My advice to Vir Sanghvi remains the same

When the fourth pillar develops some cracks...

bvrao

BV Rao | November 19, 2010




The nation is drowning in scams, each one bigger, dirtier and more sinister than the earlier. As every scam takes our collective sense of national pride a notch lower, we have been thankful to the media for constantly highlighting corruption at high places and demanding action. The government (and politicians), bureaucrats and judiciary, the three pillars of our constitution, have been under intense scrutiny from the fourth, the media. But the fourth pillar itself has long developed some cracks. And yesterday, when Open magazine published audio tapes of top editors Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt talking to Nira Radia (a corporate lobbyist) on all kinds of dealing-making, that pillar received the biggest jolt in recent times.

The tape of Vir's conversation with Radia centres around what Vir should write for his upcoming column "Counterpoint" in the Hindustan Times. Vir is asking Radia how best to bat for Mukesh Ambani in his then raging fight with Anil Ambani without appearing to take sides. Vir's article appeared the next day (June 21, 2009) under the title "Time for some transparency". Vir wrote another "Counterpoint" column on the Ambani feud on August 15. Even though I was not privy to this taped conversation then, it was clear to me that Vir was plugging for Mukesh in the second article titled "Bhaisaabs fight your battles elsewhere". The same day, I wrote an article for my blog thevigil.in (Governance Now was not yet born) under the title "And Here's My Advice to Vir Sanghvi."

The same is reproduced here because of its relevance to Governance Now readers in light of Open magazines disclosure. Here goes:

And Here's My Advice to Vir Sanghvi

By B V Rao

“Bhaisaabs, fight your battles elsewhere”. That’s the title to Vir Sanghvi’s “Counterpoint” column in today’s Hindustan Times dealing with Ambani brothers war.

Equating this to the Reliance versus Bombay Dyeing war of the 1980s with Mukesh in Dhirubhai’s role and Anil in Nusli Wadia’s, Vir observes that liberalisation has not done much to keep the government’s nose out of corporate wars.

He says that the Ambani brothers and our politicians are making a family-corporate fight into a national issue in a “country that is facing so many problems” and that means “something has gone badly wrong”. He thus reminds the politicians that their loyalty should be to the people of India, not to Mukesh or Anil. “It is us you represent.”

The other point that comes across clearly in Vir’s article is that this case should be left to the courts to decide, away from the glare of publicity: “Already the papers are obsessed with this battle – it gets more coverage than it deserves….a majority of Indians are not qualified to judge the rights and wrongs of this very complicated issue….why should the people of India be expected to judge who is right or wrong?”

But what was of particular interest to me was this: “All this is ostensibly a battle over rate charged for gas. I don’t know who is in the right in this case: Mukesh or Anil. My friend Tony Jesudasan, who represents Anil, took me out to lunch and made out a case for Anil. I was totally convinced till my friend Niira Radia, who represents Mukesh, gave me the other side which, frankly, seemed just as convincing to my inexpert ears.”

This struck me particularly hard because Vir forgets his own advice (“this has nothing to do with us”) and the cardinal principle of friendship: When two friends fight a wise third friend never gets involved, especially when he is wearing two “inexpert ears” and doubts his own credentials as an agony aunt.

So, after two lunches (I am assuming his friend Niira also lunched him though Vir doesn’t say so), Vir takes the beaten “I’m-neither-for-Mukesh-nor-for-Anil” path and advices both to take their battles “elsewhere”.

Wasted advice.

Reliance has never fought its corporate battles in the market place. It has never believed in fighting its battles anywhere but “elsewhere”: in the media and in the corridors of power-Delhi. There is no “elsewhere” on this country that has been untouched by a hot Reliance war.

I have no idea what kind of food appeals to Vir’s palette but I get the impression that he liked the Niira lunch (if there was one) better than the Tony lunch. (Tip for Tony: Read Rude Food more often.)

