More confusion and pyrotechnics

28 Sep,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

At last television managed to extract some excitement from the news. NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan tried to get her guests Renuka Choudhary, Subramaniam Swamy and Vinod Sharma of the Hindustan Times to decode the 2G intra-ministry note controversy, the call to prosecute P Chidambaram and the arrest of former LK Advani aide Sudheendra Kulkarni in the cash-for-votes scam. Sadly, the verdict was the same as it has been all these days – confusion. The audience however was not convinced with the explanations provided in the cash-for-votes episode by the BJP and Sharma just laughed at all political parties. Chowdhury was her normal dismissive self while Swamy was a bit nonplussed by the CBI’s refusal to listen to the government, saying it was an autonomous body.

Thus it was left to Arnab Goswami to provide the pyrotechnics. However, the subject of his choice – NGOs breaking the law – can only create foam-in-the-mouth for the most diehard supra-nationalists who see Maoist conspirators around every corner. Even the news that an Essar general manager had been arrested for paying protection money to Maoists could foment the crowds or the viewers. Goswami was pained that NGOs were breaking the laws of the Government of India. This from a man who just last month appeared to have been quite happy when members of Team Anna tried to destroy the entire Indian system of parliamentary democracy.

However, as far as television was concerned, the arrest of Kulkarni was big news as the BJP scrambled to prove it was being victimised and the Congress retained its disdainful position regardless of how foolish it sounds and how little anyone believes it. Still, the fact that Parliament was sullied by MPs waving wads of cash around apparently rankles in many Indian hearts. The goodie-goodie whistleblower explanation does not cut much ice when confronted with patriotism.

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The death of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi obviously caused great pain to the Indian nation as tributes and obituaries to the great cricketer carried on for more than a week. This was surely unusual, made even more unusual by the fact that few of the writers actually knew the man very well and had to depend on hearsay and legend to bolster their articles. It showed if nothing else, an interesting view of contemporary Indian life and one where the truth cannot ever come in the way of laudatory praise.

Or, as it happens, criticism. Some stray remarks made by controversial Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Akhtar about Sachin Tendulkar created a little tizzy, causing the launch of Akhtar’s “controversial” book to be cancelled. However, most of the tizzy was created by the pre-release publicity machinery to drum up a little extra interest. Instead, the tactic appears to have backfired. The publicity tiger is a dangerous beast to ride. Remember the limerick about the Lady of Niger, who smiled as she rode on a tiger? They came back from the ride with the lady inside and the smile on the face of the tiger.

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I see that little news items about transgressions by Reliance Industries have started to make their way into newspapers. Will track this and see if it goes any further.

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