Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Doom, gloom… and hope

The Government-Opposition standoff over JPC to probe 2G scam

The Niira Radia tapes, which have portrayed journalists, politicians and bureaucrats, not to mention corporate dons, in rather poor light, hold little cheer for India and Indians… even ordinary Indians who were not in the “circle of influence” or circle of trust of this high profile and highly powerful lobbyist, who made the media, politicians, babus and even corporate biggies dance to her tune.

Ordinary Indians can only gape in wonder at the kind of shenanigans and influencing that go on in the corridors of power in Delhi and beyond.

Some of the journalists trapped in what has now come to be widely known as ‘Radiagate', while denying any wrongdoing or corrupt practices, have admitted to indiscretion and “error in judgment”, while reiterating that even though they promised to carry out Ms Radia's bidding, they actually didn't do so, because they were only humouring her… — “stringing the source” is the journalistic jargon for it!

Well, the tapes certainly provide food-for-thought for the journalistic fraternity, specially newcomers who enter the profession with a lot of enthusiasm that they will expose the corrupt, speak for the voiceless, help the helpless, and so on.

But more than for the media, the Radia tapes provide excellent training material for PR professionals.

The manner in which the PR lobbyist talks to persons from different professions, with the tone and tenor of her speech modulating, should provide valuable insight into the way a super effective PR person is supposed to transact business.

Come on, let's hand it to her; there is no denying that Ms Radia is way smarter than most of the people she was speaking to.

Not many have seen the gender angle in this entire murky affair, but the fact remains that the shadowy corridors of power in Delhi find maximum footfalls of men.

If Ms Radia found herself on the dais when the Nano project was officially launched in Gujarat, sharing space with powerful personalities such as the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, and the Tata Group Chairman, Mr Ratan Tata, it says a lot about the mettle she is made of. In one of the tapes she is heard advising somebody: “This is politics and it is very cut-throat, nobody is your friend, nobody is your enemy.”

Can anybody say it better?

Gloomy outlook

If the Radia tapes have kicked up a lot of dust while demolishing a few carefully-cultivated halos, other news from Delhi is disturbing too. The Winter session of Parliament came to an end on Monday with the stand-off between the UPA Government and the Opposition, led by the BJP, on the appointment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G scam, remaining unresolved.

Of course, crores of taxpayers' money that go into running each day of Parliament went down the drain, but that doesn't seem to bother anybody.

After all, on our way to becoming a developed nation, when we talk about investments of nothing less than hundreds or thousands of crore, the money involved in our scams and corruption, adds up to mega bucks too.

The CAG report has zeroed in on a figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore — the amount that was lost by the exchequer because 2G spectrum was allotted and not auctioned.

But with the uncovering of two tranches of the Radia tapes, which are, let's admit it, so much more colourful than the drab speeches made by our politicians in our legislatures, the actual scam has gone almost off the public scanner.

Storm over Karkare remarks

If news regarding the logjam in Parliament was not good, the controversy surrounding the Congress General Secretary, Mr Digvijay Singh's remarks on the slain Anti-Terrorist Squad leader, Hemant Karkare, were ill-timed too.

Soon after the second anniversary of the ATS chief's killing by Pakistani terrorists, Mr Singh raked up the issue of Karkare being on the hate-list of several right-wing Hindutva groups.

A couple of hours before he died, said the Congress leader, Karkare had told him over the phone that he continued to get death threats from Hindutva ultras. As expected, the BJP has gone into a tailspin and described his comments as “stupid” and “idiotic” and flayed him for “playing politics”.

Ms Kavita Karkare too has criticised Mr Singh's remarks and said this had trivialised her husband's sacrifice.

Well, Mr Singh's timing might be bad, but the fact remains that for quite a while, the BJP had criticised the then ATS chief for probing some Hindu extremists in connection with the Malegaon blasts.

What gave BJP leaders the opportunity to attack Mr Singh was the latter's statement that hours before his death, Karkare had talked about the pressure from Hindu extremists.

So, now, this issue has become a ground for the two political parties to exchange blows, though the Congress doesn't seem to be in any great hurry to defend its General Secretary's latest salvo!

Ray of hope

In the midst of such political drama, the only bit of positive news comes from Bihar, the State that had till recently hardly any good news to give. Mr Nitish Kumar has begun his second-term in right earnest; he has revived his brainchild — ‘janata durbar'.

Unlike Ms Radia's durbar for the rich and the powerful, here, ordinary people can submit their grievances to the Chief Minister.

This durbar, which had to be kept in abeyance for a few months as the long-drawn electoral battle was being fought in Bihar, is back on track.

The signal to the State's electorate is clear — their votes will not go waste. What's more, we are told that the Bihar Chief Minister has also begun an earnest campaign to clamp down on corrupt officials.

Well, so what, if we can't catch the bigger crooks elsewhere, at least, somebody is making an attempt to eliminate corruption at the grassroots level. And he deserves the support of all Indians in his endeavour.


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