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.