Is Team Anna a threat to democracy ?

A disgruntled auto driver slapped agriculture minister Sharad Pawar,  brandished a knife, and yelled his head off reflecting aam aadmi’s frustration over price rise and corruption at high places.

Mr Pawar reacted, politically correctly – ‘we should not make much of this’.

Anna Hazare,  politically unwisely,  blurted out impulsively, Ek hee mara ?  (‘Just one slap’). Anna has since been hard put to it,  to put his remark in perspective.

TV news channels made a meal of it, re-playing the action shot right through the 24 hr news cycle,  prompting BJP MP Smriti Irani to take on  the electronic  media that,  she said,  thrived on sensationalism.  Mr Vinod Mehta of Outlook, on a Times Now talk-show,  weighed with his editorial observation   –  ‘it’s the biggest story of the day’

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to the media hanging out at Parliament House VIP exit: “where is the country going to”.

Prashant Bhushan-to-Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN:  “Democracy has to be freed from a  oligarchy of politicians and higher bureaucracy”.  Another Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal,  at the same talk-show,  dismissed the anchor’s suggestion that the angry young aam admi with penchant for attack on political netas might have been influenced by  strident stance adopted by  Team Anna members .  Kejriwal countered Sardesai – ‘do you want us to have our lips sealed ?’  To protest was one’s democratic right, though he did mention, for the record, that physical violence was not acceptable to Team Anna.

Talk-show host Sardesai wasn’t the only one to have given expression to a thought that Team Anna, in its self-assigned role as a ‘saviour’  in a democracy,  may well become  part of the problem. Britain’s academic and a Labour peer Bhikhu Parekh, in a recent lecture  on the crisis in Indian democracy,  is reported as saying,  a growing public support for Anna Hazare-style protests, led by unelected campaigners, bode ill for Indian democracy.  In his 2011  address – in the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture series – Lord Parekh reckoned that democracy was in danger of losing legitimacy,  if elected politicians failed to meet public expectations,  and people,  in frustration,  started mobilizing around “leaders” who had no democratic mandate,  but could have plenty of self-serving agendas.

I don’t know if any media other than The Hindu  reported Lord Parekh’s address in London recently.  In his thought-provoking talk Lord Parekh raises eminently arguable issues –  the very stuff of which prime time talk-shows are made.  Wish the Kanwal’s,  Goswami’s and Sardesai’s of our media  take note .

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MUDA telecast : passing the buck

Telecast of the Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA)  meetings has been shelved.  Its members  have passed the buck to Bangalore,  seeking  clear-cut directive from Karnataka government,  on whether or not the proceedings of MUDA should be open to the media via closed-circuit telecast.   MUDA isn’t particularly known for fair dealings when it comes to allotment of residential and other sites to members of the public.

To bring a measure of transparency in its public dealings MUDA chairman P Manivannan thought of opening its periodical meetings to the media.  Some MUDA members felt that presence of news reporters at the meeting hall would cramp their style. Meeting their objection Mr Manivannan  arranged for a  closed-circuit telecast of the proceedings to the MUDA press-room.

Which wasn’t okay with some MUDA members,  notably MLAs   who don’t feel comfortable with anything short of in-camera proceedings.  In the government if someone doesn’t want to get anything done,  the issue is referred to the higher authorities.  Papers are put up for approval. And a file is created,  to move from desk to a bigger desk,  till the file finds itself on CM’ s desk.

The issue whether or not to telecast  MUDA meetings has been referred to the department of law and parliamentary affairs.  The file would then move up the bureaucratic and ministerial ladders.  If the matter pertains to policy direction,  which the telecast issue,  presumably, is,  it goes to  CM.  If he deems the issue is worthy of wider consideration,  he could set up a committee.

My hunch is, a matter needing  ‘clear-cut direction’ would  call for a committee deliberation.  Besides,  if they  okay MUDA ,  you can’t stop  GUDA,  DUDA and BUDA (Bellary)  wanting  to  go  ‘live’ in the interest of transparency .

Media news sense

MediaNov.8Two news reports,  both  Page One,  in The Hindu,  about ongoing BJP crisis in Karnataka. The one displayed below the fold  is evidently definitive and more informative – Dissidents want six ministers axed.  But it  is the New Delhi datelined news report, a non-story,  that gets the top slot in the newspaper.

Question:  Do dateline  and  stature of the reporter,  rather than substance,  determine the display of  a  given news report gets in the newspaper ?

MediaNov.8 001

Q:  Why couldn’t The Hindu put together information obtained from both Bangalore and New Delhi to publish a consolidated report as Deccan Herald has done ?

A matter of accountability

It is not uncommon for our political leaders to  flout regulations.  But, when challenged,  it is not leader-like  to  blame the violation on lesser mortals.  BJP chief Rajnath Singh,  with a few other party leaders took off   in a chartered eight-seater plane from an unlit airstrip in Jharkand  after dusk. The airstrip where no nightlanding/takeoff is allowed,  was lit up with the headlights of jeeps and other vehicles on VIP convoy  that were lined up along the runway.

A clear violation of safety norms,  the BJP leadership has passed the buck,  saying that the night take-off was  ‘entirely the pilot’s decision’.  Admittedly,  the pilot has some explaining to do.  But can his VIP passenger be allowed to get away with it ?  Maybe the bright idea for taking off under jeep lights was the pilot’s,  but there was no way he could have acted on it without the concurrance of his VIP passengers.   BJP’s denial of any responsibility for the incident doesn’t enhance the image of its leader.  Isn’t Mr Singh accountable for whatever happened ?  Isn’t leadership about owning up,  instead of abdicating,  responsibility in such sticky situation ?