That’s perhaps why, though he has not understood much about the issue at hand, he is clear who the aggressor is: “Just as (Nusli) Wadia was consumed by his mission to destroy Dhirubhai, Anil seems consumed by a desire to destroy Mukesh. Wadia was constantly launching salvos against Reliance just as Anil does these days. Wadia would attack Congress ministers for their closeness to Reliance; Anil is doing the same. Wadia would hire such lawyers as Ram Jethmalani to fight Reliance in the courts; Anil has done the same thing.”

It is Anil who is “doing” everything, while all that poor Mukesh has ever done is to wish well for his recalcitrant little brother.

Vir says in conclusion (the words in parenthesis are mine): “So, here’s my advice to the Ambanis: ….Please fight your battles elsewhere (a Macau retreat with a hefty per diem for the journalist would be just fine). They have nothing to do with us (except for a few five-star lunches). And you are damaging India with your media campaigns (and the suckers in the media will do anything after a few free meals) and with your political friends who disrupt Parliament on your behalf.”

Vir continues: “And here’s my advice to the politicians: Don’t make the same mistakes all over again. Are you Samajwadis or Ambaniwadis? For India’s sake, let the Ambanis solve their problems on their own.”

And here’s my advice to you, Mr Sanghvi: Let’s ask ourselves, are we journalists or free-loaders? If two lunches from both the Ambani camps have left you only more confused, imagine how it must be playing out down the hierarchy in every paper and channel. From the way the war is waging in the media, it seems like many people are willing to get confused and have had multiple lunches and more.

Then we have this additional problem, Mr Sanghvi. Some journalists are light eaters, so they might accept only one lunch. That might be good for their digestive system and avoids the clutter in the mind. They can stay convinced by the logic of the person who gives them the first lunch, but you know what it can do to journalism.

So this thing strikes me like a bolt of lightning, Mr Sanghvi: Should not journalists try to understand the issues from their office desks rather than over five-star lunches? Home-cooked food, Mr Sanghvi, home-cooked food. There’s nothing rude about it and it doesn’t leave you with a grumbling stomach and a crumbling brain.

This article originally appeared on August 16, 2009 at the Vigil.

Also see
Vir Sanghvi’s column:
Bhaisaabs, fight your battles elsewhere

Vir Sanghvi's clarification of Nov 18:
My response to the Radia transcripts

Meanwhile, NDTV's rejoinder:
NDTV on defamatory remarks against Barkha Dutt

HT's rejoinder

A clarification (From The Hindustan Times)

Statement From Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt Ltd
 

 

Comments

 

Other News

Oil minister meets Odisha CM over IOCL impasse

 In order to resolve a tax-dispute between Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and government of Odisha, a meeting was held between minister of state (I/C) for petroleum & natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik in New Delhi. During the meeting, Pradhan

Product differentiation is key to beat competition: SAIL chief

 Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) chairman, PK Singh, during his recent visit to SAIL’s Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), laid emphasis on product differentiation and said the enterprise has to match the best in quality, variety and standards. “In the present circumstances, only th

BHEL secures orders from Chile and Estonia

 Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has added another feather to its cap by securing export orders from Chile and Estonia. This has helped BHEL to expand and consolidate its footprint in the international market. With maiden orders for transformer bushing from Niquel Electric Ltd, Chile

The different electoral systems across the world

India uses a mix of two systems in elections. The first-past-the-post system is used in the elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the state assemblies, while proportional representation is used during Rajya Sabha and presidential polls.   Now, an all-party Parliamentary panel

Big pharma, IP wars and profit over people

Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager who is infamous for overnight spiking up the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000 percent, was convicted on three counts of fraud in an American federal court on August 4. Shkreli is now staring at an incarceration period of up to 25 years. The order cheered up

CAG spots irregularities in ‘Zero Tax Companies’

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has noticed irregularities in the way the income tax department (ITD) carried out the assessment of Zero Tax Companies.   Several companies that were having large profit from business and distributing substantial portion of the income



Video

Merger completed for AIADMK, EPS-OPS shakes hand

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter