Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A slavish media and Rahul Gandhi

There are many ways to screw your mornings. Reading a servile piece of journalism the first thing is one of them. And that's what happened to me today when I read Punya Priya Mitra's (Six hrs in MP: Rahul makes a promise, some conversation) piece in Hindustan Times on Rahul Gandhi's visit to a tribal region in Madhya Pradesh. Before this gem goes off the Internet, I am reproducing it here in all its glory:

Filed from Jhabua, April 29, 2008

Rahul Gandhi wrapped up his three-day visit to Madhya Pradesh on Monday with an unscheduled whirlwind tour of villages in tribal district Jhabua.

People fell over each other to touch him, get photographed with him, and Rahul obliged all, with a ready smile. (Parachute in any gora tourist, like him, there and people would behave the same way. What quality of Rahul's does this highlight? Nothing but for the fact how "exotic" he remains in vast swathes of India.)

He spoke to tribals, asked them how they lived and their means of livelihood. He often put his arms around them or quietly slapped their backs to strike up an instant camaraderie. (Didn't the reporter find something more worthwhile to report about? Like the deprivation there? HT would have us believe Rahul was meeting pals at a bar over a Bloody Mary!) The tribals spoke about their problems and the AICC general secretary assured them of all help from the Centre. (Again, how long will it take for her to realise such promises mean nothing?)

Rahul’s secret programme (It would surprise me the villagers were not told about his arrival in advance.) was known only to PCC president Suresh Pachauri and AICC secretary Minaxi Natarajan till his chopper landed at Jhabua around 10.40 am. His cavalcade’s first halt was at Christian-dominated tribal village Raipuria.

Here, Bercharam, a local, invited him home for tea. But Rahul refused with grace (Oh, I see! Did he even have a halo when he refused the offer?), asking: “Why? Is tea at the hotel bad?” And, along with others, he sat on the rickety benches (With much pain, I presume? Another question, how comfortable is his seat in his SUV or his chopper?) of Bharti Restaurant. When he gave Rs 100 for the cups of tea they had, the boy impishly refused. But, Pachauri cajoled him to accept it as gift.

Two kilometers away, Rahul stopped at Sagaria village, where he went to the mud houses (A big achievement for him, I guess? So much so that it merits a special mention?) of Dhanna, Prem Singh, Ambaram, Heera, Somla and Hari Singh.

Dhanna said Rahul asked him about the crop he had sown. “I told him that I had sown tomato and while I had invested Rs 15,000, I only recovered Rs 10,000. At this, he told me that my loan would be waived,” (Give us an update if it really happens. The last time Rahul made a promise to help a tribal woman with Rs 20,000 for her daughter's marriage, it wasn't fulfilled. And an opportunistic CM of Madhya Pradesh, from the BJP, willingly obliged to highlight Gandhi's vacuous promises.) said Dhanna.

Ambaram said: “I told him about the method of farming, and he nodded his head. He knew a lot of agriculture”. (Maybe it limited to the fact that plants need water to grow?)

Rahul also quizzed people about the effectiveness of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. “Most of us told him that water and electricity were the major problems in the area,” said Hari Singh.

From there he went to Sampark where he checked the solar power plant that meets the village’s power needs.

The next halt was Unnai Churchat Petlawad. Here he spoke to two school students and asked them if they wanted to study in Delhi. Too shy to answer, they looked at their parents who said: “Why not, if someone pays for it”. Rahul immediately offered to sponsor them. (Another hollow promise?)

From there on it was a mini-road show through Petwalad, Thandla, Meghnagar then to Jhabua. From there, he flew to Ratlam in a helicopter at 4.40 pm.

(And, mercifully, that was the end of the ordeal!)


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