May 29, 2020
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New Delhi Diary

For the great political pundits of Indian journalism, being media advisor to Rahul Gandhi and being an RSS nominee is one and the same thing.

New Delhi Diary
Photograph by Sanjay Rawat
New Delhi Diary
Chamcha of the Gandhis

To be Vinod Mehta’s successor (though once removed) and then to be called a ‘Gandhi family chamcha’ is reassuring. That means the magazine is on track, despite the desperate attempts by the Twitterati to call us names. But what got the goat of Outlook’s dear right-wing readers is a signed editorial on P.V. Narasimha Rao, the former prime minister. The political Brahmins of this country take any attack on Rao personally. It seems Rao is considered a greater Brahmin than even Atal Behari Vajpayee, our last Brahmin PM.

To a large extent, it is a fact that Rao changed India’s political landscape permanently (if at all there is anything permanent in politics). He created a new category in Indian politics: the secular economic right-wing, an ideological group akin to the Swatantra Party, founded by C. Rajagopalachari and V.P. Menon. But unlike the original conservatives, the Rao acolytes comprise a motley crowd that includes former SFI leaders who found a political opportunity in abandoning Marx and embracing the market. Their prime reason obviously was that the Soviet Union had collapsed and there was no one left to fund their opportunistic Left enterprises. Now, with Narendra Modi in power, these economic right-wingers close to the Congress want to align with their old comrades in the parliamentary Left to take on the Hindu Right.

Playing Lutyens Games

Suddenly, the spectre of fascism looms over Delhi’s power corridors. And the ones who are crying wolf are those who were used to being feted by the high and mighty all these years. Suddenly they find themselves with no access to power. So they have started writing open letters to Modi, and begun beating their breast over loss of freedom of speech and predicting the death of democracy. All this grave threat to the idea of India would vanish into thin air if Modi, his cabinet colleagues or his PMO mandarins give these opinion-makers some bhaav, biscuits and tea.

The biggest story behind a story last week was about an interview getting dropped by a news channel. Stories get routinely dropped in every news establishment everywhere in the world for various reasons. But this became news because the journalist who did the interview was always more important than news itself. This one had tried to take embarrassing selfies with Modi during his first Diwali Milan at the BJP headquarters. But that was the closest the journalist could get to the PM. After killing so many stories to please various people in power all these years, the journalist is now claiming martyrdom. Doublespeak, thy name is Lutyens’ journalism!

The So-De Argot

If South Bombay is a place where the rich and mighty live, South Delhi is a state of mind and a gateway to pomp. Though there are lots of urban villages and cheap places to stay in the area, it is generally accepted that you ought to be a rich man’s son or daughter or pose as one to be in South Delhi. Here is where the Lutyens’ power elite lives. It is strange what South Delhi (or So-De, with that pseudo ring to it) can do even to Delhiites. There is a story of a well-known journalist taking a generous Rs 2 crore “loan” from a lobbyist to buy a house in South Delhi. I came to Delhi from a small town on the Kerala coast and would never dare cross the Yamuna, primarily because there is a So-De accent or the NDTV voiceover test, which I had failed miserably.

Left, Right or Centre?

When I joined Outlook, the magazine was trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. Una­d­ul­terated venom was showered on the magazine for no fault of ours. Or rather, the ostensible reason was that I was perceived as an RSS nominee or a government toady. Just before the announcement of my appointment, the same group of people who went mad on Twitter was quizzing me to find out whe­ther I was joining Rahul Gandhi as his media advisor. For the great political pundits of Indian journalism, being media advisor to Rahul Gandhi and being an RSS nominee is one and the same thing.

Say thanks!

The Congress politician whose interview got dropped should remember me in his prayers. About 15 years ago, he toyed with the idea of joining the BJP, when many thought that the Congress would never return to power. I broke the story in The Times of India and, as a result, a section of the BJP turned against him. He won the 2004 election and remained in power for a decade. Had he joined the BJP, he would have been out of power till 2014, by which time he would have crossed 70 and turned ineligible to ­become a minister in Modi’s scheme of things.

Last word

If imitation is flattery, I ought to write about my differently abled dog, Leo. But that will be to invoke Vinod Mehta too much.

E-mail your diarist: rajesh.ramachandran [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com

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