21 July 2019
Bhubaneswar: Sagarika Ghose has several titles to her name- a senior journalist, columnist, fiction and non-fiction writer, but most importantly, she is someone who speaks her mind. Jajati Karan, Editor-in-Chief of OMMCOM NEWS caught up with her on Saturday evening in Bhubaneswar and chatted on several pertinent issues. Here are some excerpts:
Jajati Karan: Do you like writing books more than journalism?
Sagarika Ghose: I love to write books because in journalism you leave out a whole human saga.
Jajati Karan: Your book ‘Why I am a Liberal?’ came at a very important time. What was the idea behind writing the book?
Sagarika Ghose: Over the last five years, terms like libtard, librandu, have been very commonly used. So, I delved into the concept of liberalism to make people understand that it is not a term of abuse. Liberalism calls for greater freedom of the individual. It was an important book at the time because political and personal ideology should not be promoted through state structure.
All those being tagged as presstitutes, Tukde Tukde Gang, Khan Market gang, anti-national are just keeping alive the idea of liberalism.
Jajati Karan: In your book ‘Indira’, you mentioned that she was the most powerful Prime Minister. Do you still believe that after Modi’s mandate in this election?
Sagarika Ghose: She had a pan-India appeal. Modi only has north India appeal. But, I think he is like her son. He is following what she did and taking it to the next level. Both undermine the press; party does not matter for them; they are a cult of personality. Both are thrilling for a nation and can do damage to democratic structure. She was phenomenon across certain demographics and so is he. If you notice, Amit Shah and Modi never attack Indira Gandhi.
Jajati Karan: Why are you considered anti-Modi?
Sagarika Ghose: I am simply anti-politician. I am not a communist, capitalist, I am just a journalist. I have critically covered both the Congress and BJP leaders. When I said that Rahul should resign because the campaign failed, Congress supporters are telling that I am RSS bhakt. Some give me death threats and gang rape threats. My friend Gauri Lankesh told me not to worry but look what happened. She was shot dead. So now, I file police complaints. Constructive criticism is fine but all this is not okay.
Jajati Karan: As a journalist from Delhi, how do you see Naveen Patnaik? And how do you perceive Odisha?
Sagarika Ghose: If there is one person that Rahul Gandhi should emulate then that is Naveen Patnaik. They are descendants of big families. Both are from sophisticated English speaking background. But, look at the way Naven Patnaik has transformed himself.
He has immersed himself in Odisha. You can’t think of Odisha without thinking of Naveen Patnaik. I covered his campaign in 1996. He was a nice, charming man and I thought how will this sophisticated person manage in Odisha. But, he was somehow able to connect with the people.
He is reclusive and doesn’t speak much. He has a low-profile which is a remarkable fact. He is delivering something very specific to the people. Rural people are obsessed with him. He is there when super cyclone happened, he is there when Cyclone Fani happened, he is always there for Odisha.
He is also associated with incorruptibility. He is clean image person and is seen with lot of integrity. Leaders hype themselves but he doesn’t do that.
I think perception of Odisha has not changed much. It is a much more lively place now but not many big moments. However, Naveen Patnaik being ambassador is enough for Odisha.
Jajati Karan: What is your take on the Opposition?
Sagarika Ghose: It is very scary for democracy as there is no Opposition left. Rahul Gandhi should have led the party in Lok Sabha as that would have given a semblance of Opposition but he did not do that. I think Congress does not have a stomach for a fight.
People who can take on Modi are the regional parties. Mamata is fighting, Stalin has held his own. But, they too have currently succumbed because of Modi’s huge mandate.
India is currently having a Hindutva moment. Religious fervor is sweeping the State. Gathbandhan fell apart as everybody was protecting their market share. Shah and Modi are throwing a big challenge to Opposition.
I think Modi has got a 10 year mandate because victory margins are huge. It is very difficult for any opposition to swing it back within 5 years. Congress is in the ICU. BJP is a powerful party. They have foot-soldiers, Whatsapp groups, social media, mainstream media and everything is superbly organized.
I don’t see the Opposition coming together at this level
For more, watch the full interview.