Five straight weeks of high density news and guess what, each and every week has been dominated by a woman. Each woman, hot button, and top of mind in the media and in turn, the political mindspace. Some of these women have even stalled Parliamentary proceedings. It all began with Sania Mirza and Ayesha, an odd couple hankering after the same man, the discredited former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik. Dang, this was a curious threesome. A woman, who refused to come out in the open, another who acted as a defender of the faith after breaking up with her childhood sweetheart and wedged between the two, a man whose own future as a cricketer is under a cloud. Hyderabad became the cynosure and the noise level reached a crescendo with media trying its level best to examine every aspect of this bizarre troika. Finally, Malik decided to give Ayesha (who, incidentally, one still hasn’t seen) a divorce and the nuptials with Sania were brought forward and all was well. Once the wedding was over, media lost complete interest and moved on. That is till media got something new between its teeth.
The migration to the next big controversy happened almost seamlessly and obliterated all memories of the previous event. Obliging media, the political class and its ever burgeoning list of baiters was Shashi Tharoor, the erudite and urbane minister of state for external affairs, courtesy his alleged liaison with one Su, alias Pinky a.k.a Sunanda Pushkar from Sopore. Now, did media get the juicy bit between its teeth. It went completely ballistic in the process and the Opposition, too, worked up a nice lather over Su’s sweat equity in an IPL franchise. After much persuasion from his party and under intense pressure from a united Opposition, Tharoor had to quit. Su, alias Pinky, who was seen with the minister at every function in the Capital, melted into the woodwork. Wronged, she gave an emotional interview to Tehelka, the mother of Puff Daddy jobs, and I am not referring to Sean Combs, the rapper. It was a mind blasting interview with Sunanda Pushkar, where she defended herself to someone called Shoma Chaudhary. I still don’t understand the logic and rationale of putting Su on the cover. If she wasn’t guilty, then why is it that she surrendered her sweat equity? Why did Tharoor resign? If both Tharoor and Sunanda were not actively involved in Rendezvous Sports World’s bid, why did the minister’s OSD Johnny Joseph sit in on the bidding process? Furthermore, why did Praful Patel send an email with the confidential financials for prospective bidders if all that Tharoor was acting as was a mentor to the team? It is amazing that two Union Ministers instead of looking after foreign affairs and civil aviation were busy conducting personal affairs related to IPL bidding. If ministerial bandwidth is dominated by matters of business rather than the State, then the end result is the dysfunctionality in governance.
Even as Su, alias Pinky, was being defended by Tehelka, the next move on the media chessboard had been made. Su suddenly gave way to Poorna Patel, Praful Patel’s daughter and IPL hospitality manager. Not only was she commandeering Air India aircraft, but acting as a conduit, she was allegedly passing on confidential IPL bidding information to her father, who, in turn, was handing it over to fellow minister Tharoor. This was naked and blatant crony capitalism. All this was happening against the backdrop of the dreaded cut motions being brought to bear against the Government in the Lok Sabha. As cries of – Off with his head – asking for Praful Patel’s resignation saw the Opposition rail in both Houses, the BJP didn’t drive in the screws and Patel got off scot free. After all, leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, is part of the same cricket establishment that is in everyone’s crosshairs. One news event dissipated rapidly and morphed into something bigger. Ditto for the political class and Parliament, where one woman centric issue gave way to another.
Just as Poorna became a political potato, came news that another woman, this time a lobbyist, was purportedly the centrifuge in the 2G spectrum scam, where licences had been handed out on a first come first serve basis for a song. The lobbyist in question – Nira Radia – was at the very core of an overarching investigation by the Department of Income Tax and CBI. The Pioneer, Mid-Day and then the entire phalanx of media – print and electronic – began chipping away at a three-month old story, strangely first reported by exchange4media.com in this very column. A scam of monumental proportions. Phone taps of Radia and her associates showed dangerous liaisons between powerful corporates, politicians, bureaucrats, media personages. The fulcrum of the investigation being influencing of policy and even positions in the Government to cause grave loss to the national exchequer.
And before I forget, in between Poorna and Nira was one Madhuri Gupta, a frumpy spy selling national secrets to Pakistanis in Islamabad. The lady in question is an Indian diplomat, who now claims that she was framed. The TOI reported, “According to a police official, Gupta, 53, said she was not a senior officer and could not have passed on sensitive information to her contacts in Pakistan, where she was posted in the Indian High Commission. But she said she had revealed the identities of Indian undercover agents in Pakistan.” Shocker. What was the woman’s motivation? Love, sex, money. Don’t know whether we will find out soon enough. For Kasab’s judgment and sentencing have grabbed prime time talking heads. Anyway, finally a man has replaced half a dozen women who let no one in as far as news and politics were concerned. Interestingly, the Madhuri news was leaked appropriately when the Thimpu summit got underway. Wonder why?
The last one month or so has been a blur, it has passed by at breakneck speed. So much news and much of it in my domain has meant that I haven’t had a peaceful evening since the first episode of this amazing serial began. Beats saas-bahu or devrani/jethani hands down. Doesn’t it? And I am not being a chauvinist.
(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.
The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of exchange4media.com.)