Ranjona Banerji: When many journalists left journalism…

14 Sep,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


Vijay Mallya, India’s beer baron and once “king of good times” and current fugitive and defaulter, says he met India’s finance minister, told him he was leaving India shortly and offered a settlement for the payment of his various bank dues. Mallya left on March 2, 2016. Even by Vedic Maths, it is clear that the finance minister at the time was Arun Jaitley.

Not for nothing is Jaitley called ‘bureau chief” in New Delhi’s journalistic circles. He has close friends across media outlets and they all came out in full force to defend him. From Shekhar Gupta to Bhupendra Chaubey to everyone on Times Now, on Republic TV (well, duh), to Zakka Jacob and Marya Shakil on News18, there they were, trying as hard as they could to somehow blame the Congress and Rahul Gandhi for this. I name only a few.

Loyalty I suppose is a fine attribute. And so is standing up for your friends. Good stuff. A bit inconvenient though when journalism gets in the way.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Gregorian calendar, it works like this: The Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power at the Centre in May 2014. Arun Jaitley has been finance minister (as well as wearing some other hats) for most of the time from then (2014) to now (September 2018), except when he was unwell. Rahul Gandhi has never been prime minister of India. The Congress party lost the Lok Sabha election which Modi had won, very very badly.

And yet, according to Jaitley’s large bureau of journalists, this party and its new president, somehow were responsible for Mallya’s escape.

Let it not be forgotten, for all those journalists hell-bent on proving that Mallya got bank loans in 2010, during the UPA years, that there is nothing to prove there. He did. Mallya’s problems began in 2012 with Kingfisher Airlines and then the banks started action against him. He remained India during that time. He fled in 2016, leaving behind his debt of over Rs 9000 crore.

Jaitley’s defence that he did not meet Mallya is even more comical and it shows the extent of capitulation to the cause by his journalist friends, that they have tried to buy it and worse promote it. Mallya’s statement started out as “factually false in as much (sic) it does not reflect truth (sic)”. Translated, that means that Mallya never made an appointment and did not visit Jaitley’s “residence”. Mallya clarified that he met Jaitley in the Central Hall of Parliament. Jaitley then admitted that Mallya did come up to him and Jaitley told him to go through the right channels or some such.

By this time, for the information of our friends in the Jaitley bureau, the CBI’s Look Out Notice to stop Mallya from running away, was downgraded (in October 2015, please apply the Gregorian calendar and Vedic and non-Vedic maths here) from Blocking departure to Informing about his departure.

Who did this? If it was Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, then life must be pretty miserable for the Modi government, to have the Opposition controlling everything in spite of being humiliated at the hustings?

We have to be grateful now for the few remnants of practising journalism we see around us. India’s “top” media outlets and most visible journalists have turned themselves into jokes.

One understands that taking on Jaitley is no easy task. Even R Jagganathan, now editor Swarajya.com, an avowed Modi and BJP fan, had to quit from Firstpost, for criticising Jaitley. One understands that courage is in short supply in Delhi, so am not holding my breath.

I would like to end with this tweet from journalist Rohini Singh, who has paid the price for taking on the Modi government, and still persists.

“Mallya left the country after meeting Jaitley and many journalists left journalism after meeting Jaitley! #NewYearsParty #BestHostEver”

Could not put it better myself!

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

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