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Rajdeep Sardesai
Friday , June 27, 2014

The politics behind governors

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A former UPA minister relates a delightful story of an ex judge who had been identified to head the contentious "Snoopgate" probe. The judge declined the offer but had an alternate proposal in mind: "Why don't you make me a governor instead!" suggested the venerable judge. The reason was obvious: as head of an inquiry commission that was politically controversial, the judge would be in the line of fire. As a governor, he was seemingly assured of a five year term and a wonderful sinecure in a cosy Raj Bhavan. The story is relevant in the context of the ongoing debate on governors sparked off by the Narendra Modi government's attempt to ease out a few Raj Bhavan occupants who are seen as Congress "loyalists". Actually, the Modi government has been a shade more gentle in dealing with the issue than the UPA government which in 2004 almost overnight....

Friday , June 13, 2014

India nowhere in sight as FIFA World Cup kicks off

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Forget power cuts, "aache din" are here for the Indian sports fan. Over the next few weeks, the world will be tied into football fever. We will be dazzled by the artistry of a Messi and Ronaldo; fans in Kolkata will wear Brazilian shirts; pubs in Mumbai will have special screenings; and life in Goa and Kerala will revolve around a ball. We will celebrate the spirit of the beautiful game even as the national team won't be playing it yet again. In the 84 year history of the event, we have not participated in the World Cup finals even once. We almost did in 1950, coincidentally also hosted by Brazil, but had to withdraw because we were not allowed to play barefoot. The 1950s and early 60s are perhaps the golden age of Indian football: we won the gold at the inaugural Asian Games in 1951, repeated our....

Friday , May 30, 2014

The Modi government must take lessons from the Rajiv Gandhi government of 1984

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The new joke in the corridors of power is that if in the last five years the country suffered because it didn't have a strong government, the next five years could be worrisome because we don't have a strong opposition. The last time we had a majority government was in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister with a whopping 414 MPs in a 543 member house with the next highest being NT Rama Rao's Telugu Desam with 30 seats. The BJP, in its new avatar, had got just two. Indian politics has changed dramatically in the intervening period, but the lessons of those five years maybe useful for both the Narendra Modi government and for the opposition. The Rajiv years in power were a period of missed opportunities and catastrophic mistakes. From the failure to stand up to Muslim fundamentalism in the Shahbano case to the capitulation before....

Friday , May 16, 2014

There is a long list of Congress leaders behind Narendra Modi's success

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Barring a miracle, at some stage today, Narendra Modi will be poised to fulfil his long cherished ambition of being the next prime minister. Yes, exit polls have a spotty record in the country, but unless we have all got it horribly wrong, there is no reason to believe that there isn't a Modi 'wave' in large parts of the country, if not a tsunami. When Modi writes his blog and thanks the Indian voter, here are a few more thank you cards he should send out. On top of the list will be Rahul Gandhi. No individual can be held solely responsible for a party's electoral defeat, but the fact is, Mr Gandhi had his chance and fluffed it. His approach to the elections was collegiate: almost as if he was participating in a student council election and not in a battle for the heart of India. The....

Friday , May 02, 2014

Congress clearly second best to BJP in the media war

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In this open season against the media, the prime minister has chosen to weigh in by describing the "Modi wave" as a "media creation". It is almost as if all the opinion polls, roadshows, speeches, interviews and public reactions have been choreographed by the media to prop up the BJP's prime ministerial candidate. The last time I heard a similar accusation was, ironically, before the Delhi assembly elections in December when Arvind Kejriwal was described as a "television studio" phenomenon. Truth is, both Modi and Kejriwal have simply used the modern media weaponry much better than their rivals. Kejriwal's style was almost guerrilla-like. Facing a resource crunch, he timed his high-profile interventions to match the demands of prime time 24x7 television. His much publicized dharna at Rajpath, for example, was designed to ensure that he monopolized the airwaves. Modi, on the other hand, has gone the carpet bombing....

Friday , April 18, 2014

Vote with clarity and purpose, and make it count

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A vote is meant to be a secret ballot, but here is an honest confession: last Thursday, as I entered the polling booth, I was confronted with a strange sense of confusion. The electronic voting machine seemed to stare at me with unusual ferocity and my finger grew weak. At the bottom of the list of candidates was, in screaming capital letters, the word 'NOTA'. Should I be voting for none of the above, I asked myself with ever-increasing angst. I vote in the New Delhi constituency, one of the most prized battlegrounds in the country. The top three candidates here were the sitting MP of the Congress, Ajay Maken, the BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi and the Aam Admi Party's Ashish Khetan. You could argue that I was spoilt for choice and yet my finger was nervously twitching towards the NOTA button. I know Mr Maken quite....

Thursday , April 03, 2014

Narendra Modi needs to do much more to reach out to Muslims

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"He is an expert in turning a lie into the truth. It is the BJP's principle to divide the nation and rule. Wherever the BJP government is in power, there is more corruption. Modi has started thinking that by promoting a few industrialists and a constant presence in the media, he can take over the nation. He does not understand that 70 per cent of India is rural and this is not going to affect them. He is not only poor in calculation, but poor in history". That severe indictment of the BJP's prime ministerial candidate came in December last year from Sabir Ali, the politician who now has the dubious distinction of having been a member of the BJP for just 24 hours. All it took for Mr Ali to change his views on Mr Modi was the fact that he was denied a re-nomination to the Rajya....

Monday , March 24, 2014

In election season, media faces credibility crisis, becomes a punching bag for politicians

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This is open season against the Indian media. Arvind Kejriwal says that he will throw journalists in jail if he comes to power (he later qualified that he was referring to "some" journalists). Manohar Parikkar, the BJP's aam aadmi chief minister, has said that journalists are unqualified and take money to write. The Congress has already boycotted opinion polls and accused the media of being biased against it. On social media - the ultimate space for the "outrage industry" - journalists are routinely accused of being 'paid media'. For Modi bhakts, Congress chamchas and AAP cheerleaders, media bashing has become this election season's favourite sport. The charge of being "biased" reflects a rising intolerance among the political faithful. So long as the media was hailing Arvind Kejriwal as the ultimate anti-corruption Prophet, we were, in the eyes of aam admi supporters, allies in their war. Now, when we raise....

Friday , March 07, 2014

The striking similarities of Modi and Indira's politics

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Narendra Modi today claims to derive inspiration from Sardar Patel and Swami Vivekananda even if his original icon was the long-serving RSS chief, Guru Golwalkar. Patel and Vivekananda are natural choices for the BJP's prime ministerial candidate: with Patel, there is the instant strongman from Gujarat connect while Vivekananda gives him the image of an "inclusive" Hindu nationalist. The truth is, Modi's real role model in the 2014 election is someone very different: the former prime minister, Indira Gandhi. The choice of Indira Gandhi may seem highly incongruous at first. Modi has claimed in the past that his decision to enter public life was cemented during the Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat in the early 70s directed against Indira's government. He, like many opposition leaders, has referred to the Emergency as the darkest period in India's democracy. And yet, in his 2014 campaign, he has attacked almost the entire....

Friday , February 21, 2014

AAP and the business of Delhi-centric news

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The phrase 'tyranny of distance' was first used by writer Robert Hughes in his epic book "Fatal Shore" on the history of Australia, a country seemingly burdened by its geographical isolation. This columnist has used it in the past to try and explain skewed news priorities where a minor fire in Delhi's Connaught Place becomes breaking news while a blast in the heart of Imphal becomes a peripheral news item. Sadly, even in this age of satellite television and OB vans, the distance between the news capital of the country and the rest of India seems to be widening. An immediate beneficiary and, ironically, victim too of this grim news reality has been Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party. A few weeks ago, I was in Kolkata, struggling to get to a meeting because the roads were choked with thousands of Mamata Banerjee supporters. The West Bengal chief....


More about Rajdeep Sardesai

Rajdeep Sardesai was the Editor-in-Chief, IBN18 Network, that includes CNN-IBN, IBN 7 and IBN Lokmat. He has 22 years of journalistic experience during which he has covered some of the biggest stories in India and the world. Prior to setting up the IBN network, he was the Managing Editor of both NDTV 24X7 and NDTV India and was responsible for overseeing the news policy for both the channels. He has also worked with The Times of India for six years and was the city editor of its Mumbai edition at the age of 26. During the last 22 years, he has covered major national and international stories, specialising in national politics. He has won numerous other awards for journalistic excellence, including the prestigious Padma Shri for journalism in 2008, the International Broadcasters Award for coverage of the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for 2007. He has won the Asian Television Award for best talk show for the Big Fight on two occasions and his current flagship show on CNN-IBN, India at 9, has been awarded the best news show at the Asian awards for the last two years. He has been News Anchor of the year at the Indian Television Academy for seven of the last eight years and won more than 50 awards in this period. He has also been the President of the Editors Guild of India, the only television journalist to hold the post and was chosen a Global leader for tomorrow by the world economic forum in 2000. An alumni of St Xavier's College, Mumbai, he has done his Masters and LLB from Oxford University and has also played first class cricket for the Oxford University team. He has contributed to several books and writes a fortnightly column that appears in seven newspapers.


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