Mr Jeremiah and Ms Cassandra have long been publicly moaning that the difference between news and entertainment has either disappeared or fast getting there. Such lament comes from confusion. News is not synonymous with politics.
It is simply new information about anything we are interested in; and the reasonable fact is that people are more interested in what makes them happy, from fashion to fiction, than the depressing snarls of politics. But there is always a political story, which bridges these compartments, since it is intrinsically amusing. All you have to do is pause and think. Sometimes a very thin line separates scoop and satire.
Witness, for instance, the floated story that in Andhra Pradesh the Congress is making a serious effort to bring its latest bete noire, Jagan Reddy, son of the late Rajashekhar Reddy, back to the fold by promising to make him Chief Minister. Jagan Reddy, who has shifted the base from under Congress’ feet, is, at the moment of writing, in jail, accused of every sort of financial crime that CBI could conjure up. So what does the Congress tell Andhra voters if this story ever comes true? “Hey, guys! This is the chap we sent to jail because we knew that his dad made zillions of dollars-pounds-euros. How did we know that? Er... because he made the lolly when he was one of us...Now that prodigal Jagan is back in Congress, we can assure you that all those accusations were total fiction!” And what does Congress tell the obstinate judge who, on CBI’s insistence, denies Jagan his legitimate right to bail? “Sorry, Your Lordship, all those raids on Jagan’s offices were a bit of a charade, just a mild bit of spanking that children need when they get to their difficult years. As for the lawyers who were barnstorming against Jagan in court; Your Lordship knows what lawyers can become given something extra in an envelope! They took a brief from us and turned it into a full-length suit ha ha ha ha!”
Alas, the joke is not that some politician whispered this whiz into a journalist’s ear, but that it is being circulated without any questions. The first is the most obvious: is such a deal politically tenable? Will it the voter, who has heard vehement speeches from both sides, accept it? What does Jagan Reddy’s mother, who has a backbone of quiet steel, have to say about this after having watched her son being incarcerated and punished by the Congress?
Jagan Reddy wanted to be CM after his father’s tragic death at an early age. He was denied. He might have accepted such an offer when, instead of him, an unknown and palpably amateur Kiran Reddy was made CM. But the Congress high command destroyed its own options by using extreme methods to crush Jagan Reddy personally and politically. It failed miserably. In Andhra, Congress has a past, and Jagan Reddy has a future. Why would Jagan Reddy join the past?
The irony is that while Indian politics trends towards radical amusement, Indian sport, which should offer national uplift, is drenched in depression. Nothing makes one cringe more than simulated celebrations over an Indian bronze at the Olympics, or the adulation for a rare silver. India’s sports poverty is perfectly understandable.
The brainpower of India is concentrated on upward mobility through the fiscal route, not through physical genius. Take money away from the one sport where we compete with fluctuating ability, cricket, and that bubble will burst as well.
I love the thought of us winning medals as much as the next Indian; but I don’t really mind when we lose in badminton or archery. What churns the stomach is the gratuitous exultation each time destiny sends us a peanut. The Japanese star who got bronze in that unbelievably difficult, and visually dazzling gymnastic art, was in tears at having come third. If he were an Indian who had won bronze for hitting a sitting duck at five feet, corporations would have taken front-page advertisements to honour the arrival of a saviour. No one congratulates Indians more gushily than Indians congratulate themselves.
It is a disease. One look at Olympics and I search for politics. One glance at politics and I shift
MJ Akbar is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi