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HVK Archives: A mendacious campaign

A mendacious campaign - The Observer

Dina Nath Mishra ()
February 12, 1998

Title: A mendacious campaign
Author: Dina Nath Mishra
Publication: The Observer
Date: February 12, 1998

Sonia Gandhi started the Congress campaign about a month back.
The drum-beaters of Sonia Gandhi include not only Congressmen,
but the whole range of 'Stop BJP brigade'. Even Leftists are
happy to think that Sonia would stop BJP's march to power. All
the anti-BJP forces are praying for a hung Parliament m this
election also. All fair and foul means are being employed to
create the impression that Sonia's campaign has improved the
chances of Congress-UF government headed by the Congress. The
classic case of creating media hype, that too by an opinion poll,
is one published by the weekly Outlook dated February 16. An
impressive photograph of Sonia Gandhi with smiling Priyanka is on
the cover. The weekly declares "Sonia halts BJP's march" in big
bold letters. Although this theme was in the air for a couple of
weeks, but no opinion poll had confirmed it. Outlook's exclusive
opinion poll did it for the first time. The sum and substance of
the opinion poll were there on the cover itself. It announced:
BJP Plus allies - 231, Congress 172, United Front - 118.

Opinion polls have attained a certain level of credibility, and
therefore these figures and the impression that Sonia halted
BJP's march were certainly a big news. Outlook gave the news to
agencies and others in advance. Naturally, agencies flashed it,
the media highlighted it, TV channels broadcast it and an
impression was created by this opinion poll even before the
magazine came to stalls. One may or may not accept the results
of the opinion poll. Even if one assumes that the data provided
by the pollster is true, the cover betrays the classic case of
media-cheating, for it created two patently false impressions as
per its own data.

First, the BJP and allies together will get only 231. The
Congress alone will get 172. The second false impression is that
Sonia has been able to stop the surge of the BJP. Let us examine
both these points taking into account the detailed data that the
survey gives. On page 19 of the magazine the truth comes out. The
172 figure includes the allies of the Congress as wen. And who
are these awes? SP and RPI in Maharashtra, RJP in Bihar, BSP in
Punjab and BKKP in UP. The survey does not mention allies like
the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress. How many seats win the
allies get? No figures given. But one can have a good example in
Bihar. The Congress and allies will get 18 seats in the state,
accord to the survey. Congress had two MPs in 11th Lok Sabha. The
172 includes this 18 also.

The failure to mention the word llies and credit all the 172
to the Congress do no credit to journalistic ethics, especially
when very carefully the word "allies" is added against the BJP on
the cover. Anybody can understand that the omission of allies on
the cover was deliberate. It was a simple case of journalistic
cheating and judging by the timing of the publication, i e peak
of the election campaign and just before First date of polling,
it becomes monumental cheating, more so because the subject was
the core of entire electioneering.

Now let us look at the second claim: "Sonia halts BJP march".
The survey admits: In Rajasthan, BJP will add to its present
tally from 13 to 15. In Gujarat, a similar hike from 16 to 18.
In Karnataka, BJP and allies would more than double its tally
>from six to 13. In Tamil Nadu, where BJP and allies would more
than double its tally from six to 13. In Tamil Nadu, where BJP
and allies have no seat, they will get three. In Andhra Pradesh,
again a zero seat state, BJP will get two. In West Bengal, yet
another zero seat state, BJP and allies will open their account
by getting one. In Madhya Pradesh, BJP will retain its tally of
27. No loss compared to 1996. For 10 states for which detailed
data has been given, the survey admits that in eight states the
BJP is surging ahead and in one it is maintaining it overwhelming
position. As per the survey, it is only in Maharashtra, Congress
would gain at the expense of Shiv Sena-BJP. But cover screams
"Sonia halts BJP march". That became headlines in the entire
media.

Headlines of the opinion poll stories read "Congress resurgence".
And also "Sonia's campaigning has improved Congress fortunes".
By how much? In UP, Congress and its allies had six last Lok
Sabha. The survey says it will get four. In West Bengal, Congress
had nine seats, it will come down to only three this time as per
the survey. In Rajasthan, again Congress would come down to 10,
it predicts. The case of Gujarat is similar to that of
Rajasthan., Congress tally would fall from 10 to eight. In Bihar,
for all practical purposes, RJD means JD and if it gets 18
according to the survey, along with the Congress, this again
would be a fall. In Tamil Nadu, Congress had zero. It will
maintain that position. As per the Outlook survey, Congress would
increase its tally m Andhra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh by
eight, seven and three seats respectively, not at the expense of
BJP, but of the UF. Only in Maharashtra, the survey predicts a
Congress increase of 10 seats. To the total tally of Congress and
allies was given the figure of 172 by the survey. How many
allies? It is anybody's guess, for thin survey had not given the
data.

Soma has been projected as the saviour of the Congress. The fact
is that Congress is her saviour. It may be recalled that on
November 7, 1997, the CBI took a major step to uncover the truth
behind the Bofors pay-offs by sending a letter rogatory to the
Channel Islands. The reply could reveal the true beneficiaries of
the kickbacks. Bofors paid Rs 24 crore into Ottavio Quattrocchi's
Swiss bank account. The money was subsequently transferred into
an account in a tax haven in the Channel Islands. The identity of
the account-holder is what the CBI wanted. Just 48 hours later,
the Jain Commission's interim report suddenly occupied the centre-
stage. Congressmen close to 10 Janpath, notably Arjun Singh,
Jitendra Prasada, and K Karunakaran, assumed a hardline position,
ultimately resulting in the fall of the Gujral government. Sonia
Gandhi desperately wants to keep the identity of the account-
holder in. the Channel Islands a secret.

The ramifications of the mysterious Channel Island account go
well beyond the question of bribery and corruption. It also made
high officials vulnerable to pressure from abroad. It seems this
knowledge of Channel Island account was used to swing at least
one deal, the purchase of the controversial Westland helicopter.
After causing two deaths, the Westlands purchase by India was
grounded. They may only be sold oft as scrap-metal! Why were
these junk helicopters bought? Rajiv Gandhi stated in Parliament
that the Westland helicopter was so useless that India wouldn't
accept even if it were offered free. Nevertheless, he backtracked
after just one meeting with the then British PM, Thatcher.
Sonia's decision to campaign for the Congress is a defence
strategy designed to somehow keep the leverage of power with her
through a Congress headed government.


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