Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ram's 'Hindu' Land & Anticipatory Bail

No, this is not about Lord Ram, whom the Social Genius calls a “Divine encroacher”. This is about another Ram who has almost encroached. The Coimbatore police have filed an FIR against N. Ram of The Hindu and others in a case of trespass, coercion and other offences. The case has its origins in 2004 when Kasturi & Sons Ltd. (KSL) sold controlling stakes in a company of KSL to Cheran Enterprises, a firm of K.C. Palanasmi, AIADMK member, agriculturalist and entrepreneur. Seems after the sale in 2004 the land prices skyrocketed and since then Palanasami seems to have been frequently harassed and threatened into reversing the sale by KSL and their goons. The pressure on Palanasami to reverse the sale and return the land to KSL appears to have gotten worse after the DMK came to power in 2006. The FIR also names Jyothimani, son-in law of Karunanidhi’s daughter Selvi. So there you are, a terrible nexus of big media house and a political party in a land grabbing attempt. Together they put their "wiseguys" into action. When I called our MSM India’s biggest mafia there were good reasons for it and The Hindu group just added one more.

The story was reported mildly in January 2012 by a few newspapers and the headline typically was: “N. Ram denies charges of land grabbing”.  The Hindustan Times (see pic) reported on January 26, 2012 (summarised):

Former AIADMK MP KC Palanisami accused N Ram of The Hindu and some directors of KSL of criminal intimidation and landgrabbing. In a complaint to the state DGP and Chennai city police commissioner, he alleged that Ram was using coercive tactics to force him to part with a property worth Rs.400 crore for Rs.30 crore. N Ram dismissed the allegations and said KSL will sue Palanisami for making wild allegations. "We have a dossier on him documenting his past, and court observations against him. We will sue him and all media outfits that carried the scandalous falsehood. He is also a habitual retractor," Ram told HT. Palanasami said in 2004 KSL sold him two companies which owned properties including a golf course running on losses. But as soon as land price began to rise, the company wanted to buy back the properties at a significantly low cost.  “After the government changed in Tamil Nadu in 2006 the pressure began to mount," alleged Palanisami. "I had lodged a police complaint and recorded my statement with a magistrate. Till now there has been no action," he added.

The FIR (Click to enlarge)
Well, things seem to have turned a different corner when the DMK was voted out and AIADMK returned to power in 2011. But the latest story, which was first reported by a little known Tamil newspaper Savukku, has taken a turn for the worse. The Coimbatore police have filed an FIR (No.85/2012, Serial No.C-0161685) on September 24 and charged Ram and others under sections 120-B, 457 and 395. The report states the maximum punishment under section 395 is life imprisonment. (Read the Savukku report in Tamil or have it translated). The only other newspaper to report these events, till the time of writing, is The Pioneer. All other newspapers seem to be wondering if they should report it or not.

The media, with their Unions of Snakes, like the NBA, is quite well known to cover up their own crimes. It is likely this news will be suppressed too. Mind you, this is no minor squabble or dispute. After years of being harassed and threatened the AIADMK member has finally managed to get the FIR registered by police. Even more importantly, N. Ram was not reachable for comment according to the Pioneer. Here’s what The Pioneer states: “Though Ram’s office was contacted for his version of the report, his secretary said that he was out of town. But Ram had filed an anticipatory bail plea with the Madras High Court which adjourned the case to October 3”. Hmm.. so from rubbishing all charges and even threatening to sue for defamation N. Ram is not reachable for comment. A former editor of The Hindu, a major newspaper, and a director in the company has been reduced to seeking Anticipatory bail. I wonder if they should at least now change the name of the paper from ‘The Hindu’ to ‘The Realtor’. That would be far more appropriate since the paper doesn’t seem even remotely Hindu.

So that’s our politico-media complex; the so called fourth estate indulging in real estate skulduggery. Now, imagine if the DMK had not lost power in 2011. I wonder if the case would have progressed and Palanisami would have managed to register the FIR or even retain his land. I have serious doubts. There have been whispers of shady real estate dealings of quite a few media houses. One hopes a new govt will investigate the crooks.

