Ranjona Banerji: Why I is not impressed nor has been nor will be or some such typo

18 Dec,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The day the Supreme Court pronounced that the Rafale deal did not need further investigation because the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had placed its report before the Public Accounts and which in turn placed it before Parliament with some portions redacted, the media roused itself with vim and vigour. A slap on the face for the Congress, Government given clean chit and so on.

Never mind some small factual errors here. That the Congress Party had not filed the writ petitions about investigations into the Rafale deal in the Supreme Court. Yes, the party had been talking about it and even using it as an election peg, but the prominent of the writ petitions was from Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie.

But why let facts stand in the way of some egg on the face, eh?

The next day, there were shells and yolk and omelettes everywhere as the Government scrambled to search for some facts. Prashant Bhushan and others pointed out on scrutiny of the Supreme Court judgment on Rafale, there was no CAG report, therefore nothing had been placed before the PAC and therefore nothing had been redacted (and in fact nothing had even been redacted before).

The Government then accused the Supreme Court of not understanding English grammar and made a passing reference to “typos” or “typographical errors”, the scourge of all media. It filed a “corrective affidavit” in the Supreme Court. The upshot of which was that when the Government of India had told the Supreme Court that the CAG report had submitted its report, it meant that the report will be submitted. And when it is submitted (end January, according to CAG) then it will go to the PAC and so on.

How does the media deal with this? As ever, we see the “slaps on the face” sulking and the rest of the media providing us with the details. Regardless of the popular perception that certain outlets and TV channels have become less pro-BJP after the election results on December 11 and the loss of the BJP in three key states, the ground reality remains much as it has been since 2013. The alacrity with which some media outlets jumped on to the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Bhushan’s writ petition without reading the judgment underlines how deep the inability to criticise the BJP and its government at the Centre has become.

Now try and consider the enormity of the Government of India lying to the Supreme Court of India about a very important and sensitive defence deal. There is no way, in any other democratic nation, the government of the day could have got away with this. Trying to hide behind some grammatical sleight of hand is nothing but skulduggery and only the most ardent fan remains convinced that “is” means either “will be” or “has been”.

And just look at the media reaction, especially television. The Prime Minister is not called to account. Various other ministers are allowed to get away with putting forward absurd explanations and the usual blame game continues. The shame, as far as I’m concerned, remains with the media. Slap on the face, egg smeared everywhere, whichever way you look at it.

Indeed, one can direct you to Navika Kumar of Times Now who asked how Rahul Gandhi could be prime minister of India when he could not decide who is to become chief minister of the states the Congress won. At least, I would argue, she is playing true to form. Her target remains Rahul Gandhi. And therefore, why should one mention how long it took Narendra Modi to decide who would become the chief minister of UP?

The Telegraph, Kolkata has to win the bravery sweepstakes again when it comes to the Supreme Court’s Rafale judgment. Congratulations on two superb front pages. I am in awe.

 

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And at the end, the roiling over Kamal Nath being made chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in spite of or despite the questions hanging over his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The anger and the elevation are both sad examples of how incompetent we are in India over riot investigations. Kamal Nath’s name has come up again and again. And this is not the first time he has been given a ministerial post. The story below from the Indian Express, on the Nanavati Commission’s inability to indict Nath, is symptomatic of why justice for victims is so difficult in India. Years later, memory becomes obscured, judicial commissions are supposed to do the job of the police and political interference is a reality.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/anti-sikh-riots-eyewitness-testimonies-named-kamal-nath-nanavati-panel-said-not-possible-to-indict-him-5498262/

Politicians and the media are involved in the “You did it and they did it” game. The question must become: why do we play this game at all?

 

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

 

 

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