Just like Rahul Gandhi sees two Indias I believe there could also be two Rajdeep Sardesais. There is one Rajdeep who, in his privacy, is often in deep introspection and contemplation with great thoughts and the other on TV who often can’t string together a single coherent sentence without stuttering and stammering. The stuttering and stammering is not so much a speech handicap as it is the manner in which he handles or approaches issues. On 29th July Rajdeep released his latest Friday blockbuster on his blog “When should a minister resign?” And then in the evening he decided it was to time to discuss Subramanian Swamy’s provocative article in DNA.
It’s a bit surprising that Rajdeep chose to discuss Swamy’s DNA article over two weeks after it was published. The reason? Some Harvard students and faculty members have petitioned for Swamy’s dismissal from Harvard University. Well, whatever else happens to Swamy at Harvard, it appears those petitioners are not quite aware of the First Amendment to the US constitution that guarantees free speech. Rajdeep is right in bringing up the issue on CNN-IBN but when he allows absolute trash to pass as expert opinion or analysis that is where is he is guilty of thoughtlessness and refuses to see idiocy when it happens right in front of him. Among the participants was Dipankar Gupta, supposedly a Sociologist, and these were some statements he made to Rajdeep during the discussion on being asked if Swamy should be thrown out of Harvard:
“If anybody goes to teach summer school in Harvard he is obviously not top of the pops”! Well, for a sociologist that is supposed to be a hard argument against Swamy’s article I guess. I also assume Rajdeep and Dipankar aren’t aware that Swamy was in the Department of Economics at Harvard as a professor and the summer school teaching is the latter part of his career. Still, what that statement by Gupta has to do with the topic is a mystery. Rajdeep fails to read that. Gupta doesn’t stop there, he goes on to make another interesting observation: “Swamy has the right to his opinion but not the right to be published”! Can anyone explain that? And that too goes over Rajdeep’s head? Why? Because Dipankar Gupta is supposedly a “sociologist” with great skills at debate and those statements were his sound arguments against Swamy's article. We all get it!
And then Rajdeep Sardesai has the penchant for claiming “we exposed, we exposed, we exposed”! This, on the cash-for-votes scam. Anyone following events would know that CNN-IBN had actually suppressed the sting video which helped the UPA survive a no-confidence motion in July 2008. Now that the SC is hounding the Delhi police and the case is back in the news Rajdeep claims to have exposed the scam. Not only that he claims to have exposed 2G, CWG, Adarsh and so on. If this continues he would one day out-do Bollywood starlets in exposure.
That is the first Rajdeep. The second Rajdeep is one who thinks a lot more clearly when he retires to his privacy and is able to regain his presence of mind and think with greater clarity. Which could be the reason his blogs are so different from the personality on TV.
Still, his clarity of thought does not take away from the fact that his channel, and others too, do not possess adequate moral and ethical balance in their account to be lecturing politicians or common people. I decided to have some fun rewriting and rehashing his latest blog. So here goes: “When should a minister resign?” asks Rajdeep. (Quotes from his article are in blue)
Referring to the resignation of Shastri in 1956 owning moral responsibility for a rail accident, Rajdeep says: “That, of course, was a different age: a period when the notion of 'integrity' had genuine meaning, and was not the self-righteous proclamation it's been reduced to today.” How true! If back then there had been TV channels and they had captured something like the “Cash-for-votes” sting they wouldn’t have suppressed it. They would have put nation ahead of parochial considerations. Isn’t it funny to hear this guy talk about integrity?
The self-righteous lecture on moral science doesn’t end there, here’s more:
It is this growing public frustration with a tardy judicial process that has created the present environment in which a carnivorous media is playing, to quote a rather forlorn prime minister, "accuser, prosecutor and judge." The classic jurisprudential principle in which an accused was presumed to be innocent till proven guilty has been turned on its head. You are now guilty till you can prove your innocence. A television studio is now a cacophonous courtroom, and the news anchor (this columnist included) is often the ultimate judge. The result is that resignations can be forced if a sufficient amount of surround sound is created over a 'scam'.
You could take that para and put it in any article concerning the media. Well each time Rajdeep and his channel heap scorn on someone and carry out a media-lynch operation this would suggest he is a very different person on TV and an altogether different one when he introspects and writes his blog. Each time he sermonises – look inward, raise the standards of media and so on and even submits a meek confession by including himself in the crime. A sort of Dr.Heckle and Hype! Hitchcock would have loved this guy! And then he allows the likes of Dipankar Gupta to make the most stupid statements on his channel without countering it. That’s how you allow mindless lynching.
