Posts Tagged ‘DMK’

The curious case of N.Ram, DMK and Jayalalitha

24 May 2011

N.Ram, editor in chief of The Hindu, calling on Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha, in Madras, on Tuesday, 24 May 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: If a picture conveys a thousand words, the picture above should convey a couple of them, and then some more.

At left is N. Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, currently embroiled in a major row with his brothers N.Murali and N. Ravi (and their cousins Malini Parthasarathy, Nirmala Lakshman and Nalini Krishnan), over who should succeed him at the family-owned newspaper.

At right is Jayalalitha Jayaram, the newly elected chief minister of Tamil Nadu, whose AIADMK government in 2003, ordered the arrest of then editor N.Ravi and executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, chief of bureau V. Jayanth, and special correspondent Radha Venkatesan for alleged contempt of the legislative assembly.

Then freshly installed at the helm, Ram turned the arrest order into a cause celebre.

Meeting Jayalalitha today may appear to be an entirely appropriate courtesy call, one which most editors think they are entitled to in the call of duty.

But is it too early to forget that Jayalalitha came to power on the back of the 2G spectrum allocation scam which has the who’s who of the DMK involved in it, and on which N. Ram has been under a targetted attack from his brothers and cousins of, a) being an apologist for the main accused in the scam, A. Raja, and b) of practising a strange kind of “paid news” by running softball interviews in return for ads in the paper.

The additional edge in the Ram-Jayalalitha picture is provided by WikiLeaks.

The Hindu, which scooped the American diplomatic cables pertaining to India from WikiLeaks, gladly ran a cable showed Trinamul Congress in poor light at the height of the election campaign in bengal. The insinuation that Washington wanted to cultivate Mamata Banerjee‘s party quickly became ammunition for the Left, with Ram’s Loyola Collegemate Prakash Karat even addressing a press conference on the issue.

The Bengal cable was published on 21 April; Bengal went to the hustings on April 18, 23, 27, May 3, 7, and 10.

However, the WikiLeaks cable that showed the fissures in the DMK between the Karunanidhi family and the Maran family were published only on Monday, 23 May 2011, a month and 10 days after Tamil Nadu went to the polls and ten days after the DMK had lost the election lock, stock and 2G to Jayalalitha’s AIADMK.

The best-case scenario is that The Hindu staff chanced upon the Dayanidhi Maran cable only after results day, 13 May. The worst-case scenario is not to difficult to imagine.

Amen.

Also read: The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

How The Hindu got hold of the WikiLeaks cables

External reading: Save The Hindu

Newspapers used to bribe voters in Tamil Nadu

16 March 2011

The second tranche of American diplomatic cables published by The Hindu today in collaboration with Wikileaks, throws light on how newspapers—yes—have become a delivery vehicle for politicians and parties to deliver cash to voters at the time of elections.

The paper quotes from a cable sent by Frederick J. Kaplan, acting principal officer of the US consulate-general in Madras, to the State department, after meeting M. Puttarajan, an aide of Union chemicals and fertilisers minister M.K. Azhagiri, son of the Tamil Nadu chief M. Karunanidhi:

“In an instructive and entertaining section titled ‘Can I get another morning paper?’ Kaplan explained the modus operandi for cash distribution adopted by the DMK in Thirumangalam: “Rather than using the traditional practice of handing cash to voters in the middle of the night, in Thirumangalam, the DMK distributed money to every person on the voting roll in envelopes inserted in their morning newspapers.

“In addition to the money, the envelopes contained the DMK ‘voting slip’ which instructed the recipient for whom they should vote.” This, Kaplan noted, “forced everyone to receive the bribe.” Patturajan , he wrote, “confirmed the newspaper distribution method of handing out money, but questioned its efficiency. He [Patturajan] pointed out that giving bribes every voter wasted money on committed anti-DMK voters, but conceded that it was an effective way to ensure the cash reached every potential persuadable voter”.

The Kaplan cable reports that Patturajan expected difficulties in replicating the Thirumangalam model in the 2009 parliamentary election because the Lok Sabha constituency was seven times the size of the Assembly seat.

According to the cable:

“Azhagiri has been forced to ratchet the payment back down to more typical levels, but he still plans on giving it to every voter through the newspaper distribution method.”

Little wonder every politician and political party wants to start a newspaper?

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: How The Hindu got hold of the Wikileaks India cables

How the US hunted down Reuters’ staffers

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

17 November 2010

Indian television news channels, whose fortunes rise and fall each week, routinely advertise their ratings “victory” after each major event: the Union budget, the general elections, the Obama visit, etc.

