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'Politicians are not intolerant. We can accept criticism'

Last updated on: May 17, 2012 09:11 IST

'Politicians are not intolerant. We can accept criticism'

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India is increasingly becoming a 'democracy of sound bytes' because of 'undue' coverage given by the media to disruptions in Parliament and not to serious debates. This was the general sense expressed by politicians across the board who nudged the media -- both electronic and print -- to cover less the noise in Parliament and give more weightage and coverage to serious issues that are raised in the House.

Politicians Arun Jaitley (BJP) and Mani Shankar Aiyar (Congress) spoke in a similar vein at a function on Wednesday to release a book -- Straight Thoughts -- penned by Lokmat Media Chairman Vijay Darda when they rejected suggestions that politicians were "intolerant" in the wake of the Ambedkar cartoon controversy.

At a panel discussion moderated by senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Jaitely and Aiyar said politicians are "more accountable" to people and to the media more than anyone in the society and they laugh at cartoons of themselves but oppose only when there is some sensitivity involved.

When the MPs disrupt the House and go out, the media wait for their bytes and make it the news of the day. "If I make a decent speech, there is not a hope in hell that you will get two words in," was how Aiyar summed up his views.

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Image: (Left) Mani Shankar Aiyar (Right) Arun Jaitley


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'India is moving towards becoming a democracy of bytes'

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CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury was more vocal and lent support to Aiyar's views that India was increasingly becoming a "sound byte democracy."

He wanted to know how many newspapers and television channels properly had covered the impeachment process against Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court.

"This (India) is moving towards becoming a democracy of bytes. There are serious discussions which take place. For the first time, there was an impeachment of a judge. We were exercising the sovereign right of the country through Parliament. But it won't get covered," he said.

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Image: Sitaram Yechury
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

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'We have never said cartoons should be banned. We can take criticism in our stride'

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Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said the country has achieved whatever it could because of the political leadership and added, in an apparent reference to anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare and his team, the Jantar Mantar demonstrations are "dangerous" for democracy.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav asked the media not to paint a grim picture of politicians by calling everyone "corrupt".

Touching on Lokpal, which he passionately opposed both inside and outside Parliament, Yadav said former President A P J Abdul Kalam was right in saying that "Lokpal will be a jailpal" if it sees the light of the day.

Replying to Sardesai's view that the recent cartoon controversy suggests that politicians are intolerant, Lalu said "we did not do what Mamata (Banerjee) did. We have never said cartoons should be banned. We can take criticism in our stride," he said.

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Image: RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

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'I don't know why we demean ourselves'

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As politicians attacked the media, Sardesai and veteran scribe H K Dua put up a spirited defence of the fourth estate saying there cannot be a cozy relationship between politicians and journalists.

Sardesai admitted the media has to regulate itself and there are a number of "minus points" within it which need to be rectified.

While Aiyar attacked the electronic media and the anchor for "interrupting the guest" every 30 seconds and showing "utter disrespect", Yechury advocated the need for delayed telecast of proceedings in Parliament.

"I don't know why we demean ourselves and we expose ourselves to utterly barbarious behaviour," Aiyar said.

A number of politicians like Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Rehman Khan, Union Ministers Praful Patel, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Rajiv Shukla and V Narayanasamy and MPs Rajiv Pratap Rudy also participated in the function.

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