03 May 2010 last page

Delhi Diary

Lalit Modi is now toast. As he twists and turns, I hope he sings like a canary. For once in this country, let us catch the real crooks.

Tharoor vs Tharoor

The life and times of Shashi Tharoor resemble a morality tale. Here is a man who begins life with an extra-long silver spoon in his mouth. Clever, even brilliant, awesomely well-educated, lucky enough to land one of the most coveted jobs on the planet, author of several critically acclaimed books, he comes within a whisker of being elected Secretary General of the UN, manages to win a Lok Sabha seat, becomes a minister in the privileged foreign affairs ministry—and then throws it all away. Why? Is this man carrying an irresistible death wish? Or is he just a flawed hero of Shakespearean proportions? According to me, the above discussion is infinitely more interesting than whether he is a gentleman crook.

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Mr Tharoor’s CV suggests that from an early age he was seen as the boy genius—a faculty he knew he possessed, relished and was keen to advertise. His fairy godmother had bestowed on him another curse: he was effortlessly articulate on subjects ranging from Vijay Hazare to single malt whisky to global finance to jehadi terrorism. Such fluency with words, such well-formed arguments, such verbal poise, such lightness of touch.... No wonder he was heavily in demand in Delhi’s social circles, book-chat soirees, memorial lectures and chatterati tittle-tattle. His fall is, in fact, a huge blow for the 24x7 media which requires instant judgements delivered in polished prose. Shashi Tharoor was their man.

Most of us who fancy ourselves as god’s gift to humanity are victims of hubris. Fortunately, a few in this league are occasionally assailed by self-doubt—which keeps us out of mischief. Self-doubt, I suspect, is a phrase Mr Tharoor has never heard. If he ever got into hot water, or was caught with his hand in the till, or committed a gaffe, he was sure his dexterity with words would see him through. He was nearly right!

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So, where is the morality tale? What is it that the super smart need never to forget? The best and the brightest, those with the most precocious and dazzling minds, are frequently their own worst enemies. Shashi Tharoor was brought down by Shashi Tharoor.


Cricketing Trickster

In the other corner is a far less interesting person—possibly a classical crook. I readily concede that he has created the superbly entertaining and wildly successful IPL, which has caught the imagination of those boys and girls who believe cricket is nothing more than showbiz. (You’d be surprised how many of these kids exist.) For business model creation, Mr Lalit Modi should be given a national award whatever his contribution to destroying and distorting a noble game. Alas, the culture of sleaze and crime the tournament has spawned takes one’s breath away. There seems to be no provision of the IPC which Modi does not seem to have violated. Bribery, forgery, conspiracy to murder, underworld links, call-girls and prostitution, money-laundering, insider trading, illegal betting, match-fixing, theft, drugs...these are some of the misdeeds Lalit Modi is accused of. Prima facie, the allegations appear to have some substance. Clearly, Modi is a hood; Tharoor is a confidence trickster.

As I write (Wednesday), Lalit Modi is fighting a last-ditch battle. The odds seem stacked heavily against him. However, it would be a travesty of justice if Mr Modi goes down alone. Senior ministers in the UPA, from an “important ally” of the Congress, also neck-deep in the IPL muck, seem at once tranquil and troubled. They say with apparent sincerity that they have “nothing to do with IPL”. We shall see!

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Lalit Modi is now toast. As he twists and turns, I hope he sings like a canary. For once in this country, let us catch the real crooks.


Next, Please

Is there nothing else happening in the country besides the Tharoor-Modi-IPL drama? The wall-to-wall coverage on TV channels and the print media is massively over the top. I am well aware of the dangers of giving gratuitous advice to fellow editors—I accept it is a terrific masala story—but, finally, we are debating a cricket circus with lots of money and dames. Supposing the drama goes on till April 26, when the IPL governing council is scheduled to meet, supposing the meeting is postponed or the main issue remains unresolved, supposing a JPC or CBI inquiry is launched (which, at the very least, will take six months), do we continue with the saturation coverage? As the poet said, “aur bhi gham hain zamane mein IPL ke siva”.


Modified Mutt

Someone asked me which party Editor would support, if he could vote. Since his proprietor is a pseudo-secularist and since he was discovered in a ditch, he is a copybook aam-aadmi. And probably a chamcha of you-know-who. However, of late, he has been showing disturbing tendencies. Whenever Narendra Modi appears on TV, Editor stares at the screen mesmerised. What does this suggest? Is he turning into a closet admirer of the 21st century’s Iron Man of Gujarat?

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