Friday, November 26, 2010

#Barkhagate - The buck does not stop here

Over the past couple of days, one has been witness to an incessant barrage of finger pointing (the Social media version of it) at NDTV Group Editor-English News Barkha Dutt for her alleged role as a go-between for the Congress Party & its Tamil Nadu coalition partner, the DMK, in arriving at a mutually agreeable seat sharing agreement after they were voted to power in the 2009 General elections.

Her role, or as she would prefer, alleged role in the affair was came to light when The Open Magazine published a series of articles along with taped conversations revealing the seedy underbelly of politics in India, where political parties could be heard hankering bargaining for portfolios and berth in the cabinet ministry & other favors being curried, through these intermediaries, one of them being Ms. Dutt, who as one gets an impression after hearing the tapes, has the Congress party's ears.

Though commoditization of electoral seats & ministerial berths is an open secret in India, given the coalition nature of our politicking, what with the "benefits" one accrues after holding such a position, the fact that the absolute proof of this was now available in the form of those taped tapped telephonic conversations - tangible display of the afflicting rot every one is already aware of - meant that our sense of outrage took on an all new dimension, exponentially growing in intensity, aided by a convenient platform to express our sense of hurt & betrayal by a person belonging to a group considered to be the 4rth pillar of democracy - the free press, that is supposed to hold the people in power to scrutiny & evaluation, least they stray away from their intended path of public service into self-service.

Such a role naturally calls for the press to maintain a dispassionate distance from the players whose probity, or lack of it, it is their job to report about.

Instead, we were made witness to such a person from the press jumping into bed with these very political constitutes, playing her role in effecting a resolution in the unholy arrangement of political conveniences called coalition politics, casting serious doubts about the objectivity of reporting of one of the biggest & undoubtedly influential media personalities in India.

Incidentally, the magazine revealed the role of yet another journalist in trying to influence governance & policy decisions through, among other things, tailored news articles written by him & interviews he conducts during course of their tapped telephonic conversations with power-broker Niira Radia.

All these expose's were made in the background of 2G Spectrum scandal, where the Indian exchequer was made poorer by Rs. 1.77 lakhs crores [nearly $39 billion USD], as a result of the twisting & breaking rules by the then Telecom minister to selectively favor chosen a few companies, contrary to the spirit & rules of fair play.

However, overcome by this, not unjustified, swell of anger & disgust, we seem to have chosen Ms. Dutt to take it all out on. The arrival of Social Media networks has made it that much more easier to just let it out. So intense has been the extent of the revulsion being directed at Ms. Dutt on these platforms, that even mainstream media had to take note of it & could not help not writing about it.

Yet in this ensuing din, the other journalist, a male, save for an occasional, almost inadvertent mention, seems not to have even a fraction of the outrage directed towards him. Nor is there a similar feverish anger being displayed at the minister who oversaw, what is being touted as, the biggest financial improprieties to hit India. Such glaring disparity in our show of anger and outrage calls for us to ask ourselves a question or two.

Our outrage seems to be borne out of the fact that a journalist was caught playing the role of a broker between two political parties engaged in, what is essentially a self-serving activity. Yet we seem not to ask ourselves whether the lady would have been able to play the role she was caught playing, if the political parties themselves had not been agreeable to the idea of her playing such a role.

The unhinged moral depravation displayed by our elected officials & parties they represent spawns such roles that need to be played to ensure the continuation of their way of politics. The availability of people to play such a role arises out of the need for people to play such a role for the political parties engaged in a perennial endeavor of opportunistic dalliances.

What role would the Radias, Sanghvis & Dutts have to play if the political masters they were caught serving & influencing had instead been morally upright individuals of impeccable probity & morals representing organizations that genuinely believed in serving and leading the people of this country to a bright and prosperous tomorrow.

One must also take a long & hard look at our current multi-party system of politics, where even a outfit that exists in no more than one state is able to dictate terms & hold the central government to ransom, bargaining for benefits in return for ensuring the continuation of the central government.

It would be hard to envisage a role, if any, such power-brokers would have to play if a party had only to deal with members of its own when allotting ministerial berths. The politics of coalition dharma rests, not so lightly, on the seat of opportunistic moral adharma.

Normal human nature dictates that when tempted, be tempted & in face of continual temptation give in to it. Ms. Dutt, due to the nature of her work that brought her in close proximity of the power wielders of this country, should naturally have been lured by the power-induced high intoxicating the movers & shakers she had to report on. Faced with the chance of experiencing such a high herself, took her down the path, indulging in actives, in which she now appears to have been caught with her pants down.

Elements like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi & Niira Radia are merely symptomatic of the larger rot afflicting the system - easily dispensable elements, to be replaced just as quickly by other individuals willing to do the bidding in return for a chance to experience the high. The malady extends much beyond them, or twisting the title of a talkshow hosted by the lady - the buck does not stop here.

By focusing our rage & discontent at the lady & heaping scorn on her, we end up seriously undermining the enormity of the rot that needs to be set straight. By stealing focus away from the actual problem we shall only end up festering the sores till it consumes us all.

Let the revelations of these tapped phone conversations be utilized to galvanize public intent to put in place clean and honest governmental setup by making a consolidated effort to elect only clean, honest & progressive leaders from parties that espouse policies and ideals relevant to the seat they seek to get elected.

With such leaders occupying the seats of power, the likes of Radia & her ilk in the media houses would automatically get consigned to the ashes of irrelevance.

This scandal, & the innumerable others falling out of the cupboard every other day, can either become the fulcrum of a genuine process of reforms & course-correction of our system or it can be fritted away in venting out our anger & frustration, harbored by not a few, borne out of the divergence of views from those of Ms. Dutt's & the inability to express them on as wide a platform afforded to her.

The choice is ours to make, & to make it quickly, least it becomes too late.

The Outlook magazine has similarly posted a series of tapped phone conversations taking place between power-broker Niira Radia and host of other rich, powerful influential Indians - All Lines Are Busy.

A good forums thread to follow for staying on top of the news of the 2G spectrum allocation scandal - Two-G (2G) Spectrum Scam Tapes and follow-up