It is sad that this great country with almost 1.2 billion people has to witness a fight over who should be the First Citizen. The media has a problem here. It can'tremain a silent spectator. It has to report an event at a given instance. It has, to use a clich?, ?breaking news?. They are constantly in danger of being charged with taking sides.
That is what Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief of Outlook (July 16) obviously meant when he editorially commented on the current scene. ?Journalists? he wrote, ?should never forget that they are spectators, not players? and that while they may have the best seats in the stadium, they are ?and must always remain, spectators?. And he added: ?I know for some of my colleagues it is a big temptation, but once spectators (Journalists) become players (politicians) the media is into a very different ball game?one which has nothing to do with journalism.? The desire to remain ?objective? obviously has led Outlook to charge Shekhawat with shielding his son-in-law and lying on the floor of the Assembly. So it is a matter of tit-for-tat.
In an earlier issue (July 9) India Today'seditor-in-chief Aroon Purie noted that ?Institutions have a habit of deteriorating in India (and) unfortunately even the highest office in the country has not been immune from this trend.? And India Today'scorrespondent Prerana Thakurdesai has found that (Pratiba) Patil'sname was linked to more than one unsavoury incident. The charges, alas, were named. And it was said: ?Patil'spersonal philosophy and public pronouncements do not reflect the kind of inclusiveness needed for an aspiring president? Her early utterances have rigged amusement, anger and mortification. The UPA allies are squirming and the Left is red-faced.?
We do not know what Shri Vinod Mehta thinks of Swapan Dasgupta, a columnist of repute. In Sunday Pioneer (July 1) he wrote: ?All the evidence suggests that no one in the Congress hierarchy was fully aware of the rot behind Pratibha'sgently exterior. The ones who knew about it swore loyalty to the UPA in public and privately supplied to the media and the Opposition details of Pratibha'sabuse of patronage?. But why blame politicians alone for their lack of standards? One section of the media has, for example, conveniently blacked out allegations against Pratibha. As for the intellectuals and eminent citizens, when it comes to taking on the Congress establishment, independence is replaced by cravenness or judicious silence.?
The Pioneer (July 3) itself wrote angrily that ?politicians with a low integrity quotient have mastered the art of brushing aside charges that bring into question their commitment to probity in public life?.? Noting that Smt Patil has dismissed charges against her as ?false, malicious and baseless?, the paper said: ?Such politicians may be well-suited to serve as Cabinet Ministers in a Congress Government and Governors when the Congress is in power at the Centre, but they are unfit to become the custodians of the Constitution of India??
The Indian Express (July 7), as usual, kept up its crusade against Pratibha and an article by S. Gurumurthy remains about the most powerful expose of Smt Patil after Arun Shourie'sseries of articles. Describing some of what might be described as ?misdemeanours? of Smt Patil, Gurumurthy wrote: ?Serious scandals of this nature?involving fraud, murder, protecting offenders, evasion of tax, breach of social justice rules and the like pending before courts and authorities?about persons of high stature can never be kept buried even by an understanding between the ruling coalition and the opposition.?
To add to all this The Tribune (June 28) said that ?crises seems to bedevil the BJP? and ?the manner in which the BJP tried to field a candidate in the ongoing presidential poll, too, does not being credit to a party which has pretensions of coming back to power in the next Lok Sabha election??. In a strong attack on the BJP, The Tribune said that ?there is a failure of the BJP to throw up a second line of leadership capable of filling the gaps? and that ?all the BJP'sclaims of being a disciplined party have been proved as hollow as the claims of popularity of some of its leaders?? The Tribune (June 21) incidentally, has announced that it has decided to come out with a weekly pull-out, Haryana Plus beginning June 22 which will ?cover all regions of the state and highlight political developments, growth of business and industry, agriculture, social issues and arts and culture?.
The Times of India is not particularly known in recent times for taking strong editorial stands but one recent editorial (July 9) stands out for its frankness and daring to criticise the Prime Minister. First it quotes ?A thought For Today? which is a line from one of Dr Manmohan'sspeeches which says: ?Terrorists Belong to no Religion or Community?. Then comes the editorial itself under the heading: ?Heal thyself: PM must wake up to ask right questions on terror.? Then comes the devastating editorial which, among other things, says: ?Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he could not sleep when he saw TV images of the family of the detained Indian doctor Mohammad Haneef and his cousins. The BJP has reacted strongly along predictable lines?However, Singh sleeplessness is disturbing for a different reason. Is he, like Mulayam Singh Yadav, pandering to extreme Islamic opinion while reaching out to the community at large?? Like several Congress leaders past and present, Singh is adding to the marginalisation of moderate voices in the community Wahhabi Islam is the principal ideological force behind present day acts of terror. Fuelled, almost literally speaking, by Saudi money, its tentacles have spread far and wide through a network of mosques and madrasas.
With (oil) money came expansionist desires, for which Wahhabi Islam provided a strange kind of religious legitimacy. Like other totalitarian belief systems, it constructs both a utopia and an enemy to be destroyed. The enemy is the ?evil? West, but unlike, say, communism, utopia for its extremist adherants is situated not in this world but the next. How does the world deal with a bunch of individuals driven to destroy themselves and others, only to enter a mediaeval paradise in after-life?? Good question,
The United States has (or has had, till Blair left the scene) two poodles, Britain and Saudi Arabia. We must ask George Bush to answer that question.