It looks like newspapers are quickly following in the footsteps of television in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, and this even as the Supreme Court was commenting acidly on the “morality of the modern media“.

The day after the “King of Corruption”, A. Raja, resigned as Union telecommunications minister, The Pioneer, Delhi, went to town in its lead story, patting the back of special correspondent J. Gopikrishnan for his 70 incisive stories that launched the crusade to get the corrupt minister out.

On day two, the paper’s editor, Chandan Mitra, wrote a glowing front-page piece on Gopikrishnan, titled “The man who felled a king”:

“For a long time, I did not even know that J. Gopikrishnan was a stringer based in Thiruvananthapuram working for The Pioneer‘s now-aborted Kochi edition. So when he came to Delhi pleading for a job at the headquarters once the Kochi edition shut in 2007, I was rather sceptical.

“I told bureau chief Navin Upadhyay that although I had noticed a few bylined stories by him, Gopi had no exposure to Delhi and, therefore, was unlikely to have any worthwhile contacts here. Navin, however, persuaded me to try him out for three months. In fact, the letter of appointment specifically mentioned this along with a “stipend” that was truly laughable by Delhi standards.

“Gopi did not break any earth-shaking stories during the trial period. But his sincerity, diligence, dogged pursuit of stories and pleasing personality made up for that. He was given a proper appointment letter after three months although his salary remained rather low.

“My opinion began to change after friends in Left parties began to mention him to me in Parliament’s Central Hall, pointing to the depth of his knowledge of the telecom sector. Officially, he was on the Left beat so I still did not attach too much significance to that.”

On day three, today, a two-column  page one story in The Pioneer (in picture, above), authored by Gopikrishnan, proclaims: “CAG report vindicates Pioneer report”:

“The CAG findings confirm every aspect of the scam The Pioneer has reported over two years in its sustained effort to build public opinion and create political pressure on the government to act against Raja.”

On day three, again, The Times of India (which has in the past week claimed credit for outing Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scam, a story which Samar Halarnkar of Hindustan Times said he wrote in the Indian Express in 2003), has stepped in to claim the honours, with a front-page box titled “TOI on the DoT“:

“Since end-2007, The Times of India has carried many reports, first by Shalini Singh, later joined by Josy Joseph and Pradeep Thakur, detailing how the manner of award of telecom licences would—and now has—cost the nation a staggering sum in the form of lost revenue. Indeed, in our edition of May 31, 2010, we carried a very detailed report headlined, ‘Not auctioning 2G spectrum costs govt over 1 lakh crore’, which has now been borne out by the CAG in its report….”

Meantime, there is a flurry among politicians, too, to claim credit.

Mail Today gives the gadfly of Indian politics, Janata party president Subramaniam Swamy, his due, for it was his petition to the prime minister in November 2008 for sanction to prosecute the corrupt ministe, that seems to have recoiled on the squeaky clean image of Manmohan Singh.

“Thankfully for Indian journalists, Subramanian Swamy, who is in hot pursuit of former telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G spectrum scam, doesn’t often break into Mandarin — a language he is fluent in…. Though married to Supreme Court advocate Roxna, Swamy has often chose to argue his cases without the help of lawyers. His two daughters — one of them a TV journalist — know that quite well!”

On rediff.com, the Rajya Sabha member  Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has a stake in the Kannada Prabha newspaper and the Suvarna News channels in Karnataka, gets credit for raising the issue as far back as in 2007.

“In my letter to the prime minister on November 14, 2007, I reiterated that the spectrum allocation process must pass the twin tests of public interest and transparency and questioned why the licence award or spectrum award procedure did not following a tender process — a route adopted to disburse all previous licences including FM (radio) licences. The prime minister responded with a letter saying he would examine the issue.”

CNN-IBN, meantime, says it has been lauded for making public the CAG report on the 2G spectrum scam.

In this video, preceded poetically by a Tata Docomo commercial for its new 3G services, editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai says:

“…parliamentarians cutting across party lines were fulsome (sic) in praise for the CNN-IBN expose”.

One newspaper that can proudly claim to have not broken the 2G spectrum allocation scam, though, is The Hindu. When it got a chance to buttonhole the condemned minister twice whle the rest of the media were chasing him in vain, R.K. Radhakrishnan opted to lob softball questions.

Not once, but twice.

For the record, The Hindu employees’ union is DMK-run, and A. Raja belongs to the party in question.

How come nobody heard or saw the worm turn?

29 May 2009

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Hindsight, as the moronic aphorism goes, is always 20/20.

