National Interest: Scared witless

That's what the government is — in the face of OB vans, studio warriors and BJP hawks

The UPA government looks increasingly like a band of nervous submariners sailing through hostile waters. They dive underwater at the first sensing of danger and then watch the world through the periscope. Except, the periscope in this case is news TV. Or frankly, why blame just TV, the entire media. You can list countless examples of this peculiar behaviour by UPA 2. But let us confine ourselves right now to three. Not just because we follow the journalism schools' three-example rule, but also because all three have the same unfortunate context, and a similarly self-defeating consequence.

First of all, I must send out an apology to real submariners, who are among the toughest, coolest and the most courageous sailors — I use the term submariner here purely as a convenient metaphor. But the first example of this panicky submariner's approach to governance came just this week, with the government at the very highest levels mostly in hiding, or responding to whatever the "periscope" revealed. E.P. Unny, India's finest political cartoonist by far and the Indian Express newsroom's crown jewel, got it so brutally and brilliantly right with his caricature of Defence Minister A.K. Antony, wrapped in a toga, described as "Mark-II Antony speech". You've had other ministers go back and forth with their statements on sundry other issues. But a defence minister on an incident on the LoC? He now says he first spoke only from "available" information and now that he knew better, terrorists dressed in army fatigues became not just Pakistani regulars, but also from their special forces. And how did he find that out? Because the army chief himself visited the spot, and brought back the facts. Where did he get them from? How does it square with his own unit registering an FIR blaming terrorists? Forget all that. You've now ducked under water, danger lurks, so do whatever you can to save yourself for the day.

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