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Apr 17, 2019-Wednesday
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When politicians become investigative reporters

At his recent rally in Solapur, Raj produced the very model who had left for greener pastures in search for a job and relocated to Pune

mumbai Updated: Apr 17, 2019 08:12 IST
At his recent rally in Solapur, Raj produced the very model who had left for greener pastures in search for a job and relocated to Pune

I have always considered former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh the best investigative reporter in the country. People might recall how he chased the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and came out with incontrovertible proof about how one RSS worker was killed by another in his home state, even if then BJP government did not take action against the killers.

In the wake of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, he had alleged that then Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad chief Hemant Karkare had been in conversation with him only that morning and expressed his apprehensions about some alleged saffron terrorists who hailed from Madhya Pradesh. When people disbelieved him, like a good investigator, he launched a search into Karkare’s phone records and produced a printout which clearly had the same time and date as Singh had claimed that Karkare had called him.

A few years later, when Nitin Gadkari’s star was rising in the BJP, Singh decided to pay a visit to Nagpur, Gadkari’s hometown. There had been some allegations about Gadkari’s financial deals, but he had not yet been tripped up by his own party men who wanted to cut him down in high stride.

Singh nosed around Nagpur, even ending up on the street where Gadkari lived. Next to Gadkari’s bungalow, he discovered the house of a doctor who ran a popular and large hospital in the city. Next thing one knew, Singh had admitted himself to the hospital for exhaustion and dehydration. Now such was Singh’s celebrity status that he knew the doctor would not be able to resist dropping in on such a high-profile VIP patient admitted to his hospital and personally attending to him.

When the doctor did drop in on him, Singh was quick to strike up a friendship with the medic – the next logical step would be that he would get invited to the doctor’s home for lunch or dinner. He did. When Singh arrived at the doctor’s home, of course, the conversation turned to his high-profile neighbour (Gadkari) and Singh, I am told by a friend who was privy to that meeting, casually threw in questions that were actually aimed at probing Gadkari’s lifestyle and financial status.

I don’t know if Singh got what he was looking for, but I always thought his nosing around was in the best tradition of a good cop or reporter. Even if he had, Gadkari got guillotined by his own party and Singh’s investigation came to nought.

I am reminded of all this because I have now discovered another political leader who is proving to be an equally good investigator and doing the job that the media should. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray, in his clinical takedowns of Narendra Modi and the BJP, has been arming himself with details, statistics, photographs, videos and, most importantly, irrefutable facts on the ground – on camera – that any reporter should be proud of.

When the union government, in showcasing its Digital India scheme, called a remote village in Amravati district fully digitised, MNS workers promptly visited the village to discover that despite a mobile tower there was no Wi-Fi in the village, people did not have mobile phones nor did they have ATM cards for their bank accounts. Raj actually launched a hunt for the villager who had been compelled by the government to model for its ad, where he claimed he was rolling in wealth and prosperity ever since his village was digitised.

At his recent rally in Solapur, Raj produced the very model who had left for greener pastures in search for a job and relocated to Pune. When Raj had earlier alleged that the government’s claims on Digital India were fraudulent, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis countered it saying Raj was lying. This time around, he may not have a counter.

I have never been a fan of Raj Thackeray, but I must say he has pioneered a means of political communication that is unique and unbeatable. This could soon become the norm with all parties and leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Raj Thackeray could soon be driving the indolent Indian media out of business.

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 19:25 IST