Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah snubbed a news reporter when he was questioned about Sonia Gandhi’s role in the Mahadayi river dispute. He was addressing the reporters over the statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue.
Referring to the issue, Siddaramaiah said that the “Decision on Mahadayi water has to be taken by the Prime Minister, not Sonia Gandhi,”. However, when the reporter asked, “But did Mrs Gandhi really block process?”. Falling short of convincing words, CM Siddaramaiah rudely replied – “You don’t understand the issue so keep quiet”. On Saturday during a public rally at Gadag, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed that in 2007 during the Goa assembly polls, the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi had said that her party was not “committed” to sharing the river’s water with southern states.
The two riparian states, Karnataka and Goa, are involved in a dispute over sharing Mahadayi’s water. The issue is pending with the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal which was constituted in December 2010. Prime Minister had claimed that instead of finding a resolution to the dispute, it was referred to the tribunal.
The larger question still looms around whether Congress’ purported freedom of the press applies to senior leaders and even sitting Chief Ministers of the party or it is just a hogwash. Recently during Rahul Gandhi’s Janakrosh rally, a news reporter was manhandled while reporting the poor people turnout. Then, earlier, there have been incidents of women journalists being harassed. Mani Shankar Aiyar, of late the subject of many debates, was also seen snubbing a reporter when questioned over his snide remark on the Prime Minister.
These are not some new politicians who are still learning the tricks of the trade but Chief Ministers, party president, speech writers of former Prime Ministers. In the present case the answer the question should never have been condescending. Many times politicians get away with “No comments”. To be fair, that seems to be a good media management, although defensive, still face-saving. Even stray incidences are forgivable. But the “Freedom of Press” call seems to be a total farce if we link it to the chain the events that keep on happening and somehow it avoids the eyes of press freedom vigilantes. Its as if the Grand Old Party has assumed some kind of diving impunity over the course of time. But someday, someone will have to get up and hold them responsible for the same standards of press freedom that they set for others.