Essar Leaks reveal less about politicians, more about journalists like Ashish Khetan & Shoma Chaudhury

After trying to create a huge buzz– which soon faded under the discourses of World Cup, Railway Budget and Union Budget – Indian Express has yet again failed to simulate anything close to the Radiagate.

According to one of the reports by The Indian Express, in 2009, during the UPA government, an Essar executive put out an office memo with a proposal to gift 200 top-end cellphones to politicians and MPs. One other report alleges involvement of Sriprakash Jaiswal, Digvijaya Singh, Motilal Vora, Yashbant Narayan Singh Laguri and BJP’s Varun Gandhi for referring candidates for jobs in Essar. Most of these politicians pricked the bubble by saying, “We do recommend unemployed youth from our constituency.”

The Indian Express also dedicated special sections to Nitin Gadkari who was not in the government. In fact, he was asked to step down as the party President of BJP. It would have been more concrete if The Indian Express highlighted something more about the involvement of Nitin Gadkari than writing that: an email to the yacht captain, made it very clear: “are very important people… see they are comfortable.”

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The Indian Express highlights a mail chain which says:

On July 5, the Captain receives another email: “Guests will arrive in Nice on afternoon of July 7 and will depart on July 9… kindly make arrangement for picking them up from Nice on July 7… all 9 guests are pure vegetarian — kindly make the food arrangements accordingly…”

Sandip Roy from First post takes a jibe at these reports by writing, “Essargate has a luxury yacht but hardly any of the other masala ingredients that make for a juicy scandal. Where are the dancing girls and the briefcases of cash? Nitin Gadkari even stuck to his “pure vegetarian” diet on board that yacht and came on board as a full family which when you think of it, sounds more wholesome than scandals should be.”

Other articles from The Indian Express which highlight emails like “Guests are very important people as discussed. Kindly see they are comfortable” fail to raise any serious point.

The narratives were expected to divulge some strong nexus between lobbyists, journalists, industrialists and politicians. However, ordinary stories without strong evidences make the whole coverage look like another TRP hungry journalism by The Indian Express.

The only harsh impact these reports could do or possibly do in the future is to question the role of media and journalists in business houses. After the Essar Leaks were made public, 2 big journalists (Sandeep Bamzai, Editor of Mail Today, and Anupama Airy, Energy Editor of Hindustan Times ) resigned. It is interesting to note that while Hindustan Times Editor-in-Chief Sanjoy Narayan is taking high moral and ethical stand, Anupama Airy has put serious allegations against other people in the organization.

The News Minute has pointed out some of her allegations, including this:

She also claims she had been asked to bring in more than Rs 1 crore worth of sponsorships every year for the annual HT Leadership Summit, and says: “I have been used but I considered it my duty to do things for my organisation and my bosses.”

Questions on the involvement of media don’t stop here. Tehelka, a media face which talks about morality and ethos had defended Essar in 2G scam case. DNA India rightly questions: is too much of a coincidence that the Essar group was also sponsoring media events in Tehelka soon after the magazine printed stories in favour of Essar. In November 2011, Essar group also sponsored Tehelka’s first think fest, held in Goa. Essar chief Prashant Ruia was also a speaker at this event in a session on second day.  The 2014 Lok Sabha candidate of AAP* – Ashish Khetan, who was a journalist in 2011 – had also defended Essar during the same period by calling CBI’s enquiry a Mad Conspiracy.

While these reports failed to strongly conclude involvements of lobbyists, industrialists, and politicians, it has surely put media under scanner.

*Correction: Earlier, we mentioned Ashish Khetan as the minister of AAP. We have corrected it to 2014 Lok Sabha candidate of AAP.


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