Few things have exposed the state of political reporting in India than the news that Sonia Gandhi is unwell.
Dozens of reporters, most of whom claim more “access” to 10, Janpath than all the rest, cover the Congress party.
Yet, in a throwback to the Cold War days, none knew or none told the world what was wrong, although there had been strong whispers for nearly a year.
Neelam Deo and Manjeet Kripalani of the Bombay-based Indian council of global relations, Gateway House:
As TV channels fell over each other [on August 4] to cover in minute detail, the unseemly succession drama of the chief minister of Karnataka, and the CAG’s naming of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit in the graft and corruption surrounding CWG, by 2.30 pm foreign TV agencies, the BBC and Agence France-Presse reported that Sonia Gandhi, had undergone surgery in the United States.
The foreign news reports named Gandhi’s spokesperson, Janardhan Dwivedi, as the source of the information….
The news of Sonia Gandhi’s undisclosed illness and secret departure came as a shock to Indians… Democratic institutions like the media and the Parliament, which should have disclosed Gandhi’s condition as a matter of public knowledge, had kept silent.
The Congress Party carried no notice of its leader’s illness on its website, and it is significant that its spokesperson confirmed the news first to the foreign press.
If it felt it could not trust the Indian media with responsible reportage, the Indian media as a collective, has given it good reason. It is, increasingly part of the cozy nexus of politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi, and is often partisan in its coverage, scoffing at the public’s right to know important events.
For the record, Manjeet Kripalani is former India bureau chief of BusinessWeek magazine.
Illustration: courtesy Thomas Antony
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