– by SANJAY JHA
I am surprised that Mr Arun Shourie has not taken full credit for the Congress-UPA victory. While the BJP looked clearly rudderless, uninspiring and adrift throughout the campaign, the former editor of the respected daily Indian Express was the celebrated one who espoused the cause of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister right in the middle of the campaign. It is difficult to fathom what his real intentions were, but the constantly prowling for breaking news-media promptly pounced on that fleshy bone and made it into a leadership debate. The BJPs fast acceleration on a steep decline to nowhere got further accentuated. Frankly, it must have certainly confused borderline supporters of Hindutva, not totally supportive of a fascist intonation in their philosophy.
In the 1980s, when we were just getting into the political groove as college students, Shourie masterfully carried the image of being an incorruptible social crusader. He was the poster-boy of expose journalism, at a time when most editorial types were merely happy writing lengthy prose, albeit with a fine flair . Khushwant Singh was of course, the most entertaining media-columnist and editor, writing in his friendly conversational style. S Nihal Singh, Girilal Jain, Dileep Padgaonkar, MV Kamath , Kuldeep Nayar were all well-honed editors, who essentially focused on government inadequacies and political and foreign policy issues, with their own personal ideology not necessarily obfuscating the germane issues. Kamath came out of the closet in his saffron robes post-relinquishing office. Shourie played a more calculated game.
What no one , of course, ever knew or suspected Shourie of was his dyed-in-wool RSS links, an ideological engagement that Shourie deceptively concealed from us all, even as he raised a massive publicity blitz on Congress misrule as a “neutral” commentator. He intelligently created his own personal constituency, wrote unreadable boring books, and using the Indian Express platform, worked on demolishing Rajiv Gandhi and Congress regimes, which was anyway his principal goal. Shourie & co adroitly enough used “ alleged corruption” to capture public imagination and sent Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress into wilderness. It was the ultimate in flagrant exploitation of a media vehicle for a planned political assault, notwithstanding challenges within the Congress party.
Strange, but the same “pseudo-intellectual” ( sorry, Advani Saab, for borrowing your quote) was conspicuously silent when his own BJP President was caught napping or snapping cash on live television. Not a word was uttered on civil liberty when Tehelka was hounded using brute government power. And of course, the huge telecom slush money was quietly ignored.
It is a pity that Shourie’s frontage still holds a magic for some. Even the BJP , which was unforgiving on Advani for the Jinnah remark, has generally ignored the ex-editor’s classic faux pas, which substantially helped in submerging them in the elections.
Frankly, I like Swapan Dasgupta and Chandan Mitra; they carry their heart , head and ideology on their sleeves; no deceitful exterior, no false pretensions.
I only hope Mr Shourie is not the new-media hero, the Fake IPL Player.