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Monday, April 6, 2009

Beautiful and angry

I write regular columns for a number of mainstream, mass-circulation dailies. If, in a column, I had openly appealed for support to any one candidate contesting the Lok Sabha poll, an editor would have contacted me and stated the newspaper's inability to print it. An article, it is understood in our profession, shouldn't be akin to an advertisement.

Yesterday's Sunday Times of India had Shobhaa De going overboard in her endorsement of banker Meera Sanyal who is contesting as an Independent from Mumbai South. Saturday's Mint also carried an endorsement of Sanyal. Other publications have given disproportionate publicity to Mallika Sarabhai who, it seems, is contesting from Gandhinagar merely to paint rival L.K. Advani as an "outsider"--a theme that should appeal naturally to Raj Thackeray.

It is well recognised by everyone that neither Sanyal nor Sarabhai are likely to win. I am doubtful if both of them will save their deposits. Eliciting mass support, it would seem, is not on the agenda of both these candidates. Yet, both have made a virtue of the fact that they are fringe players and that most voters will not trust them with their vote. Exclusivity may be a social virtue and a criterion for club membership but it doesn't suit public life in a democracy.

That the levels of sanctimoniousness is inversely proportional to public support is puzzling. But it is an indication of the disdain with which these beautiful people view their co-citizens. They are snobs in an arena where snobbery is at a discount.

I can understand the media viewing the likes of Sanyal and Sarabhai as expressions of light relief--in the same way as the British media used to view "Lord" Sutch of the Monster Raving Loony Party. But when their candidature becomes a pretext to tell the "great unwashed" that they are ignorant fools, something stinks.

Politics is hard work, time consuming and requires a particular temperament. Would any of these candidates be able to spend countless hours interacting with people in inhospitable government offices and attending hundreds of marriages and funerals each year? Would they like their privacy to be invaded at odd hours by pesky constituents?

OK, if policy interventions are what separates national politics from parish pump issues, where has Sanyal distinguished herself? Her priorities seem distinctly municipal. Why, for that matter, doesn't Sarabhai contest on an anti-Narmada, anti-Modi plank instead of going on and on about Advani's "outsider" status? And, if she is so much of a rooted Ahmedabad woman, why has she appealed to "outsiders" from JNU to come and campaign for her? Are local people repelled by her "old money" disdain for the parvenu?

An election is an occasion for many social games. We are witnessing a strange intervention founded on high media exposure and low public acceptability.

I am not complaining. Sanyal and Sarabhai are adding to the versatility of a democratic system they implicitly abhor.


Neelakantan said...

One particular newspaper (Mint)had endorsed a particular candidate (not McCain) in the election of a particular country a few months back.

And when it is the election in their own country, there is no endorsement - indeed, the entire media is at pains to keep things delightfully ambiguous, instead of calling out the governments clear non performance.

But no, they are into defeating the strawman they have created and so it shall be. Its an echo chamber in the media these days...

doubtinggaurav said...

Swapan Da,

In short this is "People like us" syndrome. I do wonder sometimes may be incessant "bring the vote" campaigns (Jaago Re one example)is just one particular twist of this mentality with the assumption if only a better class of people (which is "people like us")will start voting, we will deliver India from riff raffs.

Gujarat Gagan said...


-Mallika Sarabhai is big publicity seeker. She would always search for a reason to get publicity. Whole Ahmedabad knows her tactics of getting publicity. When she has nothing to do, she would write articles in local English news paper to get new dosage of publicity.

-Mallika Sarabhai is failed person in her life. Her marriage broke up, her daughter runs a lesbian community on Orkut and known lesbian. Mallika was given charge of Tara channel by R.Basu. Mallika mismanaged the things. Tara channel's R.Basu got bankrupt, thanks to Mallika.Basu in private talks say that Mallika looted him.

-Mallika got Doordarshan program without any tender or other prescribed procedure. This was challenged in court. Mallika got worth a crore Doordarshan project thanks to planning commission which was to spend money for it.

-People in Gujarat hate Mallika Sarabhai for her pseudo secular publicity stunts. She gets good amount of grants doing such stunts against Modi.

-She had brought Medha Patkar in Ahmedabad in post-Godhra days.

-Mallika Sarabhai is little bit psycho case. She is going bad to worst day by day due to one and another failures.

-Mallika would cash on her elecion fray. She would get hefty ammount of grants from organisations world over to fight against 'Hindu Nationalist leader of India' Also she would get great publicity in English media. Publicity and Money is what Mallika lives for.

