Column

Indraprastha

Virendra Kapoor is a political commentator based in Delhi
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Amit Shah's edict, a journalist with ‘connections’ and the medical college scam

NOT UNLIKE ERRANT schoolchildren behaving like docile little lambs after a severe tongue-lashing from a stern headmaster, BJP MPs are a much chastened lot now, dutifully attending proceedings in the two Houses of Parliament. The overnight transformation came about thanks to the riot act read by the no-nonsense party chief Amit Shah. The provocation for the show-cause was the absence of some 30-odd members, including ministers, from the Rajya Sabha when the opposition pushed through an amendment to a constitutional amendment bill a few days ago. It had a magical effect, with usually carefree members getting all serious, mindful of their parliamentary duties, even if the agenda might be dull as ditchwater, which it often is. No longer are they seen hanging around in the Central Hall, gossiping over cups of coffee or hearty meals about all things except the official business of the House. Or just not showing up throughout the day. A word from the party bosses that the Prime Minister has taken a rather dim view of their absence seems to have tamed their playful spirits. Incidentally, some members had pretty thin explanations for their absence. Some claimed the doors of the House were shut just as they turned up to participate in the vote.

However, the members’ new- found devotion to parliamentary duties has had an unintended fall- out: journalists in Central Hall are beginning to feel at a loose end. Since the Shah edict, more often than not journalists have outnumbered netas, though of late, passes have been granted even to pretend- journalists. If the ruling party members feel obliged to sit in the House, their opposition counterparts too must necessarily stay put, just in case the former get away unchallenged. We do hope the effect of the Shah rebuke will wear off sufficiently by the time Parliament is ready to meet again for its Winter Session. Otherwise, Central Hall will forfeit its deserved reputation as the nation’s hall of gossip.

A COUPLE OF MONTHS after a series of five-star events attended by a couple of thousand guests, including senior ministers, and at least on one occasion by the Prime Minister himself, people are still talking about the marriage of this little-known television journalist’s daughter to the son of a UP legislator. In an earlier age, most journalist weddings and birth anniversaries were strictly family affairs, with a sprinkling of close friends figuring on the guest list. No longer, though. Quite a few journalists now seek to display ‘connections’, inviting powerful politicians and, if possible, film stars also, even if they might have only had a nodding acquaintance with them acquired in the line of their professional duty. Politicians feel obliged to mark their attendance, expecting to earn goodwill on the cheap.

But even after making an allowance for the self-promotion element evident at such gatherings, the show put up by this journalist of a Hindi TV channel surpassed an event held a few years earlier on the occasion of the wedding of a well-known journo’s son. No expense was spared then. No expense was spared this time, either. And in both cases there was a back story, one of which we shall leave out for the present.

As for the television journalist, well, he arranged a BJP ticket for the prospective father-in-law of his daughter within days of the latter dumping the BSP. In the BJP wave, he won easily. And a few weeks later, there were expensive festivities galore in the national capital with a public sector five-star hotel witnessing the procession of the who’s who of the ruling combine led by Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah. Such an assemblage of political biggies under one roof had not been seen for quite some time, though the host’s employer also has a reputation for his networking skills.

BEFORE THIS ISSUE of Open is out on news-stands, a scandal is set to hit the headlines. It concerns the alleged corruption and criminality involved in the grant of recognition to new medical colleges. Shockingly, in spite of a former Chief Justice of India being assigned by the apex court to vet the recognition process, underhand deals involving the payment of huge sums in bribes continue unchecked, as before. An English television channel recently did a series of exposés on the racket. But apparently, there is more than meets the eye. Powerbrokers boasting close connections to the ruling regime may well find themselves in trouble should the powers that be take note of these deals in the medical education sector.

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