A lot of the recent government bashing has been aided by some important sections of the media. I have been noticing a gradual and calibrated shift of this slant for the last few days now. A look at today’s TOI – one of the leading critics of the government – is indicative of exactly this.
First, the story about NAC offering a version of the draft Lokpal bill which seems uncannily similar to what the government wants. This story is generally in line with what the TOI has been putting out in the past. However, the story is written in a well balanced manner. It goes on to allow the NAC to explain its position. “NCPRI (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) member Venkatesh Nayak said, “There is no conscious design to draft a bill according to the government’s views. These views are coming from NCPRI after consultations. We think this is a reasonable way to deal with the issue of corruption.””. It also then elaborates on what the NAC feels and where it also differs from the government’s version. All in all, it paints a fairly decent picture of the NAC. A few weeks back, the NAC would have been tainted as a Congress mouthpiece and its reputation sullied.
Another story in the same paper also allows the government a fair chance to explain itself. It quotes Kapil Sibal and gives him a fair amount of “footage”. Congress, like many others in the political class, is against putting the PM within Lokpal’s jurisdiction as it fears that it would expose the crucial office to incessant mudslinging by vested interests, undermining its authority. The crucial words are “like many others in the political class”. When did the TOI become so neutral in its reporting? This is surely a reference to the BJP’s double standards? This last piece in this story certainly wouldn’t have been there a few weeks back: Sibal also claimed that government could change its stand on whether the PM should be put within the scope of Lokpal if the civil society representatives gave a “compelling argument”. Contending that it was not the question of an individual but an institution, Sibal asked,“Which PM in office anywhere in the world has been prosecuted in the world? Please tell me, please give me an example.” This last bit would surely have been edited out a few weeks back....
Then there is this article written by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyer titled “Our black money is here....not in
”. Aiyer conveniently blames the media for its lack of knowledge of the issue “But i am astonished that the media endlessly repeats the myth that enormous hoards of black money are lying in Swiss banks. Wow.....considering that Aiyer was a bitter critic of the Congress government for so long, this certainly looks like cutting the government some slack. Is Aiyer – a part of the media establishment himself – now accepting that the Ramdev and Anna and all of their ilk have been wrong in their understanding of black money and that media also has failed to understand the issue? Aiyer himself seems to have realized very late in the day that the black money is not stashed abroad....it’s stashed right here inside the country. Also, he finally realizes that there is no point in chasing governments abroad as the black money would move from one country to another.....and finally, the TOI allows him to write “But if Ramdev, Anna Hazare and the government are serious about tracing black money, looking for it in Swiss banks cannot be a high priority. They need to look first and foremost within Switzerland . Most black money never leaves India , and much of that does come right back”. Now that’s remarkable! When the government kept saying the same thing till a few weeks back, TOI didn’t print that at all.... India
Finally, a write-up by Swapan Dasgupta in the same paper (TOI). Swapan Dasgupta writing this following passage is quite unexpected “A fear of decision making has gripped the system. Since no one wants to be dubbed a corporate dalal, have charges pressed against him by ombudsmen who can’t distinguish between plodding and innovation, and be jailed by a judge fearful of public opprobrium, non-decision has become a hallmark of wisdom. The
sale of its equity to Vedanta is hanging fire for nearly a year because no one wants to risk admitting that the government is being cussed and shifting the goal post in mid-play. The Posco project is being derailed by politics. And Lavasa is being harassed because no one wants to earn the ire of ‘green’ activists chasing abstract principles. Between a NAC that wants to outlaw land sales to corporates and a ‘civil society’ that wants business to be regulated by a kangaroo court, Cairns is entering a phase of despondency and decline.” Has Swapan forgotten that he is a BJP representative (well.....almost always)? That Kangaroo court statement is particularly harsh, isn’t it??? India
Apart from all this in today’s TOI, there has also generally been widespread coverage of the BJP internal fissures and the Munde story.....
So has the tide turned for the government? Has the media relaxed its misplaced and wrongful pressure? Has the civil society finally undone itself? Has it finally become apparent that the civil society is chasing an agenda that is untenable? That Anna is behaving like he is a stooge of the BJP? Or is all this some sort of a diabolical deal between the government and the media???
The real truth is that the powerful role of media is becoming clear all over again. By first supporting blindly and raising the pitch to a feverish level, the media created despondency in the country. A country growing this rapidly....and finally starting to come into its own....did not deserve this. Sure, corruption is rampant.....and it needs to be weeded out......but surely, things are improving, not worsening. The RTI forces more transparency. Nandan Nilekani’s UID project will cut corruption drastically. The 2G and CWG scams are there – but the values are much lower than what media projected (even though the CAG estimated). If media now changes sides.....then a different perspective will emerge. Public opinion will change. Anna will be at least as discredited (at least his team members will be) as Ramdev has been. And hopefully, the country will be back to what it should be doing.....focusing on economic growth and better distribution of wealth. Else what Swapan writes at the end of his piece “The 21st century could still be
Asia’s. But the resurgence could yet bypass ” could well come true..... India