Who runs this country? Who runs the states? If anybody believes that the Congress or the UPA runs them, they are deluding themselves. There is no Congress. There is no NCP either. They are mirages. In Maharashtra, for instance, the state is run by millionaires. We are told that each MLA in Maharashtra is worth on an average Rs. 40 million. Mind the words each MLA and that, too, if we treat their own affidavit declarations as genuine. And who says this? P. Sainath, a leading journalist with unchallengeable credentials. He is a senior member of the editorial staff of The Hindu. And his edit page article in the paper ( October 26) is worth its weigth in gold. In politics today, there is no space for aam aadmi. The number of crorepatis in the Maharashtra State Assembly has gone up by 70 per cent in the just-concluded election. There were 108 crorepati MLAs in 2004. Now there are 184. Nearly two thirds of the MLAs just elected in Maharashtra and close to three fourths of those in Haryana, are crorepatis. And don’t ask how they became rich. Or how did they get elected. Says Sainath: “Your chances of winning an election to the Maharashtra Assembly if you are worth over Rs. 100 million are 48 times greater than if you are worth just Rs one million, or less”.
No doubt, they are all great patriots. Rich people always are. But in business-and elections are Big Business-it is money that counts. Your knowledge of government, of legislation, of social conditions prevailing in your state or your commitment to social service are all irrelevant. You may be a distinguished economist, an expert on a whole range of subjects concerning governance, but no matter. The only way to success is to have the right bank balance. Success automatically follows. That, however, is not the only thing to worry about. If you have the money, these days you can ‘buy’ news. Literally. And almost in any media, print, electronic, whatever. Writes Sainath: “Not all sections of the media were in this mould, but quite a few. New just small local outlets, but powerful newspapers and television channels, too”.
A knowledgeable source is quoted as saying: “The media have been the biggest winners of the polls”. Apparently their poll- period intake is estimated to be in hundreds of millions of rupees. In the past it used to be hinted that some journalists were available for purchase. That for a certain sum they could be persuaded to write a story, a positive story or stories, about a politician, extolling his virtues or damning his opponent. Now those days are over. The media management has taken over the business. As Sainath put it: “The game has moved from the petty personal corruption of a handful of journalists to the structured extraction of huge sums of money by media outfits”. The smart, if corrupt journalist, does not matter any longer. It is the boss himself who rakes in the moolah. The journalist has just to obey orders. The management lays down how much to charge for publishing a profile of a candidate, or an interview with him, or even a trashing of his rival. For a mere four lakhs of rupees that a paper could charge the candidate, he could get not only his profile but “four news items” of his choice. Throw in a little extra, and the paper will even help the candidate to draft his news items. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what is called Freedom of the Press.
Some of our newspaper barons are not accountable to anybody-let alone the readers. China, as one does not have to remind anyone, has been in the news. And the Chinese media has been expectedly very critical of India. But just consider what China’s state-run People’s Daily Online has been writing, as reported by The Indian Express ( October 16). It reflects an interesting mindset that Indians must know, if they want to understand how the Chinese mind works. To quote from the Online: “Nobody can deny that today’s India is a power. In recent years, Indians have become more narrow-minded and intolerable of outside criticism as nationalist sentiment arises, with some of them even turning to hegemony. It can be proved by India’s recent provocation on border issues with China. Given the country’s history, hegemony is a hundred per cent result of British colonialism. Dating back to the era of British India, the country covered a vast territory including present day India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh as well as Nepal. India took it for granted that it could continue to rule the large area when Britain ended its colonialism in South Asia. A previous victim of colonialism and hegemony, started to dream about developing its own hegemony. Obssessed with such mentality, India turned a blind eye to the concessions China had repeatedly made over the disputed border issues, and refused to drop the pretentious airs when dealing with neighbours like Pakistan… Although the pursuit of being a superpower is justifiable, the dream of being a superpower held by Indians appears impetuous…. Throughout the history, India has constantly been under foreign rule. The essence for the rise of India lies in how to be an independent country, to learn to solve the complicated ethnic and religious issues… For India, the ease of tension with China and Pakistan is the only way to become a superpower….”
Where international affairs are concerned. It is often-one might say, always important to know what the other party thinks. India, especially, should know what China thinks of us. It is amusing to learn from People’s Daily Online that India is hegemonic and is trying to ape the British! One would have thought that it was China, with its newfound wealth, that is trying to be hegemonic. It is not true that in India’s long history that it has been “constantly” under foreign rule. But never mind that. India has no desire whatsoever to rule any other country. It had never wanted to do that in the past and one doesn’t know anybody who has such a dream for the future. All that India wants is to be left alone to develop its own economy and work for the general prosperity of all people that is reflected in the statement: sarve janaha sukhino bhavanatu. It is clear that China has a poor understanding of India. But one thing that Online says is relevant. “At present” it ends its comment, “China is pro-actively engaging in negotiations with India for the early settlement of border dispute and India should give a positive response”. So, may we suggest, should China? It takes two to play a game.