Even though, even though…

28 Sep,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


Everyone is claiming credit for exposing the irrigation scam in Maharashtra. The Times of India says it did it (which is how I remember it). CNN-IBN is saying it did it. And the BJP is saying it did it.


Well, whoever was responsible, they should all be thanked. But the coverage of the scam has made a couple of segues since it made the news. The first side-step came with the resignation of Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, one of the chief accused. Suddenly, we were into the drama of Pawar versus Pawar, Pawar versus Chavan and NCP versus Congress. Only the very naïve journalist (on television of course) took it as far as government in trouble.


Then out of nowhere came another sideswipe – from one of the RTI activists (of India Against Corruption) who had also worked on exposing the scam. Anjali Damania said she had met Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari who apparently told her that the BJP could not go all out against the irrigation scam because of his connections with the Pawars. Gadkari, Damania, also said he was going to stop his partyman Kirit Somaiya from filing a PIL on the matter. This however did not happen.


That was it. The whole mood shifted and Ajit Pawar, Rs 72000 crore and the loot of Maharashtra are now almost forgotten. Gadkari refused to speak – but he has filed a legal notice – and BJP spokespersons had to take time off from their convention to try and put up some sort of defence.


By the evening and primetime, the nation wanted to know where Gadkari was and why he wasn’t defending himself. However, as all Maharashtra journalists know and will make the light of day sooner or later, Maharashtra’s politicians are quite cosy with each other when it comes to money matters and sharing the spoils. From all parties, they’ve had their hands in the till.




It was in fact Arvind Kejriwal who put on his best with Arnab Goswami face and first asked Gadkari to come forward. He was very chuffed that all along, having been accused of being RSS-BJP agents, here he was, challenging the BJP president.



Friday’s news cycle had a couple more thrills – the Supreme Court announced, on listening to a presidential reference on 2G that auctioning of national resources was not a must and on a CBI plea on the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, that former Gujarat minister could get bail but that the case would be shifted to Maharashtra.


The Central government felt it was off the hook as far as coal allocations were concerned on the first one and on the second case, as usual, many journalists confused bail with acquittal.




In one of those rare occurrences, cricket did not upstage national events even though India has a new board of selectors and even though Jimmy Amarnath was unceremoniously dropped – even though he was tipped to become chairman of the selection committee – and even though Sandeep Patil became chairman seemingly out of nowhere.


The overuse of “even thoughs” comes down this unexpected turn of events – a few years ago, any slight wiggle in the world of cricket would have dominated the discourse in India.




In all these news breaks, a couple of events could do with some more TV attention – the two cases of gang-rape in Haryana and the floods in parts of North East India.




For intelligent, cohesive discussion minus melodrama, the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha channels are still the places to go. Lok Sabha TV even had a discussion on Thursday on the implications of the face-off between China and Japan over the Diaoyu-Senkaku islands, an issue which has barely dented TV radar in India and had a very small play in print.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own.


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