Indrajit Hazra may be a journalist by profession, but his book The Bioscope Man confirms what others have suspected for long - that he needs a day job. Currently a Consultant Editor of Hindustan Times, he writes the fortnightly music column Rock'n'Roll Circus and the sometimes satirical, sometimes not satirical at all Sunday column Red Herring. When no one's looking, he writes in other publications too.
At The Altar Of Raabert
It’s a painful experience to watch Congress spokespersons defend the people they choose to defend. It’s painful not because they bend over backwards to make their beliefs – leaps of faith, really – sound like arguments, but because they make such a bad case as an army of defendants.
Earlier this week, I was watching Renuka Choudhury, an upgraded version of Ambika Soni, on Times Now where even she seemed to realise that she was making a hash of defending “a citizen of this country”, “a businessman who was related to the Congress president” who was under attack from the wily, professional beehive-breaker par excellence Arvind Kejriwal. Among the key points that Congress Rajya Sabha member and spokesperson Choudhury made regarding the charges (sic) Kejriwal had made against Raabert Vadra were the following gems:
1) The price of gold bangles also go up, right? So what was so odd about the land that Raabert had bought for an average price of Rs 2.6 lakh per acre in Haryana “going up” to Rs 16 lakh per acre?
2) “Wow! Wow! Wow!” A triple-smash return to a fellow panelist’s query about the propriety of Raabert’s “dealings” with the real estate giant DLF and the Haryana government. It was supposed to be a rhetorical comment dripping with sarcasm, but what it came across as was the nonsensical utterings of a defendant whose face had started to show the first drippings of nervous sweat.
3) “It is trash!” Her description of the documents that Kejriwal had been flashing about like a bad-marriage kundli that’s supposed to nail Raabert for corrupt dealings.
4) “A-ha ha-ha”. A variation of “Wow! Wow! Wow!” but loaded with the observation that a fellow panelist who questioned the validity of Kejriwal’s charges against Raabert – and who suggested that an independent investigative body take up the matter – should now recant everything and admit that Raabert is being victimised.
Harish Salve, was DLF’s lawyer, was making a far better defence of his client than the harried graduate in industrial psychology from Bangalore University was defending hers. So when Vinod Sharma, my colleague at Hindustan Times joined the panel, I could make out Renuka-ji heaving a sigh of relief. The tag in the kabbadi team had finally arrived.
What happens to Congress spokespersons when someone from The Family, as opposed to the party, comes in the sniper’s line of vision? Clearly, things were far more crisp and effective when Salman Khurshid responded to another Kejriwal-hanging, this time a charge against Khurshid and his wife of forging signatures to channel charity money elsewhere. Khurshid said that he would sue Kejriwal.
But when it comes to Raabert, even the word “suing” seems to suggest turning The Family into a family and all the horrors of de-mythification which that entails. It’s a valid point about Kejriwal and his party not going to the courts to present their “evidence” against Raabert. Clearly, the Arvind Gang wants to milk this cow (lemon?) in the public domain where selective rumours are as good, if not better, than an empirically-argued case. If they took it to the courts right at the beginning, the matter would become sub judice and it would politically become an issue trapped in a non-issue box.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean that the Congress and its bevy of spokespersons shouldn’t go on and on about the need for Kejriwal and Co to settle the matter in the courts. They certainly should – instead of making noises that make it sound as if even they are, in their hearts of hearts, unsure about what Raabert has been up to. The defenders of the faith and the defendants of Raabert should – at the cost of making the gentleman seem like a mere ordinary VIP rather than No. 31 on the list exempt from pre-embarkation security checks at all civil airports in the country (the only one exempted by name rather than by their designation) – take rumour-mongers to the cleaners by hiring a good lawyer, in the same way Khurshid plans to while defending himself and his wife.
In a way, what pujaris such as Renuka Chowdhury and Manish Tiwari are doing is exactly what the self-styled Jacobins such as Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan want them to do. To show themselves up as fundamentalists defending a religion in which aspersions cast on a minor deity are blasphemy which deserve the ultimate punishment of “Wow! Wow! Wow!” on national television.