By Sanjay Jha

Last week was kind of hugely depressing. Well-known names that one has got to like, admire and trust over years suddenly got themselves caught up in this typical Delhi-power-politics mess post May elections 2009. Frankly, to use tennis player Andy Roddick’s phrase, one felt “ gutted”. But that’s life. It looks like the predictable cartel in a whistleblower-kind  George Clooney Hollywood thriller; corporate-media-bureaucrat-politician nexus. Of course, the assumption is that all the disclosures in Outlook and Open magazine are genuine. So far, of course, no one has denied their  authenticity with any degree of conviction. Somewhere, I confess to hoping that the filth and contamination does at least, through some providential intervention, escape some of the names. But to be honest, things don’t portend too well. Facts don’t cease to exist, because we ignore them. Or hope that they are otherwise.

These are indeed difficult days for some of us who ideologically support the Congress party publicly  —primarily, its secular character, at least that which is professed in their manifestos  It was indeed pathetic to read that reportedly a billionaire industrialist should treat the grand old political party ( in its 125th year, no less) that gave us our magical tryst with destiny in 1947 , was instrumental in our freedom struggle, and produced leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel amongst other greats, is considered by him to be like a “ shop”, where apparently deals can be negotiated. And just about anything can be purchased, and anyone can be cajoled into offering  a discount. Like a 24×7 x365 day bargain store.  To me, that was the most tragic discovery after reading the frankly insufferable transcripts. As a Congress supporter, that was  hugely  disappointing.

We also discover that cabinet positions are not given on competence , experience or capability, but are up for sale with the potential hidden income of the portfolio in it being the critical deciding factor. Bizarre family wars down South India are deciding the future of video streaming on our mobile sets—ridiculous!  Everything is up for grabs, for auction. Respected journalists, our current daily drivers for a corruption-free India , are found to be unduly enthusiastic about who gets what, when , where and how ?  My only question is —Why??? In India right now, despite all the criticism they frequently receive, it is the Fourth Estate that still can and should try and remain above suspicious , shifty and smutty intent  as a lot rides on their credibility. For everyone perhaps , a serious time for solemn introspection.

I think the most relevant aspect of the Niira Radia tapes is : was she just a PR-lobbyist doing deals for well-known sugar daddy clients , or was she also following and executing the logical next step, “ arranging kickback funds” for those who had magnanimously offered to help with their “ services”. That could be the real moral statement of the story; was there a quid pro quo , a pay-off ? Or was it just standard verbal exchange between players on a massive ego-trip parading their proximity to the powers-that-be ? Or is that the way Delhi really works and was thus deemed by some to be SOP?

Too many questions for a literally cloudy Monday morning outside of my window.  Time to get some food for a growling tummy. And then hopefully, some answers. It promises to be a long cold winter in India.

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