There’s more sleaze in Congress cupboard
Congress leaders are in a state of shock over revelations on Digvijay Singh‘s secret love life with a married TV journalist. They are worried that more such skeletons will tumble out of their leaders’ cupboards.
There are indications that BJP supporters may soon release sex and sleaze information about two Central ministers involved with two journalists.
From Buzzword, the gossip column of The Sunday Guardian:
The Communists in Kerala were left red-faced when the CPI(M) newspaper Deshabhimani carried a full page advertisement by Narendra Modi‘s Gujarat government. The advertisement, highlighting Gujarat’s Mahatma Gandhi Swachchata Mission, features a huge Modi portrait.
When taken to task, the newspaper management defended their act by saying it was a government advertisement.
The associate editor of the newspaper went ahead to say that it did not matter if the ad was from the Narendra Modi government, or from Mamata Banerjee or Oommen Chandy. However, CPM bosses have told the newspaper to stay away from accepting all Modi advertisements.
External reading: Madhyamam
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?
It was in South Delhi socialite Bina Ramani‘s Tamarind Court restaurant that Jessica Lall, a “model who worked as a celebrity barmaid”, was shot dead in 1999 by Manu Sharma, the son of Congress politician Venod Sharma.
As the owner of the restaurant which was the scene of the crime, Bina Ramani spent nine days in jail in the case. She has an interview with Tehelka this week following the release of her book Bird in a Banyan Tree:
You have been sharply critical of the role media played in the aftermath of the Jessica Lal trial. Yet, it was a Tehelka investigation that brought out the truth. Do you think media can ensure justice?
It is not a guarantee that the media can ensure justice but it can certainly carve the path to it. Conversely, it can derail justice when it becomes over-zealous about its point of view. The media in India is extremely powerful and can wield a lot of influence—it should therefore be thorough i its investigation.
Also read: Note to directors: It was Shammy, nor Barkha
Virendra Kapoor in The Sunday Guardian:
There is this senior minister in the UPA government, who is so sensitive to what the media says and writes about him that he invariably gets on the phone to the media owner to complain against even a passing mention which may not be too complimentary about him.
Like the other day, he SMSed a popular television anchor, asking him to immediately replace a panellist debating the Assembly election results because what the panellist said about the fallout of the outcome on the minister’s own re-election chances was highly pessimistic.
Of course, the anchor retained the said panellist for the entire duration of the programme.
The growing intrusion of corporate money into the media is beginning to show in myriad ways.
For instance, ever since a big industrial group made a huge investment in a multi-channel television group, its news channel has become rather staid.
While other English language channels debate major controversies of the day, and generally excoriate the government for its various acts of omission and commission, this channel’s focus has shifted to “soft” or non-controversial topics.
A minister has only to pick up the phone to complain to the corporate boss that untrue things were said about him in a panel discussion for the channel to be chastised by its paymaster. Discretion being the better part of valour, the channel generally steers clear of major controversies, thus leaving the field clear for the other English language channels.
Likewise, thanks to corporate pressures, the channel now feels obliged to use the services of controversial journalists who lack even basic skills of proficient writing and clear articulation.
Read the full column: No holds barred
Good news for journalists with bad hearts, lungs and kidneys, from the gossip columns of the Sunday papers.
From The Telegraph diary:
Manmohan Singh has decided to extend a helping hand to journalists. The Centre has accepted a long-standing demand by scribes that new health cards be issued to accreditated journalsits.
These health cards will help ailing journos get treatment at leading hospitals in the Delhi and national capital region at heavily subsidised rates.
Congressmen must be hoping that the noble gesture would help tame the torrent of scathing comments about the government’s performance.
Nora Chopra in The Sunday Guardian:
The Manmohan Singh government has accepted the demand of accreditated journalists for health cards. The cards will ensure that they get heavy discounts at leading hospitals such as Fortis, Medanta and Escorts in Delhi and the national capital region.
Whether this ensures good press to the government remains to be seen.
It is not often that the same piece of political gossip appears in three different newspapers in two different cities on more or less the same day. But in the snakepit of power that is the nation’s capital, it is all in a day’s work, especially if concerns the media advisor to the prime minister, Pankaj Pachauri.
Diarist Nora Chopra in The Sunday Guardian:
All is not ‘theek hain‘ for PM adviser
Pankaj Pachauri is in major trouble. The communication adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had organised the telecast of Dr Singh’s infamous “theek hai” speech. Pachauri was even present during the recording. But if his colleagues in the Prime Minister’s Office are to be believed, he did not check the final version of the speech that was telecast, although it was his job to do so.
Earlier, the information and broadcasting ministry and the Press Information Bureau would check what would be telecast, but now it’s Pachauri alone who is responsible for it. Many in the UPA say that Pachauri should have been extra careful, particularly after the Prime Minister’s off-the-record comments on Bangladesh got uploaded on the PMO’s website. That incident ensured the ouster of Pachauri’s predecessor Harish Khare from the PMO.
Pachauri has been apparently asked to give an explanation on how the goof-up took place.
The Telegraph Diary
The lacklustre statement of the prime minister on television on the Delhi gang-rape case was followed by an even timid “theek hai”, but that has not stopped fingers from being pointed at Pankaj Pachauri, the PM’s communications advisor.
Pachauri is believed to be responsible for the telecast as well as the goof-up because he, reportedly, was present when the recording was done.
The Prime Minister’s Office now accuses him of clearing the final version of the recording without editing the last bit that has caused so much embarrassment to the PM. Now that there has been a slip, Pachauri is also being blamed for the previous fiasco that had the PM’s off-the-record comment on Bangladesh being uploaded on the PMO website.
The call for Pachauri’s head has grown louder with heads already rolling in Doordarshan. Incidentally, these are not those of the honchos. Most believe small fry have been sacrificed at the altar of the bigger ones. Any way, following the incident, the director-general of news at DD is now seen sitting in the newsroom monitoring the news personally. If you see the newsreader stuttering, you should know the reason.
Grapevine in the Hindustan Times:
Getting his wires crossed
After Pankaj Pachauri‘s entry into the Prime Minister’s Office as communications adviser, the link between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the information and broadcasting ministry had weakened. Pachauri kept the Press Information Bureau (PIB) – that had earlier bought two special audio recorders to crosscheck the PM’s speeches and remarks before their release – at bay.
He soon became the final authority as far as communications from the PMO were concerned. But after the recent ‘theek hai‘ goof up Pachauri seems to be in troubled waters. Also, the current information and broadcasting minister Manish Tiwari enjoys a far better rapport with the PM than his predecessor and meets Singh frequently.
Not quite theek hai here.
A week is a long time for the media in Scamistan. The ripples caused by Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra‘s real-estate dealings have given way to the hera-pheri of BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s.
The veteran editor and columnist Virendra Kapoor writes in The Sunday Guardian:
You can be forgiven if you believe that Nitin Gadkari‘s is the only scam in town. Saturation coverage by television channels in the past couple of days should have ordinarily left no one in doubt that he is at the centre of the biggest scam of our times.
Even newspapers which have virtually become an extension of the ruling establishment seemed to have suddenly discovered merit in Gadkari’s financial shenanigans, splashing as front-page lead the alleged wrongdoing by his companies while being completely oblivious to the humongous misdeeds of the leading lights of UPA.
Admittedly, it is hard to take on the incumbent powers. Editors simultaneously charged with the responsibility of keeping a close watch on the bottom-line, theirs and the paper’s, have to necessarily suck up to the corporate and political bosses — never mind the pretence in social and professional gatherings. But what of the cash-rich media houses straddling huge print and television empires?
Apparently, a strong word was conveyed that they should leave Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law well alone. Ministers, including I&B boss Ambika Soni, are said to have reached out to the media houses, gently suggesting that further interest in the doings of Robert Vadra and his multifarious business activities would be most unwelcome.
Now, when you treat journalism at par with selling soap cakes it is not hard to fall in line with the political establishment, is it?
So, the switch, instead, to Nitin Gadkari’s private companies.
Read the full column: Hammer Gadkari to save Vadra and other scamsters
Salman Khurshid, the Oxford-educated Union law minister, has taken the India Today group to court in Delhi, Bombay, Lucknow and London claiming damages of Rs 243 crore following Aaj Tak‘s sting operation that accused the trust run by his wife, former Sunday magazine journalist Louise Khurshid nee Fernandes, of a discrepancy of Rs 71 lakh.
But ranting on TV against pesky reporters or the threat to meet his detractors with “blood” are not only the excesses of the smooth-talking Khurshid. His supporters are no better.
In The Sunday Guardian edited by M.J. Akbar (who also wears the hat of editorial director of India Today), reporter Abhinandan Mishra writes of the reception he got in Khurshid’s constituency Farukhabad, when he had gone to investigate the truth behind the camps organised by Zakir Hussain memorial trust.
“Once done with our investigation, we moved toward our car to discover that a small group of men had gathered. One of them asked me the purpose of my visit. When I realised that I was verifying the credentials of the disabled, the mob got agitated and asked me to leave.
“They were shouting that I was wasting my time and was trying to malign “SalmanSahab“.
“I understood the gravity of the situation and did not wish to get into further arguments with the men and decided to leave Pithora. But a well built man in his early 30s started following us on a Bullet motorcycle. He started banging the passenger window asking my companion to roll down the glass.
“When we ignored him, he signalled to the driver to roll down the window. I obliged.
“What followed was a string of abuses and threats at me: “Tu nikal yahaan se. Tu Salman Sahab ka kuch nahi bigaad paayege. Farrukhabad se bahar niklo, batate hain tujhe (Get out of this place. You will not be able to do anything to Salman Sahab. I will deal with you once you step out of Farrukhabad).”
“We asked the driver to speed up.
