Newspaper Accuses Clinton of Ditching
Milkmaids in a Rajasthan Village
A P Kamath
The images were so eye-catching that American television and newspapers could not, simply could not resist.
Even those newspapers who thought their readers would not be interested in stories about Bill Clinton's visit to India, decided to run the pictures.
One of the pictures on page 1 of The New York Times, spread across four columns, with a story on Page 8. The picture showed a garlanded Clinton pensively listening to a group of women in the Rajasthani village in Nayala explaining to him their efforts to be self-sufficient. Most publications showed Clinton dancing exuberantly with a group of women. The Times ran the picture too, on Page 8.
Clinton's dancing posture made it to more newspapers than the customary visit to the Taj Mahal. But some reports said Clinton had ditched and betrayed the milkmaids as he changed the plans to visit a village which was on his first schedule.
But there were stories of an ominous nature, too. Several influential newspapers reported, quoting senior aides, that Clinton was going to tell Pakistanis that their obsession with Kashmir could lead into another war with India, which might result in the disintegration of Pakistan.
Not every publication was enthusiastic about Clinton's dance pictures.
The conservative Washington Times, which had gleefully run a story a few days ago about President K R Narayanan "scolding" Clinton over the latter's remarks about India and Pakistan being perhaps the most dangerous area in the world, ran a front-page story with the headline: 'Clinton photo-op leaves milkmaids with sour taste.'
The Times writer Bill Sammon wrote about how an impoverished village spent thousands of dollars preparing for an expected visit by Clinton on Thursday, only to be told the president would instead visit a village closer to his luxury hotel.
"But Mr Clinton still wanted a photo opportunity with women from the first village, Dhoblai, because they run a milk cooperative that uses a computerized milk-testing machine," Sammon continued.
"Mr Clinton figured he could highlight two of his favorite themes: empowering women and promoting high technology. So the milkmaids were asked to travel here, to the village of Nayala, and bring their high-tech machine with them."
The result was a public relations triumph for Clinton, Sammon continued, adding who laughed and danced with a dozen veiled women as they showered him with flower petals.
Veiled women? Heads covered, yes but none of the pix showed veiled women.
Indian women and children were also on the front page of USA Today on Friday but their images were part of a grim story about how diseases such as tuberculosis had begun to tighten their grip worldwide. The story did not mention Clinton but India came for frequent references in the story and was at the top of the chart of nations ravaged by TB.
The picture showing Clinton admiring a decorated elephant in Fort Amber was on page 13.
Several editors said that long after the trip is over, people would remember the images from Rajasthan. There was spontaneity in many of the pictures from Nayala which were missing in earlier pix showing Clinton at the Indian Parliament or with Indian lawmakers and businessmen, they said.
If Clinton writes a bio some day, the pix surely will find a place in it, said a Washington analyst. "He wants to be remembered as a President who enjoyed being close to people," the analyst said. "And these are perfect pictures to play up."
Next: It's Official: No More H-1B Visas For This Year
Clinton is a hit in Nayala
Clinton gets glimpses of tradition blending with modernity
Tell us what you think of this report