February 23, 2002



 Special Offer

 Gift your parents
 good health

 Search the Internet

Print this page Best Printed on HP Laserjets

'Ayodhya, like it or not, has been made into an issue that has polarised polity'

Election 2002

From February 7, correspondents were on the campaign trail in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and Uttaranchal, as also in Guna, Mirzapur, Rajkot, Tripura West and Andipatti. Here they reply to some of the queries from readers. To know more about this section, click to Ask our reporters.

Dear Pankaj,

I read your interview of Jyotiraditya Scindia. All you asked, and he talked about, was his Scindia background. How about some questions on what he plans to do for his constituency? Just that he wants to 'serve the people of Guna' is no good answer. Nor is his background of Harvard, Stanford, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, or his penchant for fast cars. Such highly educated politicians should at least start the trend of having a reasonable plan and implementing it!


Pankaj Upadhyaya replies: I agree with you completely. As is evident from my questions, I tried time and again to draw him into a discussion on more meaningful matters -- the Nehru-Gandhi family's hold over the Congress, how he would take his father's plans for cricket in Gwalior forward, attempts to take him to the BJP camp after his father's death, his relationship with his grandmother...

But probably as he was preoccupied with the first election of his life, he was not willing to discuss these matters in detail. He was talking like a politician, and I told him that.

Mr Panicker,

I read your interview with Mahant Paramhans. I just want to say the real problem is the media, politicians and the nexus between them. Indian media is immature and destructive. In my heart, I know that no Muslim has any problem. Indian politics is one of the worst in the world from the perspective of patriotism, and Indian media is one of the worst in putting the right, genuine and progressive issues to the forefront.


Prem Panicker replies: Out of curiosity, I just went through it again -- and failed to find anything either immature or destructive in there. I guess that like beauty, such things lie in the eye of the beholder.

In any case, I don't see a question here, so I'll just end by wishing you a very good day.

Dear Prem,

I must congratulate you for conducting such an excellent interview. I am impressed by Mahantji's solid logic behind the determination to build the temple. It is not far off that Hinduism would be reduced to a faith of joke. In this respect I think people like Mahantji have a role to play. I would like to know his email address, if any, or phone or postal address.


Prem replies: We are not allowed to give out phone numbers and suchlike -- surely you know why as well as I do.

However, snail mail addressed simply to Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, Ramnandiya Digamber Akhara, Ayodhya will get to him quite easily, given his standing in that community.

Dear Prem,

Whenever Priyanka, daughter of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia, is mentioned in the news, why is she always referred to as Priyanka Gandhi Vadera?

My question is which country, community, caste, religion will have both family names after a woman gets married? Whenever we refer to a woman it is wife-of or daughter-of or mother-of or mentor-of... especially in the political community.


Prem replies: I see where you are coming from, but I am not too sure that it is an all-inclusive rule. Celebrities in various walks of life -- think films, for instance -- have tended to continue using their maiden names alongside their married names. Besides, it is the media that uses the name in that fashion, right? In any case, as far as I am concerned, I figure it doesn't matter a hoot one way or the other, really.

Dear Editor,

Please ask Prem to stick to cricket reporting, which he does sitting in the comforts of his AC room, never venturing on to the cricket ground. His political reports are similar to that of Christiane Amanpour of CNN.

We readers won't mind if the report is objective. But when the correspondent puts his biased views into it and packages those opinions as the public view, then it is an issue. That is what happened with Amanpour. She enjoys the hospitality of the Pakistani government and goes to the border in Pakistan and then, hey presto, thinks that Indians are killing Pakistani villagers!

So I guess Prem should stick to cricket. I seriously doubt if he really ventured into Ayodhya or wrote the whole darn report sitting in some cyber cafe.

Currently in Honduras

Prem relies: Interesting, you sit in Honduras and 'seriously doubt' whether I ventured into Ayodhya, and at the same time accuse me of armchair reportage.

From your mail, I understand what is wrong with Christiane Amanpour's reportage, in your opinion. It would have been more to the point had you told me what -- again, in your opinion -- is wrong with my reportage on Ayodhya.

Reminds me of a saying in my native Malayalam language: Kandavan nee avade keda, kettavan nhaan parayatte. Which, loosely translated, reads: You are merely an eyewitness, what do you know, shut up! I have the whole story at third hand, let me tell you!

Dear Prem,

During press conferences and interviews with politicians, I have observed that journalists ask questions not related to the current issue. The Ayodhya issue is always top on their list. Why do you people try to get sensational news to run your channel/newspaper? Many a time we find the address of the leader and the way it is reported is very different. Why?

