With all his idiosyncrasies, his U Turns, W turns and 360 degree turns, Arvind Kejriwal has one very irritating trait -rubbing people the hard way. Perhaps that is the reason he makes every one scared of him and he is losing friends much faster than he is gaining ground support in a country of ‘Chalta Hai’ syndrome. The way he is punched around and slapped publicly wherever he goes shows the anger of the establishment against his awkward questions. The latest poser of the Election Commission to Saurabh Patel, Minister for Petroleum and Energy in the Modi cabinet illustrates what I am saying. When Kejriwal was in Gujarat, he had raised questions about the clash of interest in Patel’s appointment as he happens to be related to the Ambani family. Patel, who admits he is related to the Ambanis for the last 25 years, according to a report in ‘Business Line’ had initially reacted by complaining that Arvind Kejriwal was making baseless charge.
But now the EC has asked Patel to file his reply to two queries what is the portfolios he holds and whether he is related to Ambanis. Patel is yet to reply to these questions. That brings me to the point. Is Kejriwal not doing what normal journalists should have been doing investigative stories, especially investigations about clash of interest where stakes are very high. Ideally, had Kejriwal not plunged into politics he could have been the editor of something like Tehelka even though he manages to create a tehelka a day with whatever he does or what happens to him. Over the years journalism has changed and I have watched this downturn for over 35 years. Do journalists really care to do investigative stories nowadays and be ready to pay the price for this?
The day Ashwani Sarin of Indian Express bought an Adivasi woman called Kamala to prove that women are sold in India we all in the profession said ‘Hats off’ for his perseverance and guts. He had to make friends with gangs involved in this trade and the paper allowed him time to dwell on one assignment for, I think, eight months. All this while as he camouflaged himself for the story Sarin was under constant watch of their Chief Reporter B M Sinha to ensure that he was not harmed.
Not only this the paper had also applied for anticipatory bail in advance because the Government of the day reacted predictably. Instead of accepting the harsh reality staring them in the face it filed a criminal case against him for buying a woman! Will any reporter take such pains to uncover a story now when most information is available in the air-conditioned rooms of their posh offices, thanks to Google. All you have to do is rehash and present it as Exclusive and Breaking News. The public is not amused when it sees three channels presenting the same exclusive news simultaneously.
Talking of clash of interest recently I was watching Radio Mirchi awards where one of the Jury members was Javed Akhtar. Well deserving of course. But when the same Jury gave away the prestigious Royal Stag Make it Big award to Farhan Akhtar, it set me thinking.
In National Universities even Vice Chancellors used to recuse themselves from the selection panel if their wards were among the candidates for a post. It was so normal, nothing very heroic about it. No one raises such questions in the media now. When the IPL controversy was at its peak some papers did raise questions about Captain M S Dhoni’s stakes in India Cement where Srinivasan was the boss. But other journalists did not want such questions to be raised when India was embarking on a new tour. However I felt that was the right occasion to raise such issues even though I happen to be a die-hard fan of MS. We journalists have to draw the Lakshman Rekha between our emotions and our judgment. This could also turn many of us into the ‘Enemy of the People’ in Henrik Ibsen’s play but that is a professional risk one has to take.
By Amitabh Srivastava