[This post is a somewhat longer version of this earlier post, reflecting some updates since this was written]
In Hindi movies, on which we grew up, the villain may be a politician, a policeman, a businessman or even a priest. But in very few movies, would you find a newspaperman “editor-sahaab” to be anything but a knight in shining armor who even though he might not make it alive till the intermission would never compromise on his ideals. Maybe that is why while we expect our politicians and the police to be corrupt (and they unfailingly exceed our expectations), for the person carrying a pencil and a clipboard our standards are very different.
Barkha Dutt’s public image has been the living embodiment of that ideal, and as Rohit says here she has always been perceived as representing the interests of the common Indian, our voice asking the tough questions to those in power. No wonder that she is the Chetan Bhagat of Indian journalism, standing head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of popularity. Hence when the Radia tapes broke, much of the public outrage was focused on her—-how could she?
To those shocked let me say—welcome to the real world. While I am sympathetic to her assertion that with respect to Radia she was merely fishing for information and that she never did try to influence cabinet selection, she has not addressed (at the time of writing this post) the larger question asked by Open Magazine. Namely that Radia represented the Tatas and when it was evident the said lobbyist was trying her level best to influence the appointment of the Minister in a sector her clients had significant interests, why was that news not reported? That in itself was explosive enough.
A movie journalist friend of mine once told me how the real scandals of Bollywood are almost never reported, even though they be common knowledge. What we see as scoops and sensations are all planted by the stars and their handlers, most of them patently false, all done to promote movies or their personal images. So why are the real scandals never reported? Because those who work the Page 3/movie beat are part of the system. When you are in the system, you don’t shake the tree too hard because you never know what will fall on your head. Better to just prune the leaves.
Not trying to shake up the system is not unethical. What Vir Sanghvi has done I believe definitely is. He has been someone whose articles I have always enjoyed reading for their crisp clarity. Now I realize that he had perhaps merely been a reflector, bouncing off light rays gotten obtained other sources creating, what a voice on the Radia tape says “Yeah yeah boss likha hai verbatim”. Again that this kind of influencing of opinion goes in should not be a surprise, as anyone who has read about the paid news scandal, the biggest and most shocking scandal you have never heard about, knows.
If all this was not shocking enough, Ratan Tata has called India a banana republic and has moved the Supreme Court to restrain the publication and dissemination of the Radia tapes. I wish someone tells this captain of Indian industry that while his “gentle” banter with Radia with respect to her Cavalli gown may be an intrusion into his privacy, the nation has every right to know how exactly minsters are assigned to portfolios. A banana republic this truly is but not for the reason Tataji thinks !
The only good that has come out of Radia tapes has been that it has blown the lid off our democratic process—-showing exactly the machinations by which corporate interests “guide” the people.Not that we were so naive that we did not know that it takes place but the shock of seeing exactly how it is done is quite another sensation.
It is, once you stop getting angry, a fascinating study in manipulation.
First through their “friends” in the press, public opinion is slowly molded favorably wherein we lambs have no idea that the well-argued article from a man we admire is actually the talking points of a corporate lobbyist.
Then they cobble together different interests in Parliament, make a number of phone calls and get their man installed as the minister.
No that is not the end of the game.
As a final insurance, they infiltrate the opposition. I would too, if I had a small matter of Rs 81,000 crore on the line. To quote the Hindu,
In one recording, Mr. Singh tells Ms Radia of the firefighting he is doing on behalf of Mr. Ambani to ensure a tax concession the finance minister had announced in the 2009 budget for gas production is made applicable retrospectively. Ms Radia says she has killed news stories about the Rs.81,000 crore super profit Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) would make were that to happen but Mr. Singh is more concerned about what happens in Parliament during the debate on the Finance Bill. His fear is that if Opposition MPs make a noise about a largess being given to one company, the finance minister would be on the defensive and the prospect of extending the concession retrospectively would not even arise. Mr. Singh accuses BJP leader Arun Shourie of being on Anil Ambani’s side and reveals how he has managed to get Mr. Shourie replaced as the BJP’s lead speaker by Venkaiah Naidu.
To make things untenable for BJP, Arun Shourie, perhaps one of the few Indian politicians to have both erudition and backbone, has confirmed the fact that he was replaced at the last minute [Link] by certain interests, which should put a spanner in the works of those partisans who would like us to believe that there is only one guilty party here.
Well no——if one has the spidery spaghetti the other has the steaming sauce.
Welcome to Indian politics, a beast that makes Pakistani cricket look like, to quote a phrase from the great Pamela Bordes scandal, a “teddy bear’s picnic”.
Welcome to the system.