Virendra Kapoor is a political commentator based in Delhi
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Missing calendars, presidential speeches and Mevani's admirers

A NEW YEAR HAS come and gone and we are now well into the third week of January. Yet, the usual markers of a new year, the humble diaries and calendars that we in the media have come to take for granted, are nowhere to be seen. Of course, blame this too on Modi. Since his advent in New Delhi at the head of a more purposeful, and—dare we say—tightfisted Government which frowns upon all extravagance at taxpayers’ cost, public sector undertakings have drastically cut back on PR budgets for such giveaways. As a result, some of the best diaries and calendars are no more to be had for you to dutifully distribute to domestic help, drivers, etcetera—the only people who still seemed to appreciate these handouts.

Probably, taking a cue from the stern taskmaster at 7 Race Course Road, er, sorry, Lok Kalyan Marg, even some of the richest private corporations have stopped printing multicolour diaries and calendars. A well-known multinational company in the FMCG business still brings out a modest diary which even in more spend-happy times looked rather unpretty with little functional value. However, we remain grateful to a large Hyderabad-based newspaper group for its highly useful diary with our name duly embossed on the front. The best thing about it is that it provides generous space for notes and reminders for each day of the year and therefore remains a fixture on our computer desk.

ONCE YOU ATTAIN a certain level of success in public life, you need advisors, speechwriters, etcetera. No small share of the credit for US President Kennedy’s popularity was attributed to his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. A good one lends credence to a leader’s raw sentiments, unvarnished thoughts and constituency- specific appeal. Admittedly, a politician blessed with a silver tongue—for example, former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee—could always improve upon the words of the best speechwriter in the world. And, yes, Prime Minister Modi is a natural at holding forcefully forth from the political pulpit.

But this is not so of President Ram Nath Kovind. A lawyer by training, he did not quite set the Yamuna on fire with his orations during his time as an active politician. However, as the head of the Republic, he seems to be making up for that with his speeches on various official and semi- official occasions getting noticed as much for their content as for their easy comprehensibility. As a result, the media has begun to give more space to Kovind’s public events. And that change, we can tell, is largely due to the clever decision to hire Ashok Malik, a veteran journalist, as his press advisor. Malik’s thoroughness and keen mind for historical detail comes through increasingly in President Kovind’s public addresses. Small wonder then that the media no longer treats the President’s functions as non-events.

JIGNESH MEVANI WAS in Delhi a few days ago. But the capital seemed to have taken scant notice of the newly-elected independent MLA from Gujarat. He had shot to fame championing the Dalit cause. The noisy secularist-leftist brigade and its soulmates in the media, however, were all excitement, hoping against hope that in him lay the answer to their prayers for someone who could be a Modi-slayer. So, these worthies from well-funded anti-Modi NGOs vied with a few attached and unattached journos to fete the bearded hero of the anti-BJP contingent. There was plenty of gratuitous advice, though Mevani knows how to stay in the news. He was sought to be coached in the vocabulary of hate against the Sangh Parivar which flows effortlessly off the tongues of Sahmat-types who get disproportionately high media exposure, though not out of proportion to the size of their donations kitty. Thanks to the media’s Mevani love-fest, his flop public rally received top billing, with his words reported at length with nary a mention of his missing audience.

AND LAST BUT not the least, speculation that top four bowlers of the Indian cricket team, now touring South Africa, addressed a press conference to complain against the arbitrary manner in which Captain Virat Kohli assigns bowling to his favourites, particularly when lower-order batsmen are at the crease, is fake news. No such event took place. All members of the team remain committed to Kohli’s leadership of the team and have no intention of breaching the game’s well-laid norms of discipline and conduct. Amen.