Had it been anyone else, especially a political member from the Opposition to UPA or a business outfit not so obliging with advertisements, the news would have been flashed over a thousand times as Breaking News on all TV channels: ‘N. Ram seeks anticipatory bail in land-grab case”. But hey, there’s a reason why you don’t find that headline on any channel or major newspapers. Just as N.Ram mentions he has a “dossier” on Palanisami maybe he has dossiers on other media houses too. And maybe other media houses have their own real estate crimes to hide too. After all, didn’t the Old Monk say “Hammam mein sab nange hai”? 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Anjali Damania - Jenny Come Lately

When Kishore Samrite, an ex-MLA of Samajwadi Party, filed a case in the Allahabad HC against Rahul Gandhi for alleged abduction of a woman named Sukanya there wasn’t a whisper on any of our TV channels. The HC dismissed the case after Sukanya was reportedly produced in court and slapped a fine of Rs.50 lakhs on Samrite. The case is now in the SC. Surprisingly CBI, which investigated the case, has stated to SC such a woman doesn’t exist.  Strange, isn’t it? The Allahabad HC dismissed the case after the woman was reportedly produced in court and now CBI claims in SC the woman doesn’t exist. Never mind. Did you hear any of this on any TV news channel? Did you hear any of it when Samrite actually filed the case in the Allahabad HC? Nothing! When the HC dismissed the case and slapped a penalty, Headlines Today only reported the dismissal and the penalty but not any details about the case. Read the post “Rahul Gandhi-Sukanya case: Amazing media silence”. Now imagine if some member from BJP or TMC or AIADMK or BJD were involved in the case instead of RG. You can then imagine the case would be on TV 24X7 for all these past 6 years without let up.

Is it any surprise that even Mamata Banerjee, in her interview to Rajdeep Sardesai, hints at “PaidNews”? Paid by Congress particularly! Okay! Then there were reports about Sonia Gandhi being one of the richest women politicians on earth by Business Insider. I’m sure you’ve seen Arnab debating the report on TimesNow. No? Or Rajdeep Sardesai’s interview with her about that? No? Yes, I think you finally remembered that discussion on the billions stop here with Barkha. No? Damn! Everyone missed these reports? Well, that’s our celebs in the media for you; shamelessly devoted to maligning anyone and everyone opposed to Congress. It wasn’t even a day since the news of the resignation of Ajit Pawar, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, over the massive irrigation scam that our media found a whipping-boy. One would have thought there would be news about the scam, how it was operated, how the contracts were given out and who benefitted from it. Nothing!

Politicians, regardless of parties, are known to dole out favours to each other. But for the media to make extra-ordinary charges on the basis of someone’s allegations is stretching a bit too far. They must have heard Arindam Chaudhari’s clarion call: “Dare to think beyond irrigation, water, canals and dams”. And Lo and behold, they found Damania, Anjali Damania (AD). The Jenny-come-lately! And the target? Nitin Gadkari (NG), the BJP president. Anjali Damania seems to be a band member of Arvind Kejriwal who is fighting… I don’t know who or what he is fighting anymore. From a position of credibility and trust the man now enjoys as much credibility as Nixon selling used cars.

So what was this Anjali’s problem? Seems she met NG three times over this irrigation scam and according to her he had asked her to back off the allegations because Sharad Pawar was a close friend. So she’s very upset that the one man, with a RSS background, she trusted to arrest all scamsters in the irrigation scam let her down. And she has proof of her discussions with him in the form of an SMS she sent him. Damn! This is a warning for all you people out there. Make sure nobody sends you SMSes; you could be incriminated in any crime of their choice. So from September 27 it was AD all the way for our media crooks and the irrigation scam itself was over and done with. While NDTV and CNN-IBN made allegations along with AD on their channels, Times Now went further and held a full panel discussion. Some interesting titbits from TimesNow:

Anjali showed her mobile to the world as demanded by Arnab. Then she read out her SMS to NG as proof of her conversation with him. I can’t believe it was actually an SMS. She invoked patriotism, invoked RSS bhakti, invoked blah blah… She read it for nearly a minute or more. Who the hell sends SMSes that long? It read more like a legal notice than a SMS. Well, I would estimate it could be something like that. Send a message to make it part of a record that may be handy in future. She doesn’t have even 1 message in acknowledgement or of any nature from NG though.

