Disillusions of Worshipping False Gods

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Arun Shourie in his journalistic heydays was not like Arnab Goswami. He recognised talent in young journalists and went out of his way to give them a chance. Today, if this column can stand on its two feet, it’s only because long ago Arun Shourie gave a chance. And that he did by just listening and getting acquainted to the voice of a sub-editor on the phone. An analysis, for Different Truths.

“What the hell’s going on?” Resentment and bitterness have taken hold of the once redoubtable Arun Shourie. He says “we are so callous. We’re demoralising the army. They’re endangering the lives of soldiers this way.” Retired army generals do not think the ‘leak’ endangers soldiers. The decision to release video-proof must have been taken with the army’s permission. Shourie cannot be such a babe in the woods to assume otherwise.

Shourie is behaving like he’s on two stools – one is soiled, the other smells. Shourie ridiculed the surgical strikes as farcical, a hoax, ‘furgical’ to be exact. Did that not “demoralise” soldiers? At Saifuddin Soz’s book release, he said the Modi Government is a “one-trick horse with no policy on Kashmir.”

But, if he says the government is “endangering the lives of soldiers this way”, that too is policy even if the policy leaks like a sieve. His flip-flops on the surgical strikes disappoint. Stick to one line, Man! For those of us, who were mentored by Arun Shourie in the late 1980s and in the early 1990s, who admired him for calling a spade a spade, this sort of double-speak “demoralises”.

For a long time, Arun Shourie commanded respect from journalists. When “sacked” from the Indian Express with a one-line ticker-message, for the young journalists of that newspaper those days, the villain was Ramnath Goenka, not Arun Shourie! It was that kind of adulation that surrounded him.

And, now, to hear upstarts like Arnab Goswami roast him live on television! How the mighty have fallen!! Goswami says only Shourie’s ‘forewords’ to his books ‘make sense’. That shows how down in the depths Goswami is, weighed down by the stuff in his back-pocket. But it also angers to see Shourie give upstarts, at-best deba(i)ters, openings to attack him.

Republic TV got to telecast #SurgicalStrikesProof earlier than other news channels only because the rival channels had established programmes for each ‘hour’, unlike the ‘one-man show’ for all hours on Republic. It used to be journalist-folklore that there was “undeclared emergency” in Times Now for as long as Arnab Goswami “addressed the nation” from there. Journalists are on record that the options were two: Get sterilised (silenced) or get the hell out! 

Arun Shourie in his journalistic heydays was not like Arnab Goswami. He recognised talent in young journalists and went out of his way to give them a chance. Today, if this column can stand on its two feet, it’s only because long ago Arun Shourie gave a chance. And that he did by just listening and getting acquainted to the voice of a sub-editor on the phone!

Those were the ‘Mandal and Mandir’ days and everybody knew where Shourie stood on those two issues. He wrote investigative pieces and the sub-editor who got the “honour” to take a “last and final look” at the already edited article, was like a ‘made-guy’. And, by luck or chance, the writer of this column got to become a ‘made-guy’ under Shourie’s watch.

Those were exhilarating days, till the mosque fell. Looking back, the verbal anger/violence displayed in newspapers like the Indian Express also contributed to the downfall of the decrepit Babri Mosque. Snakes and other creepy-crawlies that infested the ruins felt the loss but not Shourie or this writer whose epitaph to Babri was ‘Babar should have behaved!’

So, what’s the conclusion? Reports were that Arun Shourie was never a Modi-fan. After Godhra and Gujarat 2002, the newly-minted BJP leader was given the task by Advani and Atal to inform “Chief Minister Modi” to quit and go into hiding. But those two BJP heavyweights developed cold-feet.

Then, when Modi was campaigning from end-2012 to 2014, Modi and Shourie met at the latter’s Lavasa bungalow – friendly setting, hunky-dory meeting. Maybe, Modi held out a ministerial dangle at that powwow. But when time came to deliver, Modi reneged and Shourie found he was the turkey at the turkey-shoot – no ministerial berth, forget preferred berth.

Ambition unrequited is not different from love unrequited. Time had taken a toll on Arun Shourie. He must have had ambitions to add a chapter to India’s growth story. But no! Whether Ramnath Goenka or Narendra Modi, Shourie’s brilliance never could cut ice with street-fighters, not for long.

Now, in his “autumn years”, Arun Shourie has become a street-fighter and the transformation does not sit well on him. Celeb TV anchors like Rajdeep Sardesai egg him on by celebrating his one-liners such as labelling Modi with “Look at me, Me Tarzan!” and Modi’s policy of “the entire jaw for a tooth”. It’s confounding that somebody as discerning as Shourie cannot see through their games.

For Arun Shourie to get back his lost credibility, it requires more than video-proof. Reading ‘Worshipping False Gods’ by Arun Shourie might give some clues to his transformation. But it’s the yet-to-be-written ‘epilogue’ that should make Shourie sit up, not the ‘foreword’ Goswami could not make sense of.

Is/was Arun Shourie a false god?

Sushil Kutty

©IPA Service 

Photo from the Internet