Ranjona Banerji: The HuffPo Revelations… truly Pulitzer Prize-worthy

22 Nov,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Since I last wrote on Tuesday, Huffington Post and Nitin Sethi have given us new revelations in their ‘#PaisaPolitics’ series on transgressions and anomalies in the electoral bond funding system implemented by the last BJP-led Narendra Modi government. What words to I use to describe these revelations? Shocking? Appalling? Corrupt? Clever? Nehru did it first? Because to some, almost every travesty of democracy, justice, culpability, probity or prudence which the Modi government does must be excused in some way or another. But let’s set that aside.

What part 3 of the series told us is that the Modi government made rules and then the Prime Minister’s office broke the rules for upcoming assembly elections in 2018. This is all from government documents, procured by transparency activist, (retired) Commodore Lokesh Batra. Part 4 exposed how the government lied that these bonds would be anonymous. And Part 5 is on how the government broke an anti-money laundering law to allow the sale of expired bonds worth Rs 10 crore to benefit an unspecified party, after the Karnataka state elections of 2018 led to a hung assembly.

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/electoral-bonds-modi-illegal-sale-state-elections_in_5dce6b7ee4b01f982effa205

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/bjp-anonymous-donors-electoral-bonds-state-bank-of-india-narendra-modi-arun-jaitley_in_5dcf7239e4b01f982f022b85

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/narendra-modi-expired-electoral-bonds-finance-ministry-arun-jaitley-state-bank-of-india_in_5dd6820ee4b0e29d727fc172?ncid=other_twitter_cooo9wqtham&utm_campaign=share_twitter

Now Huffington Post has not given up. And Opposition parties demanded a debate on electoral bonds in the Rajya Sabha, over which the House was adjourned as the Vice-President of India, BJP stalwart Venkaiah Naidu refused to allow it.

But as you watch the discussion on this, inasmuch as we are not distracted by Pragya Thakur becoming part of the Parliamentary defence committee or Modi’s latest headgear, the opposition is largely to blame for the various messed created by the BJP and Modi. The Indian media, by and large, remains unable to hold the Modi government to account.

Whether it’s pollution across North India or the brutal crackdown on JNU students in Delhi, the conversation is limited to farmers and their habits or the AAP government or the police and their methods. The BJP and the Modi government however are too high up to be named or touched. This mark of shame will never leave the Indian media.

Across social media there is a conversation that Nitin Sethi deserves a Pulitzer Prize (only for Americans) for his work in this series. But given that awards in India are largely tarnished by government involved and self-aggrandisement, I would argue that the better reward would be for the rest of the media to acknowledge the immense significance of his work and take it further. What Sethi has done is expose inherent corruption within the BJP and the Modi government. This is one instance. There will be more. If Parliament and the Judiciary are hamstrung by their severe inadequacies or lack of will or gumption, then the onus falls on who? Don’t laugh, but it has to be the media and the people.

**

The announcement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament that the National Register of Citizens, which has caused enormous distress and cruelty in Assam, is now going to be taken across the country is chilling and despicable. As despicable as the nonchalant reactions. Yes, newspapers have written edits and news channels have had discussions. But India needs to wake up.

Even the Times of India has been moved with this mild reproof, “One needs to take a step back and think through what the move entails conceptually. It is akin to asking 125 crore Indians reapply citizenship. This is unprecedented anywhere in the world. Moreover, what happens to the lakhs of crores of people who might be excluded by the arduous process of NRC proof? We could have a humanitarian crisis. The government needs to tread with great caution on this one.”

One part of me says Times Now will definitely applaud the NRC especially if it mainly affects Muslims and other religious minorities, “termites” in Shah’s own despicable language. But the TOI edit has laid out the future for us: Nazi Germany.

Say it. Understand it. And then decide what to do with it.

 

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

 

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