This afternoon I had posted sermons to the media and the UPA by Rajdeep Sardesai. A little later I was delighted to learn that the question I asked through my post ‘Why is Indian media scared of Sonia Gandhi?’ is a question a lot of people have been raising. Well, that’s because I ran into an article by Shekhar Gupta, Editor of Indian Express and Padma awardee. This one is nicely titled ‘The Summer Freeze’.
Overall the article fairly reflects the mood in the country and is as well written as can be expected from a journalist of Shekhar’s stature. Except that there are few jarring notes, almost bordering on delusional. One cannot help agreeing that appointments to major positions in important government bodies are held up due to the government’s summer siesta. Sensex and markets are battered. I wouldn’t really consider stock markets to be an indicator of anything more than economic concerns of a limited population. Besides, markets act more on sentiments than mere economic logic. Here’s an excerpt:
“The paralysis in the government is matched by the confusion in the Congress party. Its carefully scripted strategy of distancing itself from all government decisions except the most obviously populistic ones has now unravelled and backfired. While the government finally responded to this by suspending all decision-making on anything even remotely controversial, it is the party that is now getting the rap for all the scams, some real, some exaggerated and some……. You can blame the formidable whispering machine of the RSS for it, and maybe you are right, but the clamour over “hundreds of lakhs of crores of dollars” stashed away in foreign banks has a very strong undertone of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin’.
So you see, the temptation to drag in the RSS out of nowhere in an otherwise sensible article gives away the whole plot. It makes me wonder what the difference is between the Congress and Shekhar Gupta. Next, what does money stashed away in foreign banks got to do with Sonia’s foreign origin? It’s been reported there are many Indians who have stashed away money in foreign banks too. Even assuming that’s an RSS whisper campaign how do you explain Shekhar’s next para?
“The same whisper machine talks of her recent Europe visit as some smoking-gun evidence of a conspiracy to vacuum-clean India’s wealth. The more brazen, like Subramanian Swamy, say so in public: that Sonia and Rahul have gone to Switzerland to sort out their secret accounts, nervous that now their time is up. Over the past three weeks I have been stopped by ordinary people at airports, in shopping malls, at a petrol pump, in a spiritual ashram, at the national athletic games in Bangalore and so on with a question that seems to have become a clamour: why are you in the media so scared of the Gandhis? Why is no one exposing their humongous stash overseas?.... It is all bunkum, of course, and in any case the beauty of Swiss accounts is that nobody needs to go to Switzerland to do anything with them.”
P.G. Wodehouse in one of his novels talks about two train-engine drivers who jumped into the furnace of the engine to escape the oppressive summer heat. It sounds credible doesn’t it? So when Subramanian Swamy says the Gandhis went to Switzerland “to sort out their secret accounts” that sounds just as plausible, doesn’t it? Well for the benefit of Shekhar Gupta I must mention that the remark Swamy made can at best be described as ‘sarcasm’ and at worst a ‘snide’ remark. Ordinary people get it but surprisingly Shekhar Gupta doesn’t get it. So he even goes on to educate us that you don’t have to be in Switzerland to handle your accounts. Funny, lately you don’t have to go to your bank even in India to handle your account. What Shekhar doesn’t tell us is: how in the world does Swamy get to know all this? How does he know about Sonia Gandhi’s movements when all the media bimbos didn’t report it? There were some in the media who were even speculating if Jayalalithaa would meet Sonia in Delhi June 14 when Sonia was blissfully in Switzerland. And Subramanian Swamy is a maverick politician rather than a full-time media person. So at least it establishes one thing clearly – Swamy deals with facts while the Gandhis manage to hoodwink the media.
So all this money stashed in Switzerland etc. is “all bunkum” according to Shekhar Gupta. But that is not the only thing that makes Sonia Gandhi a very suspicious and intriguing character. Here is a write by Arun Shourie, one of India’s finest investigative journalists, (he was with the Indian Express too by the way). It’s titled Annexation Through Technicalities. Some excerpts:
“Sonia Gandhi, without having any known sources of income, has become the controller of one of the largest empires of property and patronage in Delhi. The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Library and Museum…..It is situated in and controls real estate which, because of its historical importance, cannot even be valued. The institution runs entirely on grants from the Government of India. Sonia Gandhi has absolutely no qualification that could by any stretch of imagination entitle her to head the institution: has she secured even an elementary university degree, to say nothing of having done anything that would even suggest some specialization in subjects which the institution has been set up to study. But by mysterious technicalities she is today the head of this institution. So much so that she even decides which scholar may have access to papers…..
Real estate, only slightly less valuable, has been acquired on Raisina Road. The land was meant to house offices of the Congress. A large, ultra-modern building was built -- the finance being provided by another bunch of technical devices which remain a mystery. The building had but to get completed, and Sonia appropriated it for the other Foundation she completely controls -- the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The Congress(I) did not just oblige by keeping silent about the takeover of its building, in the very first budget its Government presented upon returning to power, it provided Rs 100 crores to this Foundation. The furore that give-away caused was so great that the largesse had to be canceled. No problem. Business house after business house, even public sector enterprises incurring huge losses, coughed up crores……The Foundation has performed two principal functions. The projection of Sonia Gandhi. And enticing an array of leaders, intellectuals, journalists etc. into nets of patronage and pelf.
But the audacity with which the land and building were usurped and funds raised for this Foundation falls into the second order of smalls when they are set alongside what has been done in regard to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts…….This Centre was set up as a trust in 1987 by a resolution of the Cabinet. The Government of India gave Rs. 50 crores out of the Consolidated Fund of India as a corpus fund to this Centre. It transferred 23 acres of land along what is surely one of the costliest sites in the world -- Central Vista, the stretch that runs between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate -- to this Trust. Furthermore, it granted another Rs. 84 crores for the Trust to construct its building….”
The whole article by Arun Shourie makes sorry reading for any Indian.
So Mr. Shekhar Gupta, you see it is not just the allegations of money stashed in foreign banks or payoffs by KGB. There are a whole load of other issues concerning Sonia Gandhi and her family which is not even being reported by the mainstream media, let alone conducting any serious debate on those matters. So the next time someone walks up to you and asks ‘Why Indian media is scared of Sonia Gandhi?’ don’t say “it’s all bunkum”!
The only bunkum around is a cowardly news media.