Press Club of India Elections 2016 – Prescription for a better soup: The Dissenters

[As the Press Club of India, Delhi, goes for its election today, with two left panels on offer, here is a note from THE DISSENTERS. We publish this as we think it raises some very important issues of larger importance.]

How to vote amidst false claims from Left, Right and Others

Journalism means expressing dissent and speaking truth to power. Alas! The Press Club Of India has lost this very essence. In the lust for power, all ethics and morality, even professional wisdom is being negotiated with in the current elections for PCI, New Delhi.

The recent move by one brave journalist to dissociate himself from his panel at the last moment exposes grave corruption embedded in the the moral sphere of scribes who have formed convenient rainbow coalitions, convenienty called panels, to grab the small power centre that operates from 1, Raisina Road, New Delhi. This election however was a farce from the very beginning. Let us take some time to read this before we go to vote on October 1st, 2016.

The outgoing panel was supposed to go out of office after completion of its one-year term and remain as a caretaker till the current elections. This never happened. There are many arguments for and against this immoral act but what has conspired in the meantime needs to be recalled.

The defining moment for this panel, named Nadeem panel after PCI outgoing Secretary-General, came in the Ali Javed episode. Let’s not forget that Ali Javed only booked the PCI hall  in his capacity as a member where the Kashmir-centric program was held and allegedly “anti-national” slogans were raised. Despite, this management committee involved Delhi Police instead of initiating a preliminary internal inquiry. A complaint was lodged in the midnight by PCI against Javed and others that led to prolonged harassment of this senior member who teaches in DU and is himself the General Secretary of Progressive Writers Association, the oldest organisation of writers in this country associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI).

A signature campaign was initiated against PCI’s move the very next day in favour of Javed that immediately tested the waters. The “official” panel (Gautam-Vinay panel) supported by outgoing GS Nadeem Kazmi is backed by so-called CPI-CPM affiliated journalists. These scribes not only refused to sign the petition rather disapproved of running any such campaign because “right-wing will benefit” from it. Later Javed was reinstated but when he arrived one fine evening in the club, he was forced to leave and even abused as “Pakistani agent” by some management committee members as well as others. 

At that time, the restraint from signing the petition in favour of Javed may have seemed tactical and politically correct to many, but this politics of convenience resulted in a fiasco when the elections were announced. “Official” panel was divided on Ali Javed Issue. Rahul Jalali, the President, with Shri Krishna and others moved to an entirely different panel (Bala-Krishna panel) that is being termed as “RSS” panel allegedly promoted by some Central Minister. Now Nadeem was left all alone with a few team members. So, the so-called CPI-CPM scribes who had defended Nadeem at the time of Ali Javed episode again discounted him on the pretext of a “minority complex” and formed Gautam-Vinay panel adding a few names from outside. Ironically, Ali Javed is supporting this so called “official” and “leftist” panel alongwith Nadeem Kazmi who was instrumental in getting him booked!

This was a blow in the face for the group of journalists who had initiated signature campaign in favour of Javed. So they decided to form an entirely different panel claiming to be “pure” leftists. Till the date of nomination, this panel could not arrange for a “President” candidate so it accomodated Nirnimesh Kumar (The Hindu). Awfully, Nirnimesh was the one who had abused Ali Javed on his first entry to PCI after being reinstated, as told by some members who had witnessed the whole tussle. When this info came into picture, some panel members openly opposed his candidature. Within 24 hours, Nirnimesh was “out of the panel” and Prashant Tandon promoted to “President” post from earlier General Secretary post. However, on the day of nomination cancellation i.e. September 23rd, the developments took a strange turn. This panel “merged” with a fourth panel (Shahid Faridi) and carved out an entirely new team with Nirnimesh Kumar demoted to “Treasurer” post (instead of being out of the panel as communicated) and Shahid Faridi brought-in at General Secretary post that was vacant due to the promotion of Tandon.

