Monday, 25 July 2011

We envy the BJP for its media clout: Cong - India News

It was a battle of wits between IBN-18 network editor-in-chief, Rajdeep Sardesai [ Images ], and Congress leaders Digvijay Singh [ Images ] and Mani Shankar Aiyar [ Images ].

Surprisingly, the usually outspoken Singh appeared subdued, while Aiyar shook the floor with raised decibel levels to Sardesai's several comments on the Congress party's state of affairs.

All three were a part of a panel discussion at the release of journalist Rasheed Kidwai's second book, 24, Akbar Road on Sunday evening.

To Sardesai's comment that the Congress party was feudalistic, a member in the audience asked Sardesai about feudalism in his own channel, CNN-IBN.

"Why are you talking about feudalism, when the CNN-IBN is totally run by Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife, Sagarika Ghose?" the woman asked right after Sardesai said that the Congress party was "monarchical."

Sardesai opened his speech by saying that it was ironical that the book was released on July 24.

"It was on this day that 20 years ago Manmohan Singh [ Images ] introduced his economic reforms under Narasimha Rao. There is not even a single Samadhi for Rao, even though without him, Manmohan Singh could not have introduced his economic reforms," Sardesai said while commenting on the book.

"Even in the case of Sitaram Kesri, it was a bloodleass coup. That reflects the dilemma of Congress today. It is a source of major strength and weakness for the party that it is umblically tied to one family. The Congress was formed as a democratic party and it fought independence for us, but today it is a monarchical party," Sardesai added.

Rather subdued, Singh took the mike and said, "First of all, economic liberalisation started during Rajiv Gandhi's [ Images ] time. Yes, it got momentum under Rao. It was on Rao's family's insistence that he was buried in Hyderabad, not because Congress did not want to. And how is the Bahujan Samaj Party not feudalistic?"

On Sardesai's comment that it was easy to write on Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] than Congress because the "BJP lives and dies by the media", Digvijay Singh said, "We envy the strength the BJP enjoys in the media."

When Sardesai reiterated that one needed connections in the Congress to rise, Aiyar said, "The two of us (Aiyar and Singh) are still sitting here, aren't we?"

To Sardesai's comments on Rao, Aiyar said, "It was under Rao that the Babri Masjid [ Images ] was demolished. It was the biggest disaster in our country. During my Ram-Rahim Yatra, Rao had told me that he had a problem with my definition of secularism. When I asked him what it was, he had told me that I was forgetting that India [ Images ] was a Hindu nation. That was why there was a rift between the Congress party and Rao."

Sardesai put a follow up question to Aiyar, when he asked how the Congress is going to deal with economic policies, Aiyar said, "I am not for a policy which is pro-India, but anti-Indians."

Sardesai compared present day Congress to the Mughal Empire.

"You are a party in decline. Will you accept that and reinvent yourself? Barring for the sympathy votes in 1984, see your vote percentage in Uttar Pradesh [ Images ], Bihar and other states. Isn't it true that you are like the latter part of the Mughal Empire? The Mughals survived in their latter phase by forming alliances. That is what the Congress is doing too," Sardesai said.

When Sardesai pointed out that Mamta Bannerjee won in West Bengal [ Images ] after she left the Congress, Singh said, "She won the elections because of the Congress's alliance."

Singh was at his wittiest best, when he opened his remarks on the book by saying, "To be frank, I have read neither this book nor Kidwai's first book," much to laughter from the crowd.

"I have only known one official address of the Congress, which is 24, Akbar Road. There is a syndrome called the MKH syndrome at 24, Akbar Road – Mera Kya Hoga syndrome. Here, sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don't!" Singh said.

When asked to share his memories of 24, Akbar Road, Aiyar said, "When I joined the place first, I was given a room next to the ladies' toilet!" 

On Sunday, Rasheed Kidwai released his second book. Titled 24, Akbar Road, the book is presented as a short history of the people behind "the fall and rise of the Congress".

Sahim Salim

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