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

Now on stands: Your drug may be spurious

Indu Gilra, a retired teacher in her seventies living in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad in the national capital region (NCR), would often pop a tablet of Combiflam at the slightest hint of body ache. Since it’s an over-the-counter medicine, she could purchase it anywhere and it had always worked. One day, ho

RTI Act: Why citizens must send a strong message to MPs

There is a very disturbing news report about the entire political spectrum agreeing that RTI is misused and some constrictions and impediments should be developed to muzzle it. This is indeed a sad state of affairs. Samajawadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal has leveled a charge that the Indian par

Demolish Adarsh society building, orders Bombay high court

 The Bombay high court on Friday directed the Centre and the ministry of environment and forests to demolish the scam-ridden Adarsh Housing Society in south Mumbai. The court also ordered an inquiry against politicians, ministers and officers who were involved in the scam. The court directed

BJP forges alliance with lesser known parties

National leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party are starting their campaign in Tamil Nadu Saturday onwards forging alliance with eight fringe parties, led with not so well-known candidates, for the upcoming assembly polls. There are murmurs among party members over these fringe parties having

All you wanted to know about insolvency and bankruptcy code

Before making an investment, an investor has to consider not only the best-case scenario but also the worst-case scenario – unless a unit is allowed to close down properly if the business goes wrong, investment can become all the more risky. In that regard, the government has proposed

How India’s own GPS will improve our lives

From finding directions to checking traffic and locating nearby cool hangout places, we cannot imagine our lives without the old and faithful buddy GPS. But so far we had to depend on the US’s global positioning system (GPS) for such a ubiquitous application. Now, the Indian Space and Research Organi

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter