Tag Archives: L.K. Advani

Why Arun Jaitley is called ‘Bureau Chief’ in BJP

One impossibly apocryphal story from the 2004 general election election is of a major newspaper group getting sucked in by the India Shining hype and making key editorial leadership changes on its reporting side, in anticipation of the BJP-led NDA returning to power, and falling flat on its face with the UPA’s surprise win.

An equally apocryphal story from the last few years is that most “scams” broken by the media (barring some honourable exceptions) are force-fed by political, corporate and legal interests seeking to score points against their rivals or, worse, against one of their own.

Both those pieces of gossip—and unsubstantiated gossip, they certainly are—gain fresh oxygen on the eve of the 2013 election season in the July issue of Caravan magazine.

In a cover story on the BJP putting all its eggs in the Narendra Modi basket, the journalist Poornima Joshi writes of the manner in which Nitin Gadkari was ousted as party president after it emerged in the media that his Purti group had been financed by shell companies.

“Although L.K. Advani had championed the effort to forcefully eject Gadkari from the president’s chair last year—over the fervent objections of the RSS—he was later convinced that Gadkari had been the victim of a conspiracy to tarnish him with an orchestrated campaign of planted stories in the media.

“Inside the BJP, suspicions pointed to Arun Jaitley, the Rajya Sabha opposition leader, who is known within the party as “bureau chief” for the extraordinary influence he wields at two large-selling national dailies where his favourite journalists run political bureaus.

“Although nobody knows whether Jaitley was actually responsible for the stories, most people in the BJP, including Advani, believe that he was. Jaitley and Advani, who were once seen as pupil and teacher, have been in enemy camps since last December, when Advani put forth his acolyte Sushma Swaraj, the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha and Jaitley’s bête noire, as a nominee to replace Gadkari as president.”

Read the full article: Strategems and spoils

Illustration: courtesy Rinelaff.com

Also read: Who are the journalists running and ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

Karan Thapar says ‘sorry’ to L.K. Advani (twice)

Karan Thapar (right) with L.K. Advani in happier times at a Hindustan Times leadership summit, in 2011

It isn’t often that journalists, especially the bold-faced names, descend from their ivory towers to admit they may have hurt a politician’s feelings. It’s even rarer to hear them say ‘sorry’ for having done so. But twice in the past week, the interviewer Karan Thapar has found the inner reserves to publicly do so, and on both occasions to the same man: L.K. Advani.

In a profile published in The Hindu, Thapar spoke of the break down of his friendship with the BJP leader and former deputy prime minister, whom he has interviewed a number of times for his BBC and CNN-IBN shows.

“But after one interview, soon after his Jinnah remarks [in 2005], Advani was not happy and wanted Thapar to re-shoot the show. Thapar saw no reason to do so, and despite many requests, chose to be a ‘rigid, honourable journalist’ and telecast the footage.

“‘Since then,’ Thapar says, ‘the trust has gone. We did an interview in 2009 too, but after eight minutes he said he did not want to do it.’

“Looking back, Thapar wistfully says, ‘I saw it purely as a journalist, but the fact is that there was another relationship with him and his family, which I had used for my journalism. I had called his daughter to fix me an interview with him as soon as he took over as home minister. She did it.’

“It was in that backdrop, of past intimacy and informality, that Advani may have made the request. Almost seven years after the incident, Thapar is not sure if he made the right call in hurting a person he respected otherwise, bringing home the dilemmas journalists covering the powerful often face.”

In his weekly column in the Hindustan Times, Thapar went a step further:

“Over the years that followed Mr Advani gave me more interviews than perhaps anyone else. I got his first as home minister and several as deputy prime minister. More than that, I was always welcome when I called. Mrs Advani and [daughter] Pratibha made me feel special.

“Alas, it all unravelled in 2006 when I did an interview Mr Advani didn’t like. He asked if I would re-do it. I refused. I thought journalistic integrity required a firm stand forgetting I’d only got the interview because I was considered a ‘friend’.

“Thereafter our relationship was never the same. Mr Advani continued to take my phone calls and was always courteous but the old link had snapped.

“Today I realise I was wrong. Maybe even arrogant, which is worse. And so it’s my turn to apologise. It’s taken me seven years but the memory of Mr Advani’s phone call, made 22 years ago, has given me the strength to say sorry.

“Alas, I’m aware it’s now too late. This time, however, I’d really like to be wrong.”

With Advani now in the eye of the BJP storm following the elevation of Narendra Modi as the chairman of the BJP’s election campaign committee, the apology couldn’t have come a day too soon.

Photograph: courtesy Hindustan Times

‘Hindu and HT were worst offenders in 1975’

With  nearly 60% of India reputedly being under 25 years of age—in other words, with three out of five Indians having been born after 1985—it stands to reason that the 35th anniversary of the declaration of Emergency by the Indira Gandhi government should have come and gone without creating a ripple.

That, and the fact that the news channels and newspapers were too busy celebrating panchamda R.D. Burman‘s birthday and the World Cup to be bothered of the more serious things affecting life and democracy.

Nevertheless, the press censorship during the Emergency is one of the darkest periods in contemporary Indian media history, when promoters, proprietors, editors and journalists quietly acquiesced to the firman of the government to not publish anything that was considered antithetical to the national interest.

Censors sat over editors in newspaper offices and crossed out material (including cartoons and pictures) that didn’t conform to the official policy; criticism of the government was a strict no-no; over 250 journalists were arrested; 51 foreign correspondents were dis-accreditated, 29 were denied entry, seven were expelled.

In The Sunday Guardian, the weekly newspaper launched by M.J. Akbar, the veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts life under censorship, names the pussies and lions, and says the media today is “too niminy-piminy, too nice, too refined” if such a disaster were to strike again.

***

By KULDIP NAYAR

L.K. Advani was right when he told journalists, “You were asked to bend, but you crawled.” Even then, the courageous part was that nearly 100 journalists assembled at Delhi’s press club on 28 June 1975 and passed a resolution to condemn press censorship. But subsequently, fear took over and they caved in.

They were afraid to speak even in private.

The press council of India (PCI), the highest body to protect press freedom, became a part of the establishment. The then chairman, Justice Iyengar, stalled a resolution to criticise press censorship by local members of the PCI. Justice Iyengar informed the information minister V.C. Shukla about his achievement in not letting the resolution of condemnation passed.

Except for the Indian Express, the leading light during the Emergency, practically all papers preferred to side with the government.

The two of the worst were The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.

Hindu’s editor G. Kasturi became a part of the establishment. He headed Samachar, the news agency that was formed after the merger of PTI, UNI and Hindustan Samachar. He obeyed the government diktat on how to purvey a particular story or suppress it. He could not withstand government pressure.

The Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas, was always with the Congress. K.K. Birla, then its chairman, took over as chairman of the Indian Express and changed its editor by replacing incumbent S. Mulgaonkar with V.K. Narasimhan, who proved to be a tough nut to crack. Birla was the complete opposite of Ramnath Goenka, the owner of the Indian Express. Goenka fought the government tooth and nail and staked all that he had built in his life….

The Times of India was edited by Sham Lal, who had impeccable credentials. Girilal Jain, the resident editor in Delhi, too stood by the principle of free press. Both were pro-Indira Gandhi but against press censorhip. However they felt handicapped because the management wanted to play it safe. Not that Shantilal Jain, who owned the paper, was in any way pro-Emergency, but he had burnt his fingers when the paper was taken over by the government at the instance of T.T. Krishnamachari, then the finance minister, who doubted the paper on certain matters.

Leading regional papers were against the Emergency but did not want to face government wrath. Eenadu, under Ramoji Rao, refused to toe the government line but stayed within the contours of the Emergency to avoid trouble.

Ananda Bazaar Patrika owner Ashoke Sarkar was a man of courage and gave his blessings to his principal correspondent Barun Sengupta’s fight against the emergency. The paper, however, managed to escape the wrath of the then West Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was the author of the Emergency.

My friend K.M. Mathew, the owner of the vast empire of Malayala Manorama, stood his ground and despite the pressures on him showed where his sympathies lay when he invited to open a photo exhibition at Kottayam after my release from jail. The country was still in the middle of the Emergency. Yet, Mathew showed his annoyance in his own way.”

Text: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Why (perhaps) BJP sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Chandan Mitra, the editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, has been elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha for a second term, this time as a nominee of the BJP. In a piece in his paper, Mitra once again addresses the conflict of interest in being the editor of a paper and an active politician.

“While it is true that strict separation of news and views is a tall order, in recent years I have confined myself to giving broad directions to my editorial colleagues rather than working on reports hands-on. I love journalism, my profession for over 26 years and it still remains my first instinct.

“But politics has driven me throughout; it holds a charm that I find irresistible. After my election as MP this time, I don’t know if time will permit me to keep wearing two hats both of which I love, but I hope to continue doing so as long as I can….