During the discussions AD states she received threatening phone calls. On a single day she got 30 such calls she mentions. All of that must be to stop her from blowing her “whistle” I imagine. So a panellist asks her why she didn’t record any of those threats and she responds with “am I expected to record all threatening phone calls”? Oh! Now, she’s on a whistle-blowing trip and receives not one, not two, not three but 30 phone threats in a single day and she still didn’t consider it necessary to record even one of those? Umm.. routine for RTI activists I suppose. Fine! Strikingly, she doesn’t even complain to or even inform the police. Does that sound normal to you? Does that look like the behaviour of a reasonable person?  

So the rants began from NDTV, Times Now, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today and I’m sure all the other language channels too. “Gadkari silent”! “Gadkari fails to respond”! “Gadkari hiding”! As if all that clearly established his guilt. On September 27 NG sent AD a legal notice charging her with defamation and all her claims to be falsehoods and untruths. The best headline after this was, of course, from Times Now (Sep 28), the guys who have already been slapped a 100-crore defamation damage: “Irrigation scam puts BJP on the back-foot”. Haha! So from Congress and NCP being the perpetrators of the scam it is the opposition party that is guilty and is on the back-foot. But Arnab did pull out a few documents that showed AD had more than just public interest in mind while tracking the irrigation scam. Seems, she held lands that would have been damaged by some dams.

As for the legal notice by Nitin Gadkari you have to only see the two reports and how contrasting they are: TOI and NDTV. For some reason NDTV doesn’t reveal the full story while TOI has a little more than the legal notice. Let’s read some excerpts from the TOI story: (Includes comments by Eknath Khadse, leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly)

Gadkari's notice to Damania on Thursday evening asked her to retract her "false, baseless and defamatory statements". "You are making such false and baseless statements only to make sensation with the object to defame my clients. The state BJP unit was the first to unearth the irrigation scam and has undertaken public agitations...,'' said the notice. Senior BJP leader Devendra Phadnavis said…. "In the last budget session, I raised several queries based on the papers procured by the BJP and Damania through RTI. I had even mentioned that IAC members were being targeted for raking up the scam. In fact, she (Damania) wasn't even aware of the whistle-blower (chief engineer Vijay Pandhare). I told her about the letter and gave her Pandhare's number"… Further attacking Damania, Khadse said: "Damania had taken land near one of the irrigation dams. The govt decided to raise the height of the dam, following which Damania's land was getting affected. She wanted the govt to lower the height, but all her efforts yielded no results. On the contrary, the govt forfeited her land as Damania had purchased it without being eligible for it."

So, as usual, where it concerns the opposition, the onus to prove guilt is not on the “accuser” but on the “accused” to prove innocence. That’s our MSM. Throughout September 28 no channel asked any questions about AD’s lands or their status. None! Who knows she might have even met NG (assuming she has indeed met him) to save her lands and turned bitter if/when he had refused! Why isn’t that possible? I can’t help rephrasing the statement of the Amicus in that SIT report about another whistle blower, Sanjiv Bhatt’s claims: “There is no evidence that Anjali Damania did not meet Nitin Gadkari and seek to save her lands”. Now let the media twist that one. Well, move over Top Cop, Anjali Damania is here and she’s the new darling of our media. The Jenny-come-lately! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mamata Stings Rajdeep Sardesai

One of the thrills of a job well-done is getting a compliment and Rajdeep Sardesai is justifiably thrilled with The Telegraph’s report on his interview with Mamata Banerjee (MB). Well, the Social Genius did say that when it came to political analysis RS is “Numero Uno”. So it must be thrilling for the “Numero Uno” of political analysis to be covered by the “Numero Uno” paper of Kolkata. Incidentally, the tweets were on September 27 morning. Catch the interview on the CNN-IBN website with the transcripts. The transcripts don’t cover the full interview but just about less than half of it. One wonders what happened to the rest.

MB is a former Congress member who set up her own party, TMC, and has performed a once unthinkable miracle of unseating the CPM from power in Bengal almost single-handedly. For this CNN-IBN had awarded her the “Indian of the year award” (Politician). She makes some statements in bits and pieces so those have to be interpreted. RS has frequently called her a “street-fighter” and he does so during the interview too. There isn't much in the interview from MB on the political front that isn't already known. What Rajdeep may not have anticipated is the manner in which she slammed the media in general and a bit more. Let’s see some exchanges (edited excerpts):

RS: Sonia Gandhi the other day said that the government is stable and it will last its full term till 2014. Do you believe that this Manmohan Singh government will last till 2014?
MB: It is stable of the corruption, by the corruption, for the corruption. But it is not stable from the public point of view.
RS: When you say that are you saying somewhere that you feel that the Congress will threaten other parties like Mulayam and Mayawati to support it, that they will use the CBI for example, is that your fear? That they will try to stay in power using ‘saam’ (influence), ‘daan’ (bribe), ‘dand’ (punishment), ‘bhed’ (division).
MB: Money power, muscle power and mafia power. These three powers they are using. I don’t know why. Why in our country, which has a democratic setup, why are we afraid of the CBI before taking any decision?....
RS: You believe that this government use to misuse the CBI to challenge their rivals? (Given that RS is such a great political analyst it’s good that at least at this point he has “discovered” that CBI was and is being misused. Must have felt like discovering fire).
MB: This is not only now, it is from the beginning when we were elected, since 2009 after Parliament elections….

Those statements by MB should have been headlines in every newspaper in this country. They are so dangerous that misuse of CBI and the rampant corruption threaten every democratic institution. Unfortunately, because this interview was given to a particular channel the other TV channels are likely to ignore all the statements made by MB. In the chat MB slams Manmohan Singh in a manner that makes him appear worse than a puppet and even mimics him on some occasions.

There are some more indicators that make terrible reading for RS during the interview: (By timeline in the video):

16.50: On the FDI issue here’s MB’s answer that raps media in general. I wonder if RS got the hint:
RS: ’Business Standard’ article says at 3.30 pm on September 20, Trinamool website had 2009 manifesto saying entry of large domestic and foreign capital in retail trade will occur and it has now been removed.
MB: No. They are some sections of the Congress, they are getting advertisements and money from the Congress. They have been paid by the Congress for image building programme, we cannot pay that amount.

I like the way RS has even noted the timeline of the Business Standard article. This attention to detail gets my admiration. But the transcripts have cleverly omitted a small detail. MB said they are paid 100 crores. I don’t think she meant Business Standard alone but that the media is being paid hundreds of crores by Congress for “image building”. That’s my interpretation. She was being kind. I doubt its only image that the payment is for. There has to be a lot more that can be bought for hundreds of crores.

26.47: RS asks if the reason for shifting of an Investment summit from Kolkata to Lucknow was caused by MB’s walk out of UPA. Hardly any doubt but what exactly has UP achieved under Akhilesh Yadav for this reward? Well, I suppose 24 hour power supply to the Gandhi family constituencies might be a good place to start.

32.08: On reforms MB states this is influenced by some “big friends” who want some reforms and that is what influences the decision. She goes on to state that to please these “big friends” the GOI treats “Indians as guinea pigs”. Umm.. publicly the Congress calls them Aam Aadmi though.

But Mamata Banerjee reserved the most resounding slaps for Rajdeep Sardesai. Some of these are not going to make headlines on his channel or any media outlet for obvious reasons.

36.35: To a question on development MB tells RS he cannot sit in Delhi and talk about development in Bengal without going into any details. Isn’t that true for most of our media celebs who conduct interviews? No research, no homework but go a with a general ‘stereotype’ question. I hope RS learns.

41.35 to 42.14: RS repeatedly taunts MB as running a One-woman party as even the tagline in the pic from the interview labels it. He even asks her if “Party is Mamata and Mamata is party” and later if she sees media as her enemy. First she mentions how corporations and political parties have bought media and then MB makes a stunning point to him: “Ask the people whether the media plays a neutral role or not”. I think in very polite words MB told RS that most media channels are Congress “brokers” though she didn’t use the words that I do.

