Dear Barkha Dutt: You got the meaning of “Equaliser” wrong

Dear Barkha Dutt: You got the meaning of “Equaliser” wrong

On 7 November, well-known journalist and TV anchor Barkha Dutt penned a piece in the Hindustan Times titled  ‘This is serious: Indian politics moves to being great equaliser’ where she speaks of how the generation of entitlement-seeking Indians is coming to an end. However the piece is not free of the bias she has come to symbolize in her long career as a journalist. Sample this for starters:

During the years the Congress was still in power, it was pretty common for ubiquitous Right-wing twitter trolls to needle and provoke commentators with allegations of political bias.

They served as a noisy, inchoate but forceful pressure group online — amplifying the BJP’s political message while the Congress was still in deep slumber about the potential of social media as an electoral weapon. The last few weeks however have seen the emergence of a wannabe entity on the other side of the trenches…… It is not unusual these days for the charge of prejudice to be reversed by those still sympathetic to the beleaguered party. In a case of copy-cat aggression, it’s the Congress trolls that are now crying foul ….

Like all good secularists, Ms. Dutt singles out the right-wing netizens of India as bunch of loud trolls who though they state facts, state them in a vulgar/abusive manner. According to her, the congress trolls are wannabes, meaning the right-wingers are the original embodiments of trolls. It is absolutely fine for her to personally believe that but can she really dodge the issue of how many journalists of her ilk were politically biased? Also, what about these tweets by a well-known Congress insider: amishra 1amishra-1

These tweets came from a gentleman who happens to be close to Digvijaya Singh, and he is said to be quite important in the Congress party circles. Even the polite and the ‘oh so charming’ Shashi Tharoor recognized him as a credible voice of the party.

But Ms. Dutt can you explain why the following clip was edited out by NDTV from their uploaded version of the show. That’s your own channel ma’am. Would you offer a possible and plausible reason for the editing? Fortunately nothing stays hidden on the internet. Here is the complete truth of the said episode:

Back in 2013, in one of the episodes of NDTV’s weekly show ‘The Big Fight’ the topic was ‘Twitter wars’ regarding the  hashtag “war” on Twitter between the supporters of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.

One of the panelists on that show was Sanjay Jha, a regular face of the Congress on many TV channels. When Newsluandry’s  Anand Ranganathan  read out a tweet where Jha called Modi a ‘badmaash’, Jha proudly agreed that he stands by that tweet. His other tweets often made uncharitable references to Modi’s personal life. Why was there no censuring from your side Ms Dutt because in the past you have often spoken about containing abusive tweets? Different standards much?

Also, let you forget, did you rebuke Sanjay Nirupam after he made these comments on Smriti Irani?

If the answer to both the questions is no then the right-wing trolls are not indulging in abuse when they expose your political bias backed by facts and going by your own words. And because you mentioned the son of the former Union Finance Minister, see this tweet by him:


I don’t need to explicitly point out the subtext of Mr. Karti’s tweet to you Ms. Dutt. Now that the social media case is taken care of, let us see the other point Ms. Dutt makes in her piece:

But this week as two different political sons-in-law grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it was clear that many politicians are still playing catch-up with this new reality.

Let’s start with the more high-profile son-in-law who often finds himself at the receiving end of media scrutiny. When Robert Vadra pushed away the microphone of a journalist who asked him (politely and without any abrasiveness) about his land deals in Haryana, what was especially galling was the imperiousness of his behaviour.

It reeked of Entitlement; it had “Don’t-you-know-how-Important-I-am” written all over it. Much more incriminating than his rather satire- providing “Are you Serious” retort to the reporter who was quizzing him was the order to his security men to delete the footage of the on-camera interaction. ….

…..The other son-in-law has never really been in the headlines, except for this week. His father-in-law, the chief minister of Bihar, is the very antithesis of the world of privilege the Gandhi family represents. Born into perhaps the most oppressed and marginalised castes of ‘Musahars’ — rat-catchers who for generations have hunted and even been driven to eat rats because of extreme poverty, the announcement of Jitan Ram Manjhi as chief minister was a historic moment for breaking down age-old caste barriers.

This man was the very opposite of elite. And yet, this week, his son-in-law Devendra Kumar, had to swiftly resign as personal assistant in Manjhi’s office after the Opposition charged that the nepotism inherent in the appointment violated government rules. Given his background, no one could accuse Manjhi’s family of traditional feudalism or class-driven snobbery. Yet, the uproar over his bringing his relatives into his office was another reminder of what increasingly demanding Indian voters want — no special favours to anyone.

For the hierarchy-driven social elite, Robert Vadra and Devendra Kumar have precious little in common. They are unlikely to ever be at the same party, or even share the same photographer’s frame. Yet politics can be a great equaliser. This week the controversy surrounding the two sons-in-law brought home the same message — any muscle-flexing of power, small or big, is not kosher in a healthy democracy. Politicians still wield inordinate influence; but they no longer enjoy an expiry-free licence for bad behaviour. The shelf life of political entitlements is over.

For a long time, there was an unwritten rule in the media to avoid or hide any criticism of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. If you need a reminder Ms. Dutt, these two links will show the sympathy your kind had for a confused soul named Rahul Gandhi.

At the same time, the idea of Narendra Modi becoming PM was seen as something catastrophic because he didn’t represent any of the affectations which define the folks of Lutyens. As  Tavleen Singh noted:

What unites this motley crew is a deep fear that if Modi does become prime minister in 2014 their dominance of the national discourse, their virtual monopoly on tickets to enter politics, high national awards, government largesse and other forms of patronage like regular excursions to foreign lands will end……..

But coming to the point of Robert Vadra and Devendra Kumar I agree there is no comparison—while Devendra Kumar is a usual case of  nepotism, Vadra reminds one of  Marie Antoinettehe is not seeking entitlement, he is demanding curtsy.


I personally believe it is actually socio-economic progress that has created equalizers, and it is this phenomenon that propelled a tea vendor to be the post of India’s PM while rejecting the so-called ‘aspirational India’ that’s defined by the likes of Barkha Dutt. Lastly, it is the social media which actually paved the way for the equalizers and rendered the Barkha Dutts irrelevant. Harsh Ms. Dutt. But truth is seldom otherwise.