Monday, June 29, 2015

Cricketainment Googlies Bowled ..... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard / June 28, 2015

Cricketainment Googlies Bowled to LaMo, But Aimed at NaMo, Which He Must Squarely Deflect

PM Narendra Modi

Public discourse and narratives are expected to deal with issues and ideologies, and not individuals. But authors, promoters and hawkers of new politics, and even newer journalism, are now setting new norms of public conduct. Even though they lack both intellectual calibre and self-identity, these faux-intellectuals and neo-moralists are defining the role and conduct of integral institutions like the judiciary, the executive, journalism and politics. Instead of collecting the facts first and coming to conclusions later, they decide the verdicts in advance by resorting to selective information or manufacturing fiction to bolster their conclusions.

Something brazenly bizarre is happening in Indian politics. The ongoing acerbic war of words on former IPL czar Lalit Modi is not confined to any issue regarding governance or policy. It simply revolves around Lalit’s morning tweets about a few individuals. All political parties and mediapersons latch on to his naughty tweets to make, unmake and tar the images of those being gleefully mentioned by Lalit. Questions are being raised not about money laundering, match-fixing or political impropriety, but on the integrity of the supporters and contrarians over the Lalit Saga. Even the names of the dramatis personae are selectively leaked and then discussed ad nauseam. According to sources close to Lalit, over 50 prominent personalities from the corporate and legal world, Bollywood, sports and culture participated in the proceedings in London courts where the case against Lalit was being heard. Mysteriously, only a few names are on the conversation list while many others are kept under the wraps for unknown reasons.
There is nothing wrong in taking a position on an issue. After all each case has two sides to the story. I was one of the witnesses who went to London three years ago to attend one of the hearings in my personal capacity and at my own expense. My stand was limited to the question of political vendetta against the person who created the world’s finest sports league, which in 2014 generated a revenue of $7.2 billion and made many players, sports administrators and team owners super-rich and mighty. But hubris gets the better of anyone who gets high on the champagne of success. It happened with Lalit too. He became arrogant and started taking on the leviathans in the BCCI. My deposition in court was limited to the general perception that Lalit was singled out for persecution for alleged financial misdemeanours while other powerful members of the IPL and BCCI who were party to all the decisions were spared by the investigative agencies. The top judiciary of the UK found that all the witnesses and written depositions were credible. But Indian roadside justice-deliverers found them questionable. They are happy to deliver vigilante verdicts on the Lalits and the Shahs but retreat into a laminated shell of awe when it comes to the Gandhis.
The current commercial contractors of probity in public life are trying to taint every individual, including Justice Jeevan Reddy—the epitome of honesty and impeccable integrity in public life—for stating what he found to be legally correct. Such tangential aspersions raise another fundamental question on the democracy of truth. Just because a person has held the office of a judge, a minister or an editor, does he lose his fundamental right to freedom of expression? Can an honest opinion or a factual testimony given by a retired judge or a prominent journalist be treated as an act of quid pro quo sans proof? But the lynch mob that delivers instant justice believes no one else can express his or her opinion. Since they control the levers of power and the media, they can screech day in day out about the alleged impropriety committed by others while forgetting their own inglorious past, which would be blatantly blemished if judged by their own standards. The Indian media and other self-appointed deities of honesty give clean chits to many tainted corporate honchos or conceal information that would affect their friends, but claim immunity from any charge of favouritism. Unfortunately, those who have received patronage from the government—current or previous—in the form of directorships, foreign assignments and think-tank posts are the ones giving lectures about the ethics of people who lack access to the establishment unless they are members of an elite club class or a college or a school.
It is quite evident that the Lalit Saga is a Machiavellian attempt to settle personal scores and dent the image of PM Narendra Modi. The BJP has been rightly claiming for the past year that it has provided a scam-free government. The Opposition hasn’t been able to offer any credible evidence of financial corruption against any top BJP leader or a Central minister. If BJP sources are to be believed, national polity has become the pitch for dirty cricket politics. Since some of the top leaders in the Opposition and the NDA have been active participants in the multi-billion-dollar cricketainment industry, they are digging up dirt on their own colleagues to retain indirect control over the game and the party’s decision-making forums. For the past few years, no visible action has been taken against any powerful personality involved in any of the cricket scams. Even BJP MPs are speaking against each other. This has resulted in collateral damage to the personal image of the PM who has been exclusively focusing on governance. By letting the alleged malpractices of his Cabinet ministers, CMs or any state minister to dominate primetime headlines and drawing room confabulations, NaMo’s detractors inside and outside are determined to downsize his image as a person who doesn’t take any nonsense. It is also an attempt to erode his authority as PM. The Congress sees Lalitgate as a god-sent opportunity to tarnish Modi. As BJP ministers indulge in an “I-am-cleaner-than-my-colleague” competition, the Congress objective is to extract the scalp of at least one of the leaders involved in the controversy so that NaMo remains crippled for the rest of his term. What could be worse for a leader like him if a 44-MP party can inflict a festering political wound on the 54-inch chest of the PM within 14 months of his tenure?
Moreover, the entire crop of the non-BJP leadership, from the extreme Left to the Congress, would welcome a highly demoralised PM and a divided BJP taking to the campaign trail during the crucial Bihar elections. Modi has no option but to deflect the missiles emanating from the subverted silos of Lalit Saga by targeting his foes carefully and choosing his friends wisely. He must find out who gains from his failure.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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