-She would definitely loose her deposit. The people of Gujarat would show her place. She can do couple of stunts in between.

-The best way is to avoid her. Gujarati newspaper Gujarat Samachar has done so, Narendra Modi and Advani should also just avoid commenting anything on her. She is dying that Advani or Modi speak anything about her. So that she can react to get extra dosage of publicity and money.

-Mallika claims that she would publish details about source of her funding on her website but she has not declared anything like this yet. Known Naxal group PUCL supports her openly on her website.

-On 16th of May, when she loose her deposit, she would tell another poetic and idealistic statement(process is important not result bla bla bla.)to her pet English media. Then at her home, she would count how much money and publicity she got and will fabricate another stunt for another day.

ayush said...

My view of people like Capt Gopinath or a Sarabhai or a sanyal contesting elections is no more than a publicity gimmick , with friends in th media - win or lose you become overnight stars recognized across the country.

It is sad that you find almost no coverage for people like RK Mishra Joing the BJP, which is a more difficult thing to do with possible far reaching influence, it is a bid to cleanse the Political system from the inside rather than sitting on the sidelines.

The important point that needs to be understood is if you want to change the system you have to be part of the system and in politics its only possible by being part of the existing polity

Dreaming of creating a new system or even a new political outfit is too far fetched and on the realms of impracticality.

socal said...

For Sarabhai, Advani is an "outsider," but Sonia is fine. They would pillory Raj Thackeray for utilizing the same label, and probably verbally crush anyone--in vain--who deployed it against Sonia. This soft-bigotry is getting nauseating now.

Ghost Writer said...

The studied (and completely shoddy) pretence at objectivity, on the part of the English ‘Liberal’ media in India never ceases to amuse. Even what they would call the world’s best newspaper (the New York Times) has been endorsing presidential candidates for a long time. Besides, whoever has heard of a completely unbiased human being?
In India – one does not have to be unbiased; one does not even have to be seen to be unbiased. One only has to go on chanting “unbiased, unbiased, unbiased …..”

Bhavananda said...

I don't understand why it would be a bad thing to have Mallika Sarabhai in elections. In fact, if I had my way, I would like Mallikas from across the country to contest elections *as independent*. The reason is simple - people who would vote for the Mallikas are not BJP voters but p-secular voters (congress party) and they would end up helping BJP win, by dividing the anti-BJP votes. So, the more p-secular people run for election (independently) the better. No?

Oldtimer said...

"Beautiful" allright, but their "anger" is fake. Also, Mallika Sarabhai is about as 'elitist' as Comrade Sitaram Yechury. Being connected to the world of arts is the cloak of respectability for this propagandist's politics.

Satya said...


Rahul gandhi’s lie about his degree is now spreading in Indian blogosphere-

What the English Media can't do, bloggers are doing. Do you think this Degree thing can be an issue with the voters?


It is strange that while Pakistan is melting down and has probably 6 months to sustain itself before militants take it over, the politicians are not one bit looking at the seriousness of the situation.

And Mallika Sarabhais of this world are adding to it, much as Mamata Banerjee is adding to ours.

Laloo did not endear himself exactly while stating he is going to crush Varun Gandhi under a road roller. While one can excuse Varun's exuberance to youth and naivety, what excuse can we offer Laloo ji.

In my latest article where I have highlighted the seriousness of Pakistan and its meltdown in details, I ended the article thus:

India’s choices?

What Taliban? – we have a Lok Sabha elections round the corner, money to be made, vote bank politics to be enacted. No time for terrorists !! We are Indian politicians – do not disturb us with stupid national interest and all that. What is our interest?

Laloo gives Sahabuddin’s wife, Heena Sahab (a wife in burqa, as she is devout – are there any other kinds) a Lok Sabha ticket. This same Sahabuddin whose named his eldest son OSAMA and his wife a student of a school named after DAWOOD.

iamfordemocracy said...

The Educated Indians in India and abroad do have the power to force media houses to be more fair only if they could allign themselves. Unfortunately, most of the EI are providing eyeballs for the hostile media and serving their interests when they interact with online and TV media.

The present recession should have been a godsent opportunity to get moving in that directions. Newspapers are going under, online media are struggling to make the ends meet, and a new wave of freedom is sweeping the web. All the EI have to do is to pick and choose their targets.

The question is, whether they can allign themselves and who can provide the leadership for that. In fact, there is no particular need for a leader or a torch-bearer. Every EI has to look at his/her interaction with media as a commitment rather than a passtime.