“In 1980 I went to Oxford University to pursue a doctoral degree in history, returning in 1984 to join The Statesman and embark on a career in journalism. Taking a break from political involvement, I delved deep into my new profession resuming my interest in current affairs and amateur psephology.

“Although I got drawn towards the BJP, away from my earlier Leftist beliefs, in the early-1990s, I never thought of plunging into active politics for many years.

“Probably my ability to save The Pioneer from certain closure in 1998 and the robust nationalist tinge I lent to the paper’s editorial policy impressed then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani sufficiently to recommend my name to the President of India for nomination to the Rajya Sabha in 2003. Thus I became an MP without contesting an election.”

Photograph: courtesy visfot.com

Read the full article: A confessional tale of elusive elections

Also read: How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

The best editor The Pioneer never had?

The Lone Ranger of Loony Hindutva versus…?

A somewhat tenuous peace has been achieved in the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party after the “nasty jolt” it received in the May 2009 general elections. But a detente eludes journalists aligned with the BJP.

This, above, is the public exchange of words between the columnist Swapan Dasgupta and the Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta on the microbloging site Twitter.

The provocation? Dasgupta’s piece in the Wall Street Journal on reinvigorating the BJP.

Also read: For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How come no one saw the worm turn?

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Four months after the “nasty jolt” in the 2009 general election (RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat‘s description), the BJP continues to be in a flap over the role of “friendly journalists” in its defeat—and after.

Twice the party’s resident intellectual “for all matters requiring an IQ of 60”, Arun Shourie has trained his guns at the “Gang of Six”, once at the party’s national executive meeting and then in his interview with Shekhar Gupta.

On top of that, the “accused” journalists have been at each other throats unabashedly.

Now, the BJP’s official party mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh, edited by Prabhat Jha, a former journalist, has weighed in on “‘friendly journalists’, who cannot remain ‘insider’ for too long”, adding that the access and respect the journalists enjoy with senior leaders of the party causes envy among party workers.

An editorial in the journal makes the following points, according to The Pioneer, the Delhi daily edited and owned by Chandan Mitra, a Rajya Sabha member nominated by the BJP:

“There are journalists who wish that BJP should run as per their whims. Any person — journalist included — has a right to offer advice and opinion but how can it be that a political party should follow, without exception, the diktats of some journalists. If that doesn’t happen, the political organisation turns bad in their considered opinion….

“A scenario in which journalists should turn a tool in the hands of an individual politician does not augur well for either of the two. Our effort should be to create a healthy balance in which neither the journalist is a weapon in the hands of a politician nor should the latter have to act as a shield for journalists….

“It is true that it is their duty to report but the questions remains: how, when and where. This is a matter that these wielders of the pen should ponder over. They have to ensure that in the process of the performance this onerous duty to present the ideology to the nation, mutual confidence, faith and respect does not fall a casualty.

“We do understand that journalism cannot be a synonym for bosom friendship between a journalist and a politician. Yet, we have to stand firm at our respective post of duty.”

Read the full article: BJP laments stab by ‘insider journalists’

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How come no one saw the worm turn?

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

Who are the journos ‘running & ruining’ the BJP?

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie‘s explosive interview with the paper’s current editor, Shekhar Gupta, while revealing the deep schisms within India’s principal oppostion party, the BJP, has also once again thrown light on the less-than-professional role political journalists have been playing.

For the second time in two months, Shourie targetted “The Gang of Six”—a pack of half-of-dozen journalists who, says the Magsaysay Award winning investigative journalist, have been used (abused? misused?) by various different sections of the BJP.

On Gupta’s Walk the Talk interview for NDTV on Monday, Shourie said his letter to the BJP president Rajnath Singh demanding accountability in running the party had been dubbed as an act of indiscipline even though that letter had remained confidential.

There were leaders, he says:

“…who had been planting stories against L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and others through six journalists (and yet it’s not called indiscipline)”.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting in mid-June, shortly after the party suffered a “nasty jolt” in the general elections, Shourie had gone so far as to say that “the BJP was being run by six journalists” who were “damaging the party interest“.

On both occasions, Shourie hasn’t named “The Gang of Six”, but by repeatedly talking about them has set tongues wagging.

However, the questions remain: is the BJP so feeble a party to be felled by  mere pen-pushers? If BJP leaders are using them to “plant” stories against one another, are the journalists exceeding their brief by allowing themselves to be used?

Is ex-editor Shourie sanctimoniously crying wolf or is this par for the course in other parties too? Are editors and publishers of the publications where the “Gang of Six” work aware of their journalists being so used?

And if so, is it OK?

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

Also read: Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Shekhar Gupta: No better time to enter journalism than now