who thought “a newspaper was a stepping stone to politics and political office… and used journalism to achieve his political ambitions.”

***

By S. NIHAL SINGH

My experience with Arun Shourie was not happy.

To begin with, he had got used to doing pretty much what he wanted because S. Mulgaonkar [who Nihal Singh replaced as Express editor at his recommendation] had been ailing for long and usually made only a brief morning appearance to do an edit if he felt like it.

To have to work with a hands-on editor who oversaw the news and editorial sections was an irksome burden for Shourie.

Our objectives collided.

My efforts were directed to making the Express a better paper, while he was basically a pamphleteer who was ideologically close to the Hindu right. Even while he oversaw a string of reporters’ stories, which drew national attention (for which he claimed more credit that was his due), his aim was to spread the message.

Goenka himself could be swayed by Hindu ideology. In one instance, he sent me a draft editorial from Madras full of all the cliches of the Hindu right. One of Goenka’s men in the southern city was S. Gurumurthy, a sympathiser of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a pro-Hindu organisation.

The issue was the mass conversion of Harijans to Islam at Meenakshipuram (in Tamil Nadu) in June 1981. I put two and two together and it added up to Gurumurthy’s handiwork. I threw the editorial into the waste-paper basket. And I did not hear a word about it from Goenka.

Shourie exploited his proximity to Goenka to terrorise the reporters and subeditors. As executive editor, he was the No.2 man in the editorial hierarchy but often assumed the airs of a prima donna. His office being twice as large as the editor’s room and far better furnished always puzzled me.

Shourie believe that rules were made for others, and our clash began when he took umbrage over my cutting his extensive opinion piece to conform to the paper’s style. On one occasion, I had to spike a piece he had written on Indira Gandhi, in language unbecoming of any civilised newspaper.

In an underhand move, he quietly sent it to the magazine section, printed in Bombay, without inviting a censure from Goenka.

To a professional journalist, some of Shourie’s arguments sound decidedly odd. He declared, “When an editor stops a story, I go and give it to another newspaper. I am no karamchari [worker] of anybody’s. Whether I work in your organisation or not, I really look upon myself as a citizen or first as a human being, and then as a citizen, and as nothing else. If I happen to work for Facets [a journal in which his extensive piece appeared as its January-February 1983 issue], I will still behave the same way. If you use my happening to work for you as a device to shut my mouth, I’ll certainly shout, scream, and kick you in the shins.”

Shourie told the same journal that he had no compunction in mixing his editorial and managerial function ‘because the Indian Express is in an absolutely chaotic state. Ther is no management worth the name. Anyone wanting to help it must also help solve the management problems.’

To give him his due, Shourie had many good qualities. He was a hard worker and often did his homework before writing. However, we could never agree on the paper’s outlook because, for him, a newspaper was a stepping stone to politics and political office.

For me the integrity of a newspaper was worth fighting for.

Goenka swayed between these points of view. He used to tell me: ‘Not even five per cent readers look at the editorials.’ He called Frank Moraes, a distinguished former editor of the Indian Express, ‘my race horse’. Shourie he once described to me as a ‘two-horse tonga‘ (horse carriage).

Shourie later distinguished himself in the political field under the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); he even Goenkaachieved the position of a cabinet minister. In effect, he successfully employed journalism to achieve his political ambition.

***

(Editor of The Statesman, The Indian Express and The Indian Post, Surendra Nihal Singh served in Singapore, Islamabad, Moscow, London, New York, Paris and Dubai. He received the International Editor of the Year award in 1978 for his role as editor of The Statesman during the Emergency)

(Excerpted from Ink in my Veins, A life in Journalism, by S. Nihal Singh, Hay House, 308 pages, price Rs 499)

Also read: Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

What Sonia Gandhi’s illness reveals about media

22 September 2011

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, scooped by Indian Express photographer Anil Sharma, as she leaves her daughter’s residence in New Delhi on 14 September 2011.

Nothing has exposed the hollowness of so-called “political reporting” in New Delhi, and the fragilility of editorial spines of newspapers and TV stations across the country, than the Congress president Sonia Gandhi‘s illness.

Hundreds of correspondents cover the grand old party; tens of editors claim to be on on first-name terms with its who’s who; and at least a handful of them brag and boast of unbridled “access” to 10 Janpath.

Yet none had an inkling that she was unwell.

Or, worse, the courage to report it, if they did.

Indeed, when the news was first broken by the official party spokesman in August, he chose the BBC and the French news agency AFP as the media vehicles instead of the media scrum that assembles for the daily briefing.

Sonia Gandhi has since returned home but even today the inability of the media—print, electronic or digital—to throw light on just what is wrong with the leader of India’s largest political party or to editorially question the secrecy surounding it, is palpable.

Given the hospital she is reported to have checked into, the bazaar gossip on Sonia has ranged from cervical cancer to breast cancer to pancreatic cancer but no “political editor” is willing to put his/her name to it, taking cover under her right to privacy.

About the only insight of Sonia’s present shape has come from an exclusive photograph shot by Anil Sharma of The Indian Express last week.

In a counter-intuitive sort of way, Nirupama Subramanian takes up the silence of the media in The Hindu:

“That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous.

“On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and Mail Today, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.

“A similar deference was on display a few years ago in reporting Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s uneven health while he was the Prime Minister. For at least some months before he underwent a knee-replacement surgery in 2001, it was clear he was in a bad way, but no news organisation touched the subject. Eventually, the government disclosed that he was to undergo the procedure, and it was covered by the media in breathless detail.

“Both before and after the surgery, there was an unwritten understanding that photographers and cameramen would not depict Vajpayee’s difficulties while walking or standing. Post-surgery, a British journalist who broke ranks to question if the Prime Minister was fit enough for his job (“Asleep at The Wheel?” Time, June 10, 2002) was vindictively hounded by the government.

“Almost a decade later, much has changed about the Indian media, which now likes to compare itself with the best in the world. But it lets itself down again and again. The media silence on Ms Gandhi is all the more glaring compared with the amount of news time that was recently devoted to Omar Abdullah‘s marital troubles. The Jammu & Kashmir chief minister’s personal life has zero public importance. Yet a television channel went so far as to station an OB van outside his Delhi home, and even questioned the maid….

“Meanwhile, the media are clearly not in the mood to extend their kid-glove treatment of Ms Gandhi’s illness to some other politicians: it has been open season with BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s health problems arising from his weight. Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks.”

Read the full article: The omerta on Sonia‘s illness

Also read: Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

How come no one spotted Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

How come no one in the media saw the worm turn?

Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,704 other followers