IT IS A COMMON human failing to romanticise the past while lamenting the present. The handwringing you see these days among self-avowedly liberal sections about some in the ruling party calling them names—anti-national being the most used pejorative—needs to be seen in perspective. Political discourse has always been rife with this sort of abuse. Check it out. All through the Nehruvian period, the ruling Congress leaders called their Jana Sangh, the BJP’s previous avatar, counterparts “reactionaries and communalists” (phirkaprast).
Dr Lohia’s socialists, who particularly riled the first prime minister, were contemptuously dismissed as “anarchists”. Widely respected leaders of the Swatantra Party were “agents of capitalists”. The advent of Indira Gandhi saw the insult of political opponents acquire a sharper edge. Now, in addition to communalists and reactionaries, the Vajpayee-led Jana Sangh was also abused as “Gandhi kay hatayare”. Veterans of the Swatantra Party like Piloo Mody were dismissed, in addition to other insults, as “CIA agents”. With the chanting of the socialist mantra becoming a ticket to power, it was common for the Indira Congressmen to call anyone opposed to the Government as agents of “Tata and Birla”—besides, of course, of the CIA. So ingrained was the habit of dubbing the opponents of the ruling party as CIA agents—it was the peak of the Cold War and India was virtually in the Soviet camp—that, the story goes, before announcing to the world the successful Pokhran nuclear test, a senior minister called the then Congress President SD Sharma, warning him that the test was conducted by India lest he rush to blame the CIA for it. The point is that political discourse has never been like a staid college debate between well-mannered protagonists and antagonists. Since politicians necessarily feel obliged to address themselves to wider audiences, lowest common denominators peppered with insults and below-the-belt innuendoes appeal the most to partisan audiences. So, don’t get hot under the collar, all you liberal-leftist pretenders. This is the way the political game has been played all through the ages. Stop glorifying the past for panning the present ruling party. Period.
ANYONE REMOTELY acquainted with the modern means of communications would also be alive to its misuse for frauds and worse. But what do you do when some people unwittingly become victims and insist on being compensated for their credulous behaviour? A Delhi court most likely will answer that question when it disposes of a case filed by a senior member of the Delhi Golf Club. Facts are simple. Sometime ago, the complainant received an email, allegedly from a fellow member of the club who claimed to be in distress, and pleaded for urgent financial assistance for a medical emergency in the family. Without bothering to crosscheck with anyone, he wired Rs 1.5 lakh in two instalments to the bank account mentioned in the fraudulent email. Months passed, but the beneficiary of his assumed kindness would not even acknowledge the help he had rendered in his hour of crisis. So, one day he confronted him: “Hi, how is your sister doing after the gall bladder surgery…?” Completely taken aback, he asked the interlocutor, “What sister, what surgery…” He didn’t know what he was talking about. Instead of realising he was fooled into parting with money by a conman who had hacked into his email account, he now became offensive, insisting that the money he sent be paid back by the fellow member. The acrimony soon reached such a stage that the conned gentleman filed a recovery suit in a city court. Most probably by the time the court gets round to pronouncing its verdict, the plaintiff and the defendant will have each spent far more than Rs 1.5 lakh on lawyers’ fees alone. Of course, the outcome cannot be a matter of speculation. Why? Now, I don’t expect the Open editor to make out a cheque purportedly for me if he were to receive an email with one extra ‘a’ at the end of my name. And, if he does, I would say ‘thank you’ and ask him to recover the money from one Virendraa Kapoor.
WHY MUST ALL good things come so late in life? Like after four decades-plus as a journo, I am filled with so much of gratitude for the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI) for having given the sleepy body such sharp teeth that these not only bite the ruling establishment but some of its own members who tend to stray from the line very helpfully drawn for the benefit of ignoramuses by the new office-bearers. A big thank you, EGI.