At the recently concluded Mangaluru Lit Fest, a ‘hypothetical’ question from the audience member to news agency ANI Editor Smita Prakash left journalist Barkha Dutt, who was sharing the stage at that time, quite red-faced, to put it mildly.
— Abhinav Agarwal (@AbhinavAgarwal) December 1, 2019
An audience member puts forth a question about unholy nexus between influential journalists and lobbyists reminding everyone about the ghosts of the Radia tapes which let the country know how the narrative was set during the UPA times. The audiene member asks Prakash, “Smita, we are talking about media leanings and employers. Here is a straight hypothetical question. You are a media boss. What would you do if hypothetically you found that one of your journalists or reporters was found to be in cahoots with lobbyists and fixing government ministries. Would you sack that person?”
Prakash says how as an Editor, it is not easy to sack these days. Gathering her composure at the googly thrown at her while sharing a stage with Barkha, whose alleged audio tapes with lobbyist Niira Radia ‘fixing’ ministerial berths had shook the political landscape in 2010, Prakash said this kind of lobbying does not work in her organisation. “Fixing, lobbying, positioning… Firstly we are not important enough to do it. And I don’t think the people who work with me, none of us are involved in such jobs. It is not just fixing ministries. You now see journalists openly write books about how they were part and parcel of India Pakistan peace talks. ‘I told ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan that you should start the bus service. I told ex-General of Pakistan that you should begin talks now. Or that elections should be held at this time. They are actually coming out in the open. Because now what has happened is journalists are 40-50 years’ experience in journalism, so they feel that they did it for the good of the country. Either you are reporting and you are a journalist, or you are a broker and whatever glorifying halo you might have of why you were doing a particular thing, whether for your organisation, whether for the good of the country, for the nation. The fact is you’re not a journalist, you’re a broker.”
When the Radia tapes controversy broke, it acquainted the country with how the narrative is set, Cabinet berths negotiated, the disgraceful nexus between journalists and politicians and the political impunity to brush aside the scam. Not only was this issue hastily swept under the rugs but also all the dramatis personae involved in brokering the deals in Delhi’s power corridors have escaped unscathed from its implications.
Some of those who have had central roles in these tapes have suddenly disappeared from the face of Earth. Others who were in the thick of the controversy have rubbished the tapes as doctored and extenuated themselves from any wrongdoing.
In fact, it is a glorious irony that one of them, Vir Sanghvi, who allegedly sought the lobbyist Niira Radia’s opinion on how ‘slanted’ does she wanted an article to be is today hosting a news programme with the name ‘Virtuosity’. The other journalist who featured in Radia tapes, M K Venu, today, has started his own leftist propaganda organisation ‘The Wire’ to counter the ‘supposed’ propaganda run by the MSM, notwithstanding the fact that he actively promotes fabricated and concocted stories through his social media account.
Another liberal lodestar, perhaps the cynosure of this story is Barkha Dutt, who sounded as an alleged conduit for Congress in the Radia tapes, relaying the information sought by Radia and seeking directions from her when in doubt. According to the conversation transcripts between her and Niira Radia, Radia was lobbying against the reappointment of Dayanidhi Maran to the post of Union IT and Communications minister and Barkha was allegedly actively mediating between the two parties to somehow end the stalemate and form a government at the centre.
In the 2009 elections, the Congress emerged as the single largest party but evidently, it was short of the 272-mark to claim a stake at the government. Congress needed DMK’s support to form the government. As a result, DMK came with a set of demands including Cabinet berths and ministerial positions for some of its ministers. The ensuing impasse sparked off a series of negotiation which the transcripts between Radia and Barkha allude to.
The impasse was eventually sorted out and A Raja from DMK was handed the ministry of IT and Telecom by the Congress then. It is pertinent to note that it was under A Raja, that the serious charges of arbitrarily allocating the 2G spectrum and crony capitalism were levelled against the government by the CAG.
This is not the first time Barkha Dutt has been left with an egg on her face on a public platform. Years ago on her show ‘The Buck Stops Here’ on NDTV while debating on corruption and lokpal, Dutt had asked Swami Agnivesh’s views on politicians stepping down on allegations of corruption.
Swami Agnivesh had responded with how would her reaction be if a ‘journalist’ who hosts a popular show is initiating debates on corruption while she herself is accused of indulging in it, should the journalist get themselves cleared of charges to have moral rights to hold debates? He has asked Dutt if such a journalist should step down.