Then, on the issue of whether she is running a one-woman party she points to Mulayam and SP, Mayawati and BSP and finally Congress too when she challenges a stung RS thus: “Why don’t you ask this question to Sonia Gandhi. Because you people have no guts”. RS comes up with a lame excuse “but she doesn’t give interviews like you”. Well, a responsible media would have told the Congress ‘take a walk, we won’t cover you if your bosses don’t allow fair time to the media. We won’t cover you if you don’t disclose illnesses and travels of your party leader’. Instead, our media, just like RS does, ridicules those who do give them interviews and even ridicule medical treatments of other party leaders. Shameful for Rajdeep! Maybe Rajdeep and other media celebs are just as scared that if they challenge Sonia Gandhi the Congress may let the CBI loose on them. That may produce some disastrous revelations like Radiagate. Wouldn’t it?

42.49: And to the repeated question on TMC being a one-woman party MB drives a hammer through Rajdeep’s head. She says: “If I ask anyone who runs CNN-IBN everybody will say Rajdeep Sardesai”. I wonder if RS got the message. That he is running as much a personalised organisation that he accuses MB of. When it comes to CNN-IBN it gets even worse considering he hires his spouse as deputy editor. That is cronyism plus nepotism. Whether one agrees with MB’s politics or policies she did deliver a rude awakening for Rajdeep. Will he learn? Your guess is as good as mine.

Somewhere in the interview Mamata Banerjee explains her frustration, which seems to reflect those of citizens as well: “Every day we wake up with the fear that what will happen next. Sometimes they will increase the price, sometimes they will go for FDI in retail, sometimes they go for corruption”. Haha! Though the last part is funny, I think she was a bit off the mark. The “go for corruption” is consistent and continuous and not sometimes

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Gandhi Septology

A few nights ago a couple of friends and I were having dinner at a restaurant. One of them is a top professional from the Pharma industry and the other is an economy expert. One was a visitor to Gujarat, so the chat inevitably veered around to Narendra Modi at some point. It was the usual set of questions visitors to Gujarat have about Modi, the “Will he, won’t he?” types. No, not if he will win Gujarat but if he will pitch for Delhi in 2014 or anytime general elections are held, as a PM candidate. And whether he will able to tame or win over the Delhi Establishment. Since there were news channels on with their usual debates on TV at the restaurant, the other question was how certain channels that were doing badly financially were still around. Answer to the second question is simpler; if the channels are part of the “establishment” in a ‘Banana republic’ it’s not a problem.

So what about the “establishment”? “… It includes leading politicians, senior civil servants, the most important financiers and industrialists, governors of the BBC, and the Royal Court…  The term in this sense was coined by the British journalist Henry Fairlie, who in September 1955 in the London magazine The Spectator defined that network of prominent, well-connected people as "the Establishment", explaining: "By the 'Establishment', I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised”. That sums it up quite neatly, doesn’t it? But do replace the BBC with India’s Doordarshan and most of the private TV channels and the Royal Court with the Indian ‘Royal Court’ and the picture is complete. Now does it explain how loss-making TV channels survive? If most political funding is from “anonymous donors” and if so much black money goes into electioneering is it any different in the media? Corrupt crooks in the Politico-Media complex are not about to produce receipts for “paid news”.