That done, he once again returns to his favourite principle : “Hammam mein sab nangein hain”, here he rephrases it for the netas:
The battle, in that sense, is now being fought in the peoples' court where perception matters more than legal niceties, a perception magnified by the 'sab neta chor hai' slogan. In normal times, an A Raja would not have had to step down on the basis of a CAG report. After all, CAG reports often 'indict' ministers and officials. But in the case of Raja, the report only confirmed the widespread suspicion of a deliberate misuse of the telecom ministry for personal benefit. Similarly, former CWG chief, Suresh Kalmadi was deemed guilty even before a chargesheet in the case because there was a general 'perception' that he had manipulated games contracts. By contrast, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit stays on in office even after the Shunglu panel probing the Commonwealth Games scam indicted her government because she is 'perceived' to be an honest, hard working chief minister.
Here’s the truth: The biased media, including CNN-IBN, NDTV, Headlines Today chose not to make half the noise about Sheila Dikshit as they did about B. S. Yedyurappa. To their joy they also found a TV-hugging Lokayukta who simply loved frequent press conferences. This Lokayukta was discussing his report on mining even before actually releasing the report. I can't recollect Shunglu hugging and delighting the media with his reports. The public perception of media’s motive isn’t too hard to see as Rajdeep himself gets the feedback from various sources and responds through Twitter. The corrupt media is as brazen in promoting the cause of one party and a family as were Raja and Kalmadi in their actions.
Here’s some more:
The 'perception' factor in public life is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be a rough check of the system, forcing normally brazen politicians to resign under the sheer weight of public opinion. A Yeddyurappa may seek a Nobel Prize for fighting illegal mining, but once a crusading Lok Ayukta has charged him with corruption, he loses credibility. An Ashok Chavan could argue that he was forced to quit as Maharashtra chief minister over the Adarsh housing scam even before an FIR could be filed in the case, but the emotional quotient attached to Kargil war widows made him a political liability.
Now how does this rehash sound like?:
The 'perception' factor in public life is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be a rough check of the system, forcing normally brazen journalists to resign under the sheer weight of public opinion. A Barkha Dutt may seek a Nobel Prize for fighting imaginary communalists, but once a crusading Manu Joseph or Vinod Mehta has charged her with power-broking, she loses credibility. A Vir Sanghvi could argue that he was forced to quit as Hindustan Times ED over the Radiagate scam even before an FIR could be filed in the case, but the emotional quotient attached to paid news made him a media liability.
The words are exactly Rajdeep’s, I have just changed the name and causes. So how about applying it those who are peddling bias, untruths and covering up important news and issues? Not to forget, even employing fake tweets to back their own causes.
We aren’t done yet. Let’s take another para on this moral science sermon from Rajdeep and rehash it.
On the other hand, an uncontrolled war of words can lead to instant character assassination where lines get blurred between fact and allegation, truth and hype. Take the case of former union minister Shashi Tharoor. There was no legal charge against him, and yet, he was summarily removed on grounds of 'perceived' impropriety. That he had no real political base perhaps made him an even softer target. Contrast his situation with that of a Vilasrao Deshmukh who remains a cabinet minister even after having strictures passed against him in the Supreme Court. A Tharoor was 'dispensable'; a Deshmukh is a political heavyweight.
Here’s the rehash:
On the other hand, an uncontrolled war of words can lead to instant character assassination where lines get blurred between fact and allegation, truth and hype. Take the case of former CNN-IBN journalist Siddharth Gautam. There was no legal charge against him, and yet, he summarily quit on grounds of 'perceived' impropriety. That he had no real media-celebrity base perhaps made him an even softer target. Contrast his situation with that of a Rajdeep Sardesai who remains a Managing Editor even after suppressing the cash-for-votes video. A Gautam was 'dispensable'; a Sardesai is a celebrity heavyweight.
The story of the cash-for-votes sting and the subsequent events and suppression of the video by Rajdeep Sardesai is documented at India Today. I recommend reading it. The unfortunate experience of Siddharth Gautam, former CNN-IBN journalist involved in the sting op, is pretty well laid out in the article at India Today.
To his favourite line “Hammam mein…”, Rajdeep has now added another line “Sab neta chor hai”…. I have a suggestion of one more that he can add to his collection: “Muh me Ram, Bagal mein Churi”… Every once in a while Rajdeep’s conscience strikes, and trust me, I will be there to rehash it for him.