And we have been seeing plenty of hindsight dressed as foresight over the last fortnight following the announcement of the results of the general elections, which bucked the “anti-incumbency” cliche and put the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance back in power.

# Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has said the politics of aspiration trumped the politics of grievance. CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai writes that it is a vote for decency in public life. Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta sees it as a vote against hate and abuse.

# Journalists aligned to the BJP like Swapan Dasgupta have said the BJP failed to keep pace with the realities of a new India. The BJP spokesman Sudheendra Kulkarni has said stability won over change. Atanu Dey says the Congress managed the media better.

# Many analysts have seen in the surprise Congress win, a vote for youth. Political psychologist Ashis Nandy detects a vote against arrogance. The economist Bibek Debroy among others has attributed the Congress win to its social welfare programmes. Pratap Bhanu Mehta has said the era of votebank politics is over.

And so on and on.

And on and on.

The grim truth is that all this is post-facto rationalisation by media sages, policy wonks and psephologists, ever so wise, as so many of us usually are, after the event.

Like the blind men who felt the elephant, they touch different parts of the gargantuan electoral animal now that it has come to rest, and they feel different things.

The reality is nobody in our media—television, newspapers, magazines—and nobody at the top, bottom or middle, knew what was going on. And what we were being peddled for days and weeks was drivel as wisdom.

Why?

And how does this happen election after election?

In 2004, the media had “called the election” in favour of the BJP-led alliance and was acting as if “We, the People” should only go to the polling booths and fulfil their prophecy.

Well, “We, the People” decided to spring a surprise and put the Congress-led alliance in office.

In 2009, most media vehicles somewhat got the winning alliance right, but chastened perhaps by the 2004 experience, weren’t willing to stick their neck out beyond giving a wafer-thin margin for the UPA over the NDA.

In reality, the huge gap of over 100 seats between the victor and the vanquished; the surprise showing of the Congress in States like Uttar Pradesh where it had been written off; the number of first-time MPs belowed the age of 40 (58); the number of women elected (59), etc, shows that there is something truly, incredibly, unbelievably wrong in our mass media’s connect with the masses.

Of course, the term “media” is a loose, general one because there is no one, single media oeprating uniformly, homogenously in every part of the land. There are various shades to it, in various languages, in various forms, in various States and regions, etc. And then some more.

Still, how could almost all of them get so much so palpably wrong?

Did the tide turn in the favour of the Congress inside the secrecy of the voting booths preventing our esteemed men and women in the media from knowing what was happening?

Or was it building up slowly but we were too busy or distracted to notice?

If it was the latter, why?

Is there a disconnect between mass media and the masses? Is the undercurrent of democracy too difficult to be spotted? Or are our media houses and personnel not equipped with the equipment and wherewithal to detect these trends?

Given the poor presence and even poorer coverage of the mainstream media in the rural countryside, it is understandable that we were unable to get the rural countryside wrong.

Why, even the one English paper with a “rural affairs editor” was backing the wrong horse which, it turns out, wasn’t even in the race at all, all the while.

Little wonder, the electoral magic being ascribed to the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme and the farm loan waiver—moves which were dismissed as wasteful expenditure by the neoliberals in the “free market” media—went largely unnoticed.

But what about the urban pockets?

The powerhouses of our media pride themselves on being fiercely urban and urbane; serving the aspirations of the middle-class and the wannabes. Yet, the fact that so few of them could detect the ground shifting from underneath the urban, middle-class BJP’s feet shines an unkindly light.

The Congress and its allies (DMK, Trinamool, NCP) won all the metros—Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Madras—except Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Why, for example, was it difficult to detect the anger of the urban middle-classes against the BJP’s abuse of prime minister Manmohan Singh before counting day?

Or their thirst for fresh, young faces before they were elected and sworn in?

Certainly, the function of the media is not to serve as a soothsayer. It is not expected to tell us what will happen in the future. Nevertheless, it is expected to have a finger on the pulse. Two successive electoral failures suggest that we are consistently holding the wrong vein and coming to the wrong prognosis.

Indeed, on current record, we seem to be living in an echo chamber, hearing our own voices, and relaying it to the world as gospel truth. Or selling our space and airtime without batting an eyelid.

As a piece on the Satyam scandal on this site asked:

Is journalism that doesn’t shed light journalism?

Or puff?

Or PR?

Or Advertising?

Caveat emptor!

Also read: How come media not spot Satyam fraud?

Media owners, journalists holding democracy ransom

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,697 other followers

%d bloggers like this: