By T S Sudhir
Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s mobile ringer tone is the Sakshi TV title music. That certainly won’t be music to those calling him from the Congress High command. Especially now that Jagan, through his channel, has demonstrated that he is quite out of tune and out of step with the party orchestra.
This weekend, Sakshi broadcast a one-hour programme that was seen to have several critical references to Sonia Gandhi’s leadership. Reason enough for every Congressman and woman worth his or her Gandhi topi to work the lines between Hyderabad and Delhi. YSR Jr had crossed the final laxman rekha, most of them purred and that it was time for the Congress hand to give him one tight whack.
Veerappa Moily termed it as a serious matter. Chief minister Rosaiah condemned the entire show. The Andhra Pradesh Congress spoke in one voice. Ironically, against the same man who they wanted as chief minister just 14 months back. Fourteen months is indeed a very long time in politics.
With HMV Sakshi doing the talking, Jagan has put himself on `Mute’. Camping in Bangalore, he has disconnected himself from the cacophony of Congresswallahs burning Sakshi newspapers, demonstrating outside Sakshi offices, doing a milk abhishekam on YSR’s statue as if beseeching him to drill some sense into his “impulsive” son.
Let’s talk about the accused, the TV programme. Titled `Hasthagatham’, the show, most media analysts admit, was a professional job. It objectively analysed the strengths and weaknesses, merits and demerits of Sonia Gandhi’s leadership, extensively quoting media reports and Opposition voices. Many Congressmen admit they wouldn’t have had any objections if any other independent TV channel had aired the same show. But Sakshi TV going ballistic was like Vibhishana in Lanka.
Sakshi TV cleverly used the journalistic style of attribution to say what it may want to but cannot say directly. The show reminded viewers of Bofors to Quattrocchi to CWG to 2G. The voiceover did not call Sonia names, but it extensively quoted the Opposition that has questioned her foreign origins and called her “incompetent’’.
On the face of it, most of these are facts in the public domain. But when Jagan’s Sakshi repeats them, the antennae shoot up. Sakshi CEO Priyadarshani Ram says Jagan does not interfere in the day-to-day working of the channel. True. Jagan will not poke his nose into what is the second headline in the 7 pm bulletin on Tuesday but when a show is likely to affect his today, tomorrow and the future, he will certainly be in the loop. And it is not foolhardy to presume that he is holding the remote.
Sakshi claims it is a professionally-run independent news channel. Political analyst K Nageshwar says given the airtime the channel gives to its owner at the expense of everything else, hardly anyone will buy that. “In that case, why doesn’t it run a critical story on YSR. There are enough number of allegations against his days as chief minister as well. That also can be done like this, attributing quotes to Opposition leaders like Chandrababu Naidu.”
Sakshi has stood by the show. And repeated it even on Monday, with the anchor asking what is wrong with it. It even broadcast another programe, training its guns on Rosaiah’s administration.
The idea clearly, is to provoke the Central leadership to take action and make a political martyr out of Jagan. The problem is if the Congress does crack the whip, on the prodding of Jagan’s detractors, it would look foolish to precipitate matters on the basis of a TV show. Two, it would show that Sonia Gandhi is intolerant of criticism directed at her.
Where does Jagan go from here? He does not need a Linda Goodman to tell him his future in the Congress is bleak. By going on Odarpu yatras despite Sonia Gandhi’s personal directive not to, he has openly defied and embarrassed the party leadership. In the Congres, that is a sin punishable by political death. The timing of the salvo is significant because it comes when the Congress is bogged down with battling corruption charges against several of their own.
But while bowling this googly, Jagan has also scored a self-goal. His very close supporters at one time, like Danam Nagender, Vatti Vasant Kumar, Komati Venkat Reddy protested against his channel’s show and publicly disassociated from him. All of them became ministers with YSR’s blessings but when it came to choosing between the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty and YSR legacy, they demonstrated where their loyalties lie.
In the meanwhile, Rosaiah is looking to consolidate himself. The CM, for long at the receiving end of Sakshi newspaper’s barbs and criticism, is emboldened by the fall in Jagan’s TRPs within the Congress. Rosaiah knows that could be inversely proportional to the rise in his own stature.
Between the Congress and Jagan, it is now a question of who blinks first. Jagan, the CM aspirant since September 3, 2009, is an industrialist-turned-politician, whose political venture has posted heavy losses every single quarter. His eyes are firmly on 6th floor, C-Block, Secretariat, Hyderabad but it will be “miles to go before I sleep”.