Chaitali said...

The thought of Mamta Banerjee, gives me the creeps. I mean India can do much better.

Meera Sanyal is someone I was looking forward for this election. I think you are right, she might be a snob, but if she can manage ABN Amro, we should appreciate her calibre. And definately better than a lot of politians. The other option I know is Milind Doera. I still dont know all the candidates.

Could you tell a way by which I could find out, who all could be standing for election from my area.

Chaitali said...

You should read Shobha De's blog..

Dhruv said...

Talking about Shobha De and her kind, Abbas Naqvi was right, though his words were not perfect.

Editing gossips magazines and writing porn/vulgar literature are not good enough credentials to qualify her for doing a serious political analysis or giving a political commentary, that too in a popular newspaper, on what it takes to run this country?

Editors, if you cannot get rid of Page 3 writers and contents from your newspapers, please don’t put them on Page 1 at least ...They simply feel vulgar and stupid.

iamfordemocracy said...

Anyone who has studied politics, civics or social sciences and allied subjects sufficiently rigorously in a free environment should be able to contribute, and should be seen to be contributing to a political debate. I fail to understand why someone who has worked in IT sales should have better credentials than a career prostitute if none of them has taken the trouble to study politics and allied subjects seriously.

Shobha De is a brilliant writer and she always seems to have something different to say even when she is writing about mundane subjects. I will not discard the views of Shobha De just because she is an woman or because she happens to be a page three personality. On the other hand, if some upstart, just on the strength of his IIT background, begins to deride democracy, I will be the first to ask questions.

To summarize, I would be willing to listen to/read views of any individual who has made his/her name in one field, whatever his/her background, on any subject, if he/she has put in sufficient efforts to study that subject before beginning to write about it. That is the difference between the position of a true democrat and that of a fundamentalist mullah or a priest.

Pooja said...

Well it might please you to know that not everyone who can be counted amongst 'People Like Us' is bowled over by Mrs. Sanyal. I recd. this e-mail earlier today written by a Mr. Gautam Patel which i've pasted below.

Meera's manifesto item 4 about an elected Mayor/empowered CEO. I suspect that this, like much of the rest of her master plan, is just a nugget she sort of stumbled on somewhere along the way and swept it up without much thought. Others (Charles Correa, Shirish Patel) have pointed to an elected-mayoral system as an example of how a single central authority, in whom various powers coalesce, can make a dramatic difference in the planning process. Merely saying "we should have an elected mayor" is meaningless, and disingenuous. This requires a complete rejigging of a set legislative system: the BMC Act, various state laws, police laws and more. Meera's manifesto doesn't tell us how, or even why, this should be done, or with what objective.

Furthermore, all these are local issues, not national issues, and are at best peripheral in a Lok Sabha election to which Meera has canned responses. As I understand her, she believes that her primary objective is to address the needs of her constituency; the nation can wait. Or, if we can address our own issues, by some political legerdemain, national issues will resolve themselves. This is either unspeakable hubris or incredible naivete.

My biggest trouble is her standing as an independent. At any level, that reduces her potential efficacy to zero. There is no collective strength here or any track record of sustained work over time and over a sufficiently divergent demographic spread.

Chaitali said...

I would like to know your thoughts on the 'Professionals Pary of India' and their representative candidate in south mumbai 'Dr. Mona Patel Shah.



The release of terrorists at Kandahar has rightly come to haunt Advani - I said it would.

It would be prudent for Advani to state that he will not deal with blackmailing from hijackers in his term - let him show his iron mettle.

The veracity of sources and story is suspect - yet if it ever came out that BJP and / or Jaswant Singh made money on that deal. How? By keeping a lot of the ransom money back ....

that would be a devastating blow to the credentials of BJP.


Teesta Setalvad's facade has fallen - how she coached the so called "riot victims" is now out in the open.

I think if not BJP, then Narendra Modi should slap a case of defamation on her. She deserves it for creating such a high decibel fluff and maligned the image of our country. She deserves nothing better !

Gujarat Gagan said...


Look at this link

The Daily Pioneer correspondent in Gujarat Rathin Das(a leftist who was kicked out from The Hindustan Times last month)donated Rs 100 to Mallika Sarabhai for her leftist campaign against Advani. The Hindu's Gujarat correspondent Manas Dasgupta has also donated Rs 100 according to a spreadsheet presented on this link.

I have nothing more to say. You understand all.