Then, creating this Establishment requires years of brand building. There are many tiny corners in this vast country of ours where people, young and old, still believe Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Who’s gonna complain about that, eh? That guy who said “What’s in a name..” would have stabbed himself in the back, twice, and then run his own truck over himself, again twice. Ever observed the credits of a modern-day, hi-tech Hollywood movie? It takes anywhere between 500 and 1000 people to make one of those plus a dozen odd companies that provide the effects, marketing, distribution. Then it’s released in over 3000 screens at a time. The same goes for creating the “establishment”. In fact it takes lakhs of people. One of the key features of building the establishment is in using the magic name and like the movie ‘Terminator’ protect and propagate the brand. Find success and create a trilogy. The credits for an “establishment” movie might run like this (2:24 mins):

That’s just a small part of all the schemes and projects in the Nehru-Gandhi brand name and scrolling at high-speed. If I were to include all the 450 schemes that A. Surya Prakash has listed and scrolled it at normal speed, it would take at least 30 minutes to read all the credits. (And he says those 450 are only in the last 18 years). Those 450 brand-builders are quite a handful and can "Terminate" any challenge to power. Also, Surya Prakash’s list doesn’t include Mahatma Gandhi since he doesn’t belong to the “family”. But hey, the “Gandhi” brand name is what it is and has the same effect on the ground. So instead of a trilogy it could have been a Septology. Mahatma Gandhi à Nehru à Indira Gandhi à Rajiv Gandhi à Sanjay Gandhi à Sonia Gandhi à Rahul Gandhi. Oh, and there’s Priyanka Vadra in the wings who can any day turn into Priyanka Gandhi if and when required. If trilogy is about a series of 3, septology is a series of 7.

What does Sanjay Gandhi have? Not much, but there’s a prominent National Park in Borivali, Mumbai named after him? What about Sonia Gandhi? Ha! You’ll be surprised. Since there was nothing else possible, Padma Shri horticulturist Haji Kaleemullah Khan has named a ‘mango variety’ after Sonia Gandhi. Haha! Sounds fair for the ‘Mango Man’, doesn’t it? What about Rahul Gandhi? He is too busy to bother about these things so the Congress UP branch decided to name his birthday as “Farmers’ Rights Day”. If you thought that is all, you just got lucky. You see RG is fond of eating at various homes and places. So this Canteen in M.S.University in Baroda named all the dishes after RG and each dish is accompanied by a nice picture of him. So you could order RahulGandhi-Samosas, RahulGandhi-Rotis or just RahulGandhi-Coffee. And you will be served!  

We can ignore the light-hearted menu at the RG canteen. We can also grant the projects in the name of Mahatma Gandhi, given that he is now an international icon. There are streets and monuments to his name across the world. A report in 2008 mentioned there’s a campaign to rename 185 streets in 39 countries after the Mahatma. Not much to read in that but in India The Gandhi Septology also forms a great part of the “establishment”. That’s the challenge for any non-Congress or non-Gandhi family person to seek high offices. We can even accept a few monuments and projects in the name of Nehru-Gandhi but surely 450 is an excess that is too glaring. Does the MSM protest or complain?

This “establishment” includes govt schemes and projects, organisations funded by the govt. They also include NGOs and individuals, educational institutions, many govt titles (Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna?), think-tanks, many media beneficiaries and wannabe beneficiaries. Most of them receive public land and money one way or another. Collectively they could directly or indirectly employ a million people or more. Would they want to let go of what they have been enjoying under this Septology? So apart from official govt and political propaganda these million plus people also spread the good word. In a brilliant article Minhaz Merchant exposes how “How black economy subverts India’s politics” and how the officially declared “funds” can hardly cover election expenses for any party.

Well, my answer to the friend who asked the question was that many media channels also survive on such funds. Think about another one: Does Reliance really expect to earn money from an investment in TV-18 group? Does it expect to earn money from any media group? With investments like 1500 or 2000 crores, which is peanuts for Reliance, what do they really aim to earn? Your guess is as good as mine. These 450 Nehru-Gandhi schemes and projects are mostly moderate to heavy advertisers. Even at a measly 5 ads per annum to each friendly media house that would be 2250 ads. Even at a heavily discounted rate, of say Rs.20000/- per ad, you do the math for each media outlet. Then add to that all the anniversaries of those who feed the “establishment”, it’s quite a feast. Isn’t it? Suddenly there’s a Motilal Nehru ad, in colour. Sure, celebrate his birth anniversary but why an ad? Also add those individuals and groups who aren’t part of the govt but operate NGOs and other feeder organisations. All of this with your money! Why would they want to kill this goose? Motilal Nehru? That just made it Octalogy, didn’t it?