Thursday, September 21, 2017

Most welcome, dear turncoat journalist


Ratnakar Tripathy

Although decades ago I had some brief snatches of conversation with Aditya Sinha, the former editor in chief at DNA till some time ago, I cannot really say I knew him except as an exemplary crime reporter at the Times of India, Delhi office. This was decades ago when a journalist’s devotion to facts and his investigative urge won him due respect. Decades later he has made a strong impact not just on me but many others by switching sides – moving sharply away from the pro-Modi camp and turning to Rahul Gandhi with a look of hope. Those wont to psychoanalyzing on the basis of flimsy material may see in this shift traces of bipolarity. Although one has to admit that the switch is extreme since at some point Sinha was so fiercely anti-Rahul, using such strong language that he was threatened with legal action from Rahul’s side. And now he says – ‘My reassessment of Rahul is not because of the 'anyone is better than Modi' argument, though that is a given.’ The title of his recent article, mind you is equally strong and unambiguous Why I changed my mind about Rahul’. I have not underscored and used bold here for nothing.

It is easy to read the article as a sign of political fickleness or opportunism, although it’s rather difficult for anyone to make the accusations stick. I am not sure Sinha may gain much or indeed anything by choosing the timing for the shift that he has, having cut athwart the political spectrum so sharply. I am aware that in the cynical moral climate we today have, it is easy to dismiss the simple confession, a simple wearing of one’s heart on one’s sleeves or read obscure personal motives with pretense to insight, and I wish to leave this line of thinking behind. For me Sinha’s reasons for his action are entirely his business, and I wish to see him as bellwether case.  I believe he will prove a trendsetter in the next couple of years. Why am I encouraged to read him thus?

I do not wish to present here a nuanced analysis of specific policies of the NDA regime, since the series of disasters they produced is evident to everyone except the flippant TV spokesmen and presenters. I want to start by reminding that the UPA undeniably created a deeply anomic atmosphere through its political non-communication and policies. It did really feel like we are part of a political universe tormented by a sucking silence with no sense of anything happening anywhere. And then we found relief in Modi, or so some of the most sensible women and men thought. The relief came in the shape of a harsh din, menacing noises breaking the silence of a whole electoral term. The din has now escalated to a crescendo and the silence is filled with violence and gore. I am aware that this description is short on facts and perhaps just bad poetry. But how else does one even begin to describe the mood of the nation or at least its intelligentsia?  And where do you find dependable facts in the age of fake news? After all even facts require some minimal consensus and willingness to stare at the truth in its face.

I wish to wind up with a proposition that I want you to examine carefully. While for intellectuals and academics it will always be interesting to examine the ethical and ideological continuities between the Congress and the BJP, the time has now come to properly appreciate the fundamental breach between the two. Of late, there has been a talk of altering the Indian constitution radically and even change the colours of the national flag. All on the basis of a single electoral victory, however convincing? It would be tragic at this moment to focus on the historical continuities between the Congress and the BJP family, when the BJP itself is disowning the seven decades of our democratic heritage.  Except for the factories and the dams, the BJP is not willing to accept even an iota of all that has been achieved since 1947.

My guess is Sinha came to this conclusion with great clarity and we owe him a debt for sharing it with us.

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