“The next stop was Kaimganj. As I finished with the investigation and was about to exit the city, the second attack happened, much more ferocious and well planned. I heard a loud thud on the window and saw a man who appeared to be in his 40s attempting to break the glass.
“Threatening me, he shouted, “Kar li tehkikat? **&*&* kuch nahee kar paayega tu, kitna bhee likh le Salman ke khilaaf. (Are you done with your investigation? You cannot harm Salman no matter how much you write).” He then asked the driver to stop the car.
“I asked the driver to accelerate the car. However, the attacker caught up with us and shouted, “Bahar nikal tujhey batata hun. Tu yahaan se zinda nahi jaayega. (Get out of the car. You will not return alive from here).” He then raced ahead and parked his bike. We saw three people joining him and then starting to pelt stones and bricks at our car. They missed us narrowly because of the speed at which our driver was driving the car. They followed us till the time we entered the main city of Farrukhabad.
“I called up the superintendent of police, but the number was switched off. I then called up the assistant SP of the district, O.P. Singh, who said to my shock that I should have informed the police before going to these areas.”
“There’s one question that’s dominated the last week. It’s been asked again and again. Equally significantly, it’s been put by a wide range of people. “Do you believe Salman Khurshid?” My answer is simple and blunt: yes….
“I have three deeper reasons for believing Salman. First, I’ve known him since I was 21 and cannot believe he would forge letters or pilfer money meant for the handicapped. Second, I admire his willingness to subject himself to a rigorous interview less than two hours after returning from London. A man with a guilty conscious would have ducked for cover instead. Third, he wouldn’t sue for defamation if he did not have a credible and convincing defence. Oscar Wilde did that and look where he ended up!”
Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today
Editorial in Deccan Herald:
“There is reason for deep concern over the report in a national daily, The Indian Express, about an ‘unexpected (and non-notified) movement’ of two army units towards Delhi on the night of January 16-17… To insinuate that General V.K. Singh would attempt a coup to settle scores with the government is downright slanderous. It is an insult to the Indian Army, which has an unblemished record of being an apolitical force. There are enough safeguards in our system to ensure the supremacy of the civilian government over the military.
“It does seem that the newspaper read too much into what was a harmless and routine movement of army units. It should have exercised greater caution and responsibility in reporting the story the way it did.”
Editorial in The Hindu:
“The Indian Express is entirely within its rights to write about a sensitive matter like this, even if its treatment was overblown. Just as it is unfair for anyone to cast aspersions on the Indian Army, it is unfair to question the motives of the journalists who wrote the story.”
Jim Yardley and Hari Kumar in the New York Times:
“The article, splashed across the front page, created a sensation in the Indian news media, stirring a discussion on the country’s all-news channels and on Twitter, where many criticized the Express for, they said, sensationalizing the episode when relations between civilian and military leaders are already fraught….
“Uday Bhaskar, a retired Indian Navy commodore, agreed that mistrust between military and civilian leaders had deepened, partly because of the poisonous political environment in New Delhi, which he said was fueled by an increasingly sensationalistic media.”
Sandeep Bamzai in Mail Today:
“A leading daily may have unintentionally extrapolated from the website report and sensationalised the story. Or it may have got it right because as they tell us the event is dated January 16 this year. But to run a story of this magnitude may well be a disservice to media and to national interest. Because now it is not just the Army chief, but the Armed Forces which will be viewed with suspicion.”
Editorial in the Economic Times:
“The overall fallout of the story is to lower both the army chief and the defence minister in public esteem, as those who bumble into a messy civil-military standoff.”
Manoj Joshi in Mail Today:
“In journalism, there are dividing lines that define when a news report informs, analyses, titillates or sensationalises. But there is just one line which separates a report which serves national interest from one which does disservice to it. The report in a national daily, which talks about the movement of two crack Indian Army units towards New Delhi on the night of January 16, not only makes unwarranted conjectures, but in the process, damages the body politic of the country.”
Editorial in the Business Standard:
“A binary choice should not be forced on this discussion. Talk of a coup is absurd and the newspaper report may be alarmist; yet there are questions that must be addressed…. Anything less than direct engagement with the substance of the Express report would serve to further undermine public trust in the institution.”
News item in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian:
“Sources involved in tracking sensitive developments claim that a senior minister of the UPA government was the mastermind of the April 4 front page item in a daily newspaper about a suspected coup attempt. The sources claim that the minister is connected – through his close relative – with the defense procurement lobbies gunning for Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh, and that the decision to “trick the newspaper into running a baseless report was to drain away support for General Singh within the political class”, who could be expected to unite against any effort at creating a Pakistan-style situation in India….
“According to these sources,the minister in question “is well-known to senior journalistic levels of the publication” that ran the coup report. A military source was “surprised that the newspaper in question ran such a story,in view of the high level of competence of its senior staff”, but added that ” a senior minister being the source of the initial information would explain their belief in the truth of the report”.