Ranjona Banerji: The incestuous world of politicians & political journalists

23 Dec,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


A general consensus on social media at least is that Delhi-based journalists are going soft on Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, in the light of all the allegations against him made by fellow BJP member and former cricketer Kirti Azad. Jaitley is known as “Bureau Chief” in media and gossip circles because of his close proximity to journalists in the national capital. In fact, from the outside, the last politician I saw with such excellent media relations was the late Pramod Mahajan, who was friend and source and more for many.


Perhaps this relationship is inevitable in the incestuous world of politicians and political journalists, as we heard in the Radia tapes or as anyone who has heard a political journalist showing off about how well they know whoever they consider important.


But as a very senior journalist pointed out to be, as the years go by and TV journalists set the standards, some time-honoured standards (such as they ever were) appear to be slipping. It used to be a cardinal rule that you should never be really good friends with a journalist if you are a source. Because in a moment of conflict of interest, a good journalist would choose the profession over the friend. Which is, unfortunately, how it should be.


The slight problem for political journalists though is that the allegations against Jaitley have to do with cricket, which remains India’s main religion in spite of all challenges. And almost every sports journalist you speak to has absolutely no doubt that the problems in cricket administration and that definitely includes the Delhi unit (cue Jaitley entry stage right) are far worse than have been revealed so far.


Eventually one hopes that good sense will prevail and journalistic instinct will kick in. Some journalists may well remain loyal to their friend. Most will decide that eternal fame for a good story beats having a few friends here and there. Since I am in cold and raining England, it is hard to keep track of my colleagues on television but at least Twitter keeps one right in the thick of it!


The background of the allegations against Jaitley is also intriguing since it started with a CBI raid on Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office. Then the Delhi CM alleged that he was being targeted by the Narendra Modi government, called the prime minister a few names and this whole intrigue developed. Attention has now been deflected away from the Kejriwal-Modi fight and has segued almost seamlessly into an assault on one of Modi’s most trusted men, the finance minister. And the attack comes from all sides. Former cricket great Bishen Singh Bedi – a man who has never held back – has said that not a leaf moves at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium without Jaitley’s permission. The loyalty of Delhi’s media therefore is being severely tested here.


Kejriwal of course knows firsthand how fickle media love can be. In 2011, he was a man who could do no wrong as far as TV journalists at least were concerned, as he led the India Against Corruption movement. Since then he has fallen considerably from the ladder of love.


In fact the Kejriwal story is a lesson to all people who take the love of a journalist seriously. Here’s a tip: it rarely lasts forever.


On that happy note, Happy Christmas and see you next week!


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: The incestuous world of politicians & political journalists”

  1. Deadlyrocker says:

    Honestly, if the USA has a ‘Trump’ India has a ‘Kejriwal’ – AMEN!

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