The story did not end here. The curious case of Nirnimesh Kumar’s candidature relates to the new memberships given by outgoing panel through “back door” without a “transparent” process. Nirnimesh was due to file a petition against these memberships when he was lured by the “pure” leftist panel at President’s post. This was because a couple of management committee candidates in this panel are “new” members and if the petition got filed, their candidature, even the panel’s  existence could have been mired in jeopardy. When he was opposed, the decision makers of this panel could not show mettle to get him out rather demoted him to “Treasurer” post and falsely communicated till September 23rd afternoon that he is “out”!

Now this third panel was Prashant-Faridi panel at last. But controversies never end in PCI. This hybrid panel fielded one Ganapathy Subramaniam at the Joint Secretary post, initially reserved for Charu Soni (who had also filed nomination. Her withdrawal/ouster is still unexplained.). Obviously he was imported from Faridi panel, the fourth one that got merged with this. Seven years are not sufficient to erase something as gigantic and incestuous as Radia Tapes scam that rocked UPA and this country. Ganapathy was then with ET Now and was caught on tape talking to Nira Radia, leaking informations and hobnobbing. He was fired from ET Now on this charge and had been oout of sight for a few years. Outlook, Deccan Chronicle and The New Indian Express had carried a detailed story and transcriptions of what conspired between both in 2009. The tapes are still on Outlook website found with much ease on googling.

The Vice-President candidate for this panel Navin Kumar (Deputy Editor, News 24) raised this issue on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 with the panel. With much indifference, he was told by the decision-makers that this could not be undone as elections are on head. More importantly, senior panel members tried to convince him that the conversation between Subramaniam and Radia was purely journalistic! Navin Kumar has dissociated himself from Prashant-Faridi panel in a formal email. He has decided to contest independently at Vice-President post.

Below is the text of Navin Kumar’s email leaked to media:

Dear all,

 This is with regard to the latest developments in Prashant-Shahid panel to which I have been associated from the very beginning as a candidate for Vice-President post in the Press Club Of India elections 2016.

When it came to notice that the candidate for Joint Secretary post Mr. Ganapathy Subramaniam is tainted and was fired from ET Now way back in 2009 on charges of being involved in Radia tapes scam, I raised this issue officially today. I was expecting a moral revert from the panel but it did not happen. I was shocked to learn that many members see nothing wrong in content of tape. I am sorry but personally I see it as complete violation of basic journalistic ethics.

 

I have always stood by high democratic values and my heart bleeds when I see just for winning an election you have compromised your morals. At this juncture of time I have to decide where I would like to be seen. With greater democratic values or with people on unofficial payroll of Neera Radia in name of journalism?

I have no choice but to dissociate myself from this panel and fight the elections individually as I do not want to dent my credibility as a journalist professionally neither I feel it moral and ethical to continue in the present scenario.

Pls take this mail on record that I am dissociating myself from Prahsant-Shahid panel as Vice President and contesting individually.

Pls note not to publish my name and picture as a candidate on any of your posters, banners, pamphlets, mailers, campaign material etc violating which may amount to serious defamation on each and every member of the panel.

I rest my case and withdraw from this panel as its member. I will continue to fight as an independent candidate on the post of Vice-President.

Happy election!

Regards,

Navin Kumar

VP candidate

Membership No. 6359

 Now the million dollar question- Who should one vote for? Obviously, Navin Kumar may be one such name who has stood out in the supermarket of PCI-traders! What about rest?

Considering the holiness of a cow as scandalous in itself, there must be some standard by which one should go out for selecting candidates and vote in PCI elections if not for NOTA! Keeping an individual’s verified and pre-tested journalistic credential, professional honesty, democratic-secular bearing and basic human values in mind, some names are surely there to vote for- obviously not from a single panel!

Such  a list may not fill up all posts and that is never going to happen in the Press Club which usually votes for a single panel, but then idealism is something that can never be negotiated with. To quote H.L. Mencken from A Book Of Burlesques, “An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes a better soup.”

Let us hope for a better soup this time.

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