Anil Shahapurkar

Prem replies: Ayodhya, like it or not, has been made into an issue that has polarised polity.

As far as the elections themselves are concerned, thanks to the various statements being put out by Vajpayee, Advani and the VHP leadership, Ayodhya is at the forefront in UP. Thus, any interview with the various leaders would be incomplete if we did not ask questions about that issue.

As to the 'sensational news to run newspaper' bit -- frankly, Rediff has been in existence for over six years now, not because of the Ayodhya issue. And as you yourself say, comments on Ayodhya are not sensational. At best, they are relevant.


Reading your article on Raja Bhaiya from Pratapgarh, I was ashamed to call myself a citizen of a democracy. The main scourge of India is not terrorism, but the rising misplaced notion that might is right. The ease with which the youth of today is provoked to violence is appalling and scary.

What are the current rulings of the EC regarding nominees with criminal records? Could they be more stringent? What does our law provide for reliability on our protective forces, the police? Shouldn't they (people like Jasbir Singh, who try to control goondagardi) be provided some protection and immunity from such goondas?


Prem replies: As with pretty much everything else relating to our public life, it is not new laws we need -- merely, a mindset that is tuned to actually implementing our laws. The EC does proscribe people with criminal records from contesting elections -- but of what use is that?

Check the facts: The ruling BJP supports Raja Bhaiya. Because when the Kalyan Singh government was in danger of tottering, it was Raja Bhaiya who bailed them out. Next door -- in fact, in the same erstwhile royal territory of Pratapgarh -- the Congress has its own history-sheeter, to wit, 'senior leader' Pramod Tiwari. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have their own quota of goons contesting.

Amazing -- this is a country where the major parties have been unable to agree on one single thing. But there is complete unanimity on the need for musclemen to be permitted to run riot!

When I got to Lucknow, I spent some time in the BJP party office, chatting with various office-bearers about this and that. Raja Bhaiya's name came up and I was curious to know why he gets the backing he does. And one BJP office-bearer, a very senior chappie, told me, "Do you remember when Naresh Aggarwal was sacked by Rajnath Singh, and he tried to cause a split? At that time, about 12 other MLAs were preparing to walk out and if they had, our government would have collapsed. The first call Rajnath Singhji made was to Raja Bhaiya. And the revolt ended at once, no one else left."

End of story. Given this situation, there is no way any party will ever countenance the strict application of EC norms. Nor -- and this could be the bigger problem -- is there any way people of integrity and sense will opt to join politics.


I read your article about Mulayam Singh Yadav. I have long ago lost trust in the political leaders of our country. I have realised that these so-called leaders are only after power and money. My question is: What do you really gain from interviewing such leaders? Don't you think it's a waste of time? Why don't we all look into the matters that have not been resolved for the past 50 years, and what we can do about them, instead?

Bhaskar Machiraju

Swaminathan R replies: Mulayam Singh Yadav is one of the main contenders for the top job in Uttar Pradesh. Whether any political leader cares for the people may be a matter of debate, but it cannot be denied that Mulayam Singh is one of the options available to the electorate of Uttar Pradesh. So it becomes important for the media to let the people know his stand on various issues, so as to help them make an informed decision. I believe that is in its own way contributing to the decision-making process of the people by interviewing the various leaders in the fray.

Dear Onkar,

What would you say is the single biggest reason for the Akali Dal-BJP combine's plight in Punjab?

Amit Bhardwaj

Onkar Singh replies: I would say, corruption. To give you one instance: a well-educated girl wrote an open letter in a newspaper to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, asking him to give her Rs 200,000 so that she could bribe her way into a teacher's post!

Dear Onkar,

It's been quite awful to note that Punjab has shifted to fifth from the top slot in all-India economic progress. Whoever has been in power has enjoyed their tenures. Do you foresee any promise in the people who will rise out of this election? Will they be able to place Punjab in the top slot again?

Sonal Bareja

Onkar replies: I agree that with the kind of politicians we have in the country, including in Punjab, there is little hope for us. Punjab has reached saturation point in the field of agricultural production. There is a need to do something else and see how best to use its resources so that all-round development takes place. The first priority is to address unemployment. As to whether the new government will keep its promises, well, all we can hope is that it does!

'The overriding emotion in Punjab's border areas is anger against politicians'

E-Mail this report to a friend
The Complete Coverage Ask Our Reporters Mail Us Your Response