Last September, Narendra Modi was on his first trip to the U.S. as prime minister. The trip was covered extensively, and the energy around it was electric. Investment was promised, Pakistan was exposed and in a sense, dormant India made a strong comeback to the international circuit. The only little prick was a scuffle that occurred outside Madison Square Garden before the prime minister’s famous speech. Those involved were, and still are for that matter, too insignificant to cause much to damage to a highly successful foreign trip. But Indians fighting among themselves on the streets of New York made us hang our heads in shame. And that an ‘eminent’ personality in India was involved, a ‘senior’ journalist that too, enhanced our embarrassment. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
A year later, September 2015, the same ‘eminent’ personality and ‘senior’ journalist Rajdeep Sardesai wrote an open letter to Maharashtra chief minister Devenra Fadnavis in a newspaper column. He denounced the way Mr. Fadnavis’ government was running the state. He advised him to get his priorities right. To put it in perspective, Devendra Fadnavis is the elected chief minister of one of India’s largest states. Sardesai is a senior editor in one of the country’s media houses. It is difficult to keep track of which media house considering the game of musical chairs that’s played in this space. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
Fadnavis responded. He tore Sardesai’s letter apart. He tore Sardesai apart in the process. Sardesai made three points. He was given a point by point rebuttal. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
Sardesai first questioned him about the meat ban. He asked why he had banned meat when only a small section of Brahmins were pure vegetarian. It was an infringement on the values of individual freedom. He was duly told that the ban wasn’t imposed by the current government but by the Congress government back in 2004. “Surprisingly, none of you ever objected to it until we came to power… It’s quite possible that you know this but it doesn’t suit your agenda,” the chief minister remarked. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
Sardesai asked him next about the sudden transfer of Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria. He took objection to the fact that it was done when investigations into the high profile Sheen Bora murder case were still on, and said that it didn’t send out the right message. The chief minister told him it was going to happen according to procedure anyway, and he chose to do it before the festive season began rather than in the middle of it. He also exposed Sardesai and the entire mainstream media for the disproportionate attention the Sheena Bora murder case received.
The last question Sardesai asked him was about the new guidelines the police had to follow regarding sedition charges. Here too, Sardesai was exposed. He was told that this wasn’t the government’s decision. It was simply a conveyance of the high court’s order to the police. Sardesai had asked the government to focus on helping poor farmers instead of doing what it was doing. The chief minister informed him about his government’s ongoing scheme to make the state drought free and how successful it had been over the last six months. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
All of this can only lead us to believe one of two things. Either Rajdeep is supremely ignorant. Or Rajdeep has an ulterior motive. It is possible that he intentionally spread lies thinking he would get away just like his other mainstream media colleagues. But it wasn’t to be. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
Nobody expected the chief minister of an important state to respond to a journalist in a newspaper column. There are pros and cons to this. First, Fadnavis coming out in the open and putting things in the right light is a positive step. That policy is being discussed and debated in the public domain, is a positive step too. But it is sad that the chief minister is forced to descend to such levels and answer scribes with agendas. The chief minister can make better use of his time and hopefully this doesn’t become a precedent. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
Sardesai shared Fadnavis’ rebuttal on Twitter and said, “…we agree to disagree on few points like meat ban, Maria transfer, sedition laws.” This doesn’t make sense. These are not things one can have an opinion on. These are clear cut facts. Sardesai misrepresented them. Fadnavis exposed the misrepresentation. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
Sardesai also Tweeted: “Appreciate detailed response by @Dev_Fadnavis to my open letter. It is a healthy sign for democracy if CMs respond to humble hacks.” At least here, Sardesai was right. According to Urban Dictionary, hack is a person who is a professional at doing some sort of service, but does a crappy work. DevendraSlapsRajdeep
The other person who can draw a lesson from this incident is Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Whenever the media does some ‘injustice’ to him, his government publishes full page advertisements in newspapers defending their position. They do this using taxpayer money. Kejriwal should consider following the example of fellow chief minister Fadnavis. The response is more effective and not a rupee is wasted.