INDIAN newspapers and magazines are getting bigger and bigger – some as many as 50 pages thick – and more numerous. There was a time I used to take 20 newspapers every day and ten magazines. Now we take only five or so, and I finish them, with the exception of one or two, in five minutes flat. I hardly read any of them, though many are very colourful, in more senses than one, but most of them are boring, and carry the same stories.
I read them for professional reasons, otherwise who would want to read P Chidambaram’s outpourings day in and day out and Kapil Sibal’s silly jokes? Most of these Johnnies have a habit of holding forth on subjects about which they know nothing. Chidambaram talks about terrorism and terrorists ad nauseam, though he has not caught a single terrorist as far. Sibal thinks he is a very witty man, but all he does is put the readers to sleep.
I have therefore devised a new index – I call it Trust Index or TI. Can, these people really be trusted to tell us the truth? Or are they just shooting the wind, as the Americans say? For instance, what Jairam Ramesh knows about environment can be jotted on the back of a postcard, so why should anybody read his monotonous stuff every morning? Pranab Mukherjee goes on and on, in his inimitable Oxford accent, about inflation, on which he must be quite an expert, considering that he has been talking about it for the last thirty years. Everytime he says prices are going down, they invariably go up, though never vice-versa. There was a time when Manmohan Singh was a certified economist, and not a politician, and I used to read whatever he said quite carefully, but since becoming a politician, he seems to have forgotten his economics and many of us just turn the page and go to the film section when his statements appear.
For those of you who wish to skip bogus statements on terrorism, corruption and Kashmir, here is a useful guide:
P Chidambaram: The man would be more convincing without his cut-glass Harvard – or is it Harlem – accent. He has nothing much to say and takes too long to say it. The fellow gives the impression of reading out the same prepared statement over and over again, which may be fun for junior reporters who have not heard him before, but must be driving most readers nuts. How many times can you repeat that you have sent yet another list of terrorists to Islamabad, though everybody knows it is the same list typed on a different typewriter? I try to avoid Chidambaram as much as I can, and so should you. His Trust Index: 2, on a scale of 1 to 10.
Kapil Sibal : I often wonder whether even he knows what he is saying or trying to say. He has a permanent grin on his face, like a man who has just come out of a circus, just seen a Charlie Chaplin film. As far as I am concerned, his Trust Index is minus 10, which means I turn the page everytime I see his mug, and save a lot of time. The time I save I devote to cartoons, except when he, that is, Sibal appear in cartoons too.
Pranab Mukherjee : The kindest thing you can say about our good friend Pranabda is that he is totally predictable – so you can skip his statements on inflation or investment without feeling guilty. Moreover, since I have known him, off and on, for nearly thirty years, I know by heart what he is going to say, for that is what he said ten, twenty or thirty years ago, without changing a comma. I have a feeling he has the same steno he used to have then, so all our friend has to do is say, File 112, and out comes the old file on foreign investment, or inflation, or food prices, and you have a ready-made statement before Pranabda has his morning rasgullah. Since the economy has not changed all that much—farmers are still committing suicide and Sharad Pawar is still purchasing land in Baramati – all you have to do is revise a few figures and hey presto! You have your statement ready. I rarely read Mukherjee’s statements – all inflations are after all the same – and, I suspect, so does Mukherjee himself. Trust Index : – 4
Prakash Karat : I feel sorry for this man, but I think he asked for it. He will go down as India’s Mikhail Gorbachev, who saw Soviet Russia collapse under him but could do little about it just as Karat who saw West Bengal go down under him, as he watched helplessly from Delhi. Karat belongs to the new breed of urban cowboys who have never led a strike, never worked with their hands and never shared a meal with workers. His party destroyed West Bengal and now West Bengal has destroyed his party. This is the new law of politics.
You destroy people, and people destroy you. Karat will hang around TV channels as does Gorbachev, cadging money from capitalists who must be laughing all the way to their banks. Trust Index: Zero.
Lalu Prasad Yadav : What a long name for a non-entity. Lalu is to Bihar what Karat & Co are to West Bengal. Karat & Co were serious about destroying West Bengal, for this is what communists always do when they find people are turning against them. Didn’t Joseph Stalin massacre millions of kulaks when they disobeyed him? The Marxists did the same in Shingur and elsewhere. So did Lalu & Co in Bihar, though it was a slow death by starvation. It was after a decade of Lalu that the Biharis realised what was happening, that the sweet-talking rustic was fooling them and taking them for a ride, while lining his own packets. So they dumped him in the Ganga at Patna and made sure he would never rise again. People always take their revenge on those who betray them, whether it is communists in Soviet Russia or Lalu in Bihar. Trust Index: Minus 5.
Manmohan Singh : And now the great Manmohan Singh. Never has administration in India been so corrupt as under this Singh. I doubt whether after what has happened in the various scams, there is an Indian who trusts him. It is surprising how a man with such a clean image, would allow thousands of babus and corporates under him – and politicians too—to go berserk and loot the treasury with such abandon. A few years ago, before the loot came to light, his Trust Index would have been quite high. But the man has spoilt his copy-book so badly, he does not deserve anything but minus two!