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'I will tackle blackmailer RTI activists'

October 30, 2020 16:39 IST
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'If people want to blackmail others to get information or harm things, so why will someone give them information?'

IMAGE: Activists protest the amendments to the Right To Information. Photograph: PTI Photo

The sudden selection of Uday Mahurkar, a veteran journalist, as information commissioner, has startled many.

Mahurkar was a journalist in Gujarat for three decades before moving to New Delhi to work for the India Today group.

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is on the selection panel, objected to Mahurkar's selection since he had not applied for the post. The government still proposed his name.

Chowdhury referred to Mahurkar's writings to reportedly point out that he was 'an open supporter of the ruling party'.

Mahurkar has written books on the Modi government, notably Centrestage: Inside the Narendra Modi Model of Governance.

Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/, Mahurkar says he is a believer in V D Savarkar's 'nation first' ideology.

Asked why he was chosen for the post, Mahurkar, below, says, "The government offered me the job so this question should go to the government."

What was your first reaction on getting the job offer?

I believe a lot in patrika (horoscope) and my patrika said that either I will become a judge or a journalist. And so, the post I got after being a journalist is that of a judge.

With this crossing over to the other side, you will be bidding goodbye to your career as journalist; it will be difficult to come back to journalism, as you will forever be associated with the government.

I got a phone call for this post and I just said okay. I have never thought about it.

I take my life as it comes. It has always been my nature that whatever responsibility I am asked to do, I do it very sincerely. And I have always been committed to my work.

You had not even applied for this post, so why do you think you were chosen?

They must have seen some good qualities in me.

If you read my reports, you will understand that I have reported on issues with a sense of justice. You check my reports that I have filed in my journalistic career. I have always reported without fear and favour.

I used to cover beats like the Bharatiya Janata Party, then the prime minister's office, and you will understand what I am saying if you read my news reports.

Did you consult anyone before you said 'yes' to the offer?

I said 'yes' immediately when I got the offer, but yes, I did consult with my family.

Uday Mahurkar, Information Commissioner-designate

While there were around 350 applicants for this post, you who had not even applied for it was chosen. Why?

How can I comment on this? The government offered me the job so this question should go to the government.

I asked you this because Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhry says your appointment to the post makes RTI meaningless as you did not even apply for the post.

Let him have his opinion. People have a right to opinion in a democracy.

So from reporting on Modi you will now be reporting to Modi?

I am a judge and will be reporting to the Central Information Commissioner. This is a Constitutional post.

Your social media profile says you are a supporter of the ruling party.

Ideologically, I believe in one party. And if that party has committed mistakes while ruling the country, I have reported about that too.

Therefore, to say that I believe in a certain ideology and I will not give impartial justice is wrong.

I am a man who believes in 'nation first'. And a person who believes in 'nation first' ideology will always deliver justice as this ideology does not see the caste and religion of a person who comes and seeks justice.

You believe in Savarkarite ideology and hence your idea of 'nation first' can be very different from another person's ideology, so how will you reconcile that?

When journalists asked Savarkar (before Partition) why Jinnah and he were trying to partition the country Savarkar responded by saying that the question itself was wrong as he was fighting for equal rights for everyone and not asking for special rights for Hindus.

On the contrary, Savarkar said, it was Jinnah who was asking for special rights for Muslims.

And it is this Savarkar's ideology I believe in. If Savarkar's true ideology is understood, then Muslims and Christians who want to live in the mainstream will also appreciate him.

How do you view this government's RTI record? Critics say the Modi government has defanged RTI, what do you have to say about it?

I have not studied much on this issue, but if people want to blackmail others to get information or harm things, so why will someone give them information?

This needs to be understood because such kind of people don't want transparency but have some other motives.

How do you rate Modi's tenure?

I believe it is good. There are pluses and minuses of any government, but in this government, there are more pluses and they have increased.

The way the Modi government has tried to do away with poverty in our country, no other government has done it before.

Critics say that you got this job because of your proximity to the prime minister.

The day I got the call that I was appointed for this post, I came to know of it only at that time, and that is my answer to them.

Do you have an action plan of what you plan to achieve as information commissioner?

There are two things I have planned to tackle.

One is that of blackmailer RTI activists who want to get information for their personal benefit.

And the second challenge is the officers who do not share information for some or the other reason.

I will work on these two directions in my post.

What next, now that you have crossed the divide do you see yourself contesting the 2024 election?

I have never thought about that.

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