Thursday, August 20, 2009

REMEMBERING RAJIV: CONGRESS IS WORSE THAN MAYAWATI

Mayawati has been in the cross hairs of the media's sights for constructing dalit memorials at state expense. Much has been written and spoken about how she is mindlessly squandering public money on building her own statues. In a recent program on NDTV, a very agitated Prannoy Roy called for a complete ban on such activities because they utilise the tax payers' money for furthering the cause of a political party. With a straight face, Salman Khursheed of the Congress party agreed with him completely.

Are Indians fools? Don’t they know that the biggest culprit by far in this game is the Congress party? Don't Prannoy Roy and others like him also know this? Then why has there never been a similar uproar till now?

Today is Rajiv Gandhi's birthday. Without a worry about what the much flogged "aam aadmi" might say or feel, the Congress party is brazenly using the occasion to make maximum possible political capital of it at state expense. Newspapers have been saturated with advertisements by various departments of the central government to sell Rajiv Gandhi to India. Examples of two newspapers published from New Delhi should give you an idea of how the minds of Indians have been carpet bombed by the Congress today with Rajiv ads:

Full Page
  1. Rural Electrification Corporation, Ministry of Power
  2. Ministry of Food Processing Industries
  3. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
Half Page
  1. Delhi Government
  2. HRD Ministry
  3. Delhi SC, ST, OBC, Minority and Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation
  4. Women and Child Development Ministry
  5. National Literacy Mission Authority
  6. Commerce and Industry Ministry
  7. National Commission for women
  8. Department of IT, Communication Ministry
Quarter Page
  1. Government of Maharashtra
Full Page
  1. Rural Electrification Corporation, Ministry of Power
  2. Ministry of Food Processing Industries
  3. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
Half Page
  1. Delhi Government
  2. HRD Ministry
  3. Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty alleviation
  4. Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
  5. Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
  6. Women and child development ministry
  7. National Literacy Mission authority
  8. Commerce and Industry Ministry
  9. National Commission for women
  10. Department of IT, Communication Ministry
This is not the first time that this has been done. Nor is Rajiv Gandhi the only one who is so remembered. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi are also so remembered on their birthdays and death anniversaries at government expense, and this has been going on for decades. Has the media ever complained? Is it complaining even now, in the light of its own moral outrage at what Mayawati is doing? How can it? It is raking in the moolah by publishing these advertisements. You don't criticise the "hand" that feeds you, do you? If someone carries out a detailed analysis of how much money has been spent by the government - and paid to the media - over the years, the mind boggling figures will expose one reason why large sections of the media find it almost impossible to be objective and unbiased in their political reporting and analysis.

This is not all. The Congress has also gone berserk naming almost every government funded program that can get it some votes after these three members of the dynasty. In a petition to the Election Commission, journalist A. Surya Prakash has listed 450 Central and State government activities named after Nehru, Indira and Rajiv. He questions the morality of attaching of a politician's name to government programs aimed at improving the lives of citizens, because they give the impression that the politician needs to be thanked for what the citizens have got in his name. Not surprisingly, he says, Mahatma Gandhi's name adorns only the Backward Region Development Fund.

It also needs to be remembered that it was the Congress party that started this ugly culture of creating memorials for political leaders and the naming of roads, bridges, airports, buildings and what have you, after them. Mayawati was not wrong when she tauntingly said that the real estate value of the three sprawling samadhis built in Delhi for Nehru, Indira and Rajiv far exceeds the amount that is being spent by her for building dalit memorials. In addition, Teen Murti House and 1, Safdarjang Road, where Nehru and Indira respectively stayed as PMs, have been converted into national memorials. In fact, these three leaders has been similarly honoured at state expense across the country, locking real estate worth thousands of crores. It needs no imagination to grasp that hundreds of crores of rupees are being spent on their maintenance and upkeep annually.

It goes without saying that these too are political advertisements designed to benefit the Congress party and, even more importantly, the Nehru-Gandhi family in its political quest. Have you ever heard any media star say anything against this misuse of power and tax payers' money?

It is time to seriously start putting an end to this tradition that the Congress and the media have colluded to perpetuate. To start with, there should be a blanket ban on advertisements in the media at state expense. If any party wants to highlight the good work that it has done or an achievement of its leader, the bill must be footed by the party and not by the government. This will hurt the media because no party can afford to cough up such huge amounts. The call is on the integrity of the media.

Similarly, naming of government funded schemes etc after politicians should also be banned, as should the practice of naming of every important bridge and building after them. At best, a limit of three or so for naming landmarks across the country/state after a PM/CM should be laid down. Similarly, all memorials - and not just those being built by Mayawati - should also de-politicised and put to better use for the good of India's citizens . If some political party wants, it should build and maintain a memorial or two out of party funds. Citizens should not be made to pay for any memorial except that of Mahatma Gandhi. At best, the government should maintain an additional combined memorial for all Prime Ministers.

If, however, the media and the Congress want to remain happy with what has been happening over the decades to their mutual benefit, then this fake and dishonest talk generated by Mayawati's move to remind the country about its dalit leaders at state expense should be cut out completely. As everyone with integrity knows, no party or individual is in any position to replicate what the Congress party has done and is continuing to do without even the pretence of any moral or ethical pangs, thanks primarily to a similarly disposed media.