Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 05:36:35

Is Huffington Post Entering India?

Updated: June 21, 2014 1:01 pm

It came from the horse’s mouth at the famous Haye’s Literary Festival in Wales. One was told that Huffington Post, a liberal American online news aggregator and blog— the site offers news, blogs, and original content and covers politics, business, entertainment, environment, technology, popular media, lifestyle, culture, comedy, healthy living, women’s interests, and local news—was intending to enter India in collaboration with The Times of India. It might be titled Huff Post India if it follows the title of its editions elsewhere like Huff Post Chicago or Huff Post New York. Or maybe on the lines of its titles of international editions—L’ Huffington Post in France, Huffington Post, UK!

Its entry would be a milestone in Indian news industry. It is the first commercially run United States digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize. Its coming to India would also mark a rapid transformation of the style, content and quality of online news industry in the country.

Its contents are often aggressive in their views which occasionally trigger controversies. They have and will continue to irk radical groups through their views. But it is strong and big enough to stave off the pressures of such groups. Recently, an article, while discussing secularism in India under a ‘rightist’ BJP, came out with such amazing arguments and logic that could not be countered.

“But one thing the Indian electorate has done decisively now is to reject those whose politics have rested on the divisive and ugly identity-claims that underlie that sort of violence.

“India has rejected both pseudo-secularism, and jingoistic Hindu extremism. It has accepted a plank of good governance for all, which for young Hindus could also mean a repudiation of brazen, racist Hinduphobia, and for others might prove a reassurance eventually that India’s secular constitution will not be threatened, and may even be strengthened by recognizing the civilizational roots on which that country’s many religions rest.

“This election was not really about choosing between secularism and religious extremism as it was made out to be.

“The choice was perhaps seen by people in India more accurately as one between Hinduphobia and an India for everyone.

“And India has chosen.”

Strong words these, but the view has been argued so logically that to contest it would be problematic. The Huffington Post’s entry into the Indian newsonline would thus be most welcome, for it would say what should be said.

Alarm Bells In The EAM

The report that a Foreign Affairs Advisor is being appointed in the Prime Ministers Office has made many, and possibly including Sushma Swaraj, the Minister in the External Affairs Ministry see red. The man chosen is possibly S Jaishankar, who has had a very successful tenure as India’s Ambassador to China. His four-and-a-half-year tenure was the longest than of any other Indian Ambassador. Modi, for whom China is very important in his foreign policy strategies apart from Pakistan, would surely prefer an officer like him to be in the PMO.

Jaishankar oversaw a term that was marked by a dual track approach to ties with China: on the one hand, this involved aggressively pushing business links–not only to further Indian interest but also aimed at building new kinds of “leverage” with Beijing–and also, at the same time, conveying a tougher message on “core interests”. The MEA officials feel that most foreign policy initiatives would be taken and then sealed and delivered to them. That means they would be reduced to be implementers and worse, accountable for any failures.

There is a precedence! When Natwar Singh was Foreign Minister under Rajiv Gandhi, Ronen Sen was appointed Foreign Affairs Advisor in the PMO. Singh did crib that Rajiv gave precedence to Ronen over him.   Sushma Swaraj and officers in her MEA should take heart from it.

Modi Sets His Own Rules Of Engagement

Just see what he did to get Nripenrda Mishra as his Principal Secretary. Mishra was not close to him or the BJP, unlike Doval. Yet Modi, after meeting about six or seven officers from a list prepared for him by insiders in the BJP close to him. Modi vetted them all and then after the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report appointed Mishra. But a daily pointed out a technical hitch. Mishra was Chairman of the Telecom Regularity Authority, the rule of which forbids the Chairman to take up any government job after retirement.

But Modi had decided on Mishra. So an ordinance was issued to do away with the TRAI rule. Now a lot of writers see red in this. The point however is when a Prime Minister having won a sweeping mandate believes that a particular person is best suited for the office and that he can work with that officer, why shouldn’t he be allowed to get that officer’s services?

Integrity, intelligence and ability to deal with suavity and refinement with VVIPs who might come to meet are some of the most important traits a Principal Secretary should have. Mishra has all of them. In addition, he has varied experience. Apart from serving as Union home secretary in NDA’s government, he has been a consultant for the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Funds for Agricultural Development and the Government of Nepal.

What one would admire most in him is his independent mind. Ask him for some advice and he would be very candid. This will come handy in his crucial role in regulating communication between the head of government and all top bureaucrats. Why then object to Modi getting an officer like Mishra through an ordinance.

What Delayed Super Spy’s Formal Appointment

There were vexatious inquiries as to why an official announcement of the appointment of Ajit Doval as India’s National Security Adviser (NSA) was not coming forth. It was known that Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Doval and it was also known that he had been close to LK Advani, but he also came close to Modi while working in Gujarat.

Within days of take-over by Modi, reports that were not denied that Doval has been chosen for the crucial post of NSA, were published by all newspapers. But those, who did not know him very closely but wished to congratulate him, made discreet inquiries and they were shocked to learn that no official letter of appointment had come.

The delay was due to, sources alleged, the fact that Indian Foreign Service lobby was fighting a turf war. In the recent past, the NSA post was held by Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers. Brajesh Mishra was the NSA during Atal Behari Vajpayee tenure as Prime Minister and Shiv Shanker Menon under Manmohan Singh. Both of them belonged to the Indian Foreign Service.

The IFS lobby was unlikely to give up its turf, so it worked hard to stall the appointment. It realised a bit late that it was dealing with a man who gets what he wants.

When Bad Days Come…

Ask Sonia Gandhi, what all happens when chips are down! Not only has she lost all her power and dominance, her party members, who would sweat and shiver even on the mention of his name, now dare to decry her son and indirectly her for the catastrophic rout of the Congress. One even called Rahul a joker. He has been suspended, but so what? He would, like many others, be glad to be free from the strangle of the Royal Family.

Worse her international stature has tumbled. She has after years lost her place in the Forbes’ List of 100 Most Powerful Women. Sonia Gandhi moved down in the list of first 10. This year her name has been axed totally. How true, when dark clouds gather…

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