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Karat before the horse

It would seem that there is no issue on which the redoubtable general secretary of the CPI(M) Prakash Karat does not have an opinion.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2008 20:49 IST

It would seem that there is no issue on which the redoubtable general secretary of the CPI(M) Prakash Karat does not have an opinion. We are now all too familiar with his views on the nuclear deal.

After having threatened to withdraw support to the government on the issue, the CPI(M) has now backed down a bit and said that it would do nothing until talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency are over. But Mr Karat’s pronouncements on cross-media ownership are curious to say the least. After vehemently upholding the cause of a free press in a democratic system of governance, he has suddenly advocated the need for his party to formulate a code of conduct for the print and electronic media. We may be forgiven for thinking that this smacks of authoritarianism and could even be thought of as a form of muzzling the press.

As for cross-media ownership, there is no law that prevents anyone with the resources from starting several media ventures.

Indeed, India has several media houses that have done so. What Mr Karat seems to have forgotten is that it is his own party that has a stake in several media concerns in Kerala. His fears that 26 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in the media have made sections of it more pro-Western, anti-political and anti-Communist are uncalled for. Despite all its flaws, the press in India has more often than not said it like it is.

At a time when FDI is being invited into most sectors, why should there be different rules for the press? The politically savvy Communist chief minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his illustrious predecessor Jyoti Basu have been clear that FDI is not anathema to the party and is needed if the state has to develop further. Let us not mince any words, Mr Karat has overstepped himself here. The party’s plans to have a nation-wide protest against a possible fuel hike are valid. This would indeed make life difficult for the common man. It is incumbent on the CPI(M) as a party of governance to raise these issues.

But over the last year at least, it appears to have adopted an obstructionist approach to the very government of which it willingly became a part. The party has never had such a high profile or so much clout ever and so it is surprising that Mr Karat has once again raised the option of throwing his lot in with a non-Congress front. The CPI(M) has been sabre-rattling once too often. This is inappropriate coming from such a seasoned political formation and that too from its august general secretary.