There was a time when the media in Maharashtra was at loggerheads with the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. But, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s latest comments against the media – he is reported to have said they should be beaten with a stick – have turned things on their head and Sena-BJP leaders have emerged as unlikely champions of the press.
BJP MP Gopinath Munde is also playing his politics to the hilt by choosing to drive the wedge already existing between Chhagan Bhujbal and the Pawars even deeper.
“Bhujbal, when deputy chief minister, had been forced to resign by Sharad Pawar for his comments against the media. What’s sauce for the goose should then be sauce for the gander, too. Ajit should also be asked to resign,” Munde has said. Munde and Bhujbal have in the past come together on the same platform asking for more reservations for OBCs.
Bhujbal’s resignation had come six months before the end of the first term of the Congress-NCP government in 2004. His supporters had attacked the offices of a television channel which was cited as the reason for his resignation, though others claimed there was much more to the move.
But now even the Shiv Sena, involved as recently as 2010 in an attack on the offices of another television channel has joined the bandwagon and here it makes a difference between those attacks and Ajit Pawar’s. While many Sena leaders have similarly called for Ajit’s resignation, party spokesperson Rahul Narvekar in a very nuanced statement told the Hindustan Times, “Ajit Pawar has breached constitutional propriety. No one in a high constitutional office has the right to attack the media like he has done. Of course, in our democracy rights go along with duties and sometimes media comments can both provoke and be provocative. But those in authority must be responsible.”
To be fair to the Sena-BJP, they did not attack the media while in government, most of their attacks have been while they were in the opposition. Ajit has steadfastly refused to apologise saying he had said nothing of the kind, though television channels claim they have footage of his threatening comments.
Meanwhile, Kumar Ketkar, Editor, Loksatta who was named by Sharad Pawar along with senior Marathi journalist Arun Sadhu as people he trusted to come to the bottom of the truth by examining the footage, said, “I have neither seen nor heard those comments. I can only thank Sharad Pawar at this stage that he reposes such faith in me.”