CHANDIGARH: With the Amarinder Singh government continuing to reel under the relentless media focus on Minister Rana Gurjit Singh on account of a shady sand mining contract, the Chief Minister's Media Advisor Raveen Thukral denied having met the editor of The Tribune to push for publication of a rebuttal to the newspaper's stinging editorial on May 31, a claim made by PT in a report.
Taking issue with the earlier report by Punjab Today that claimed Thukral met with the newspaper's editor, the department of public relations that directly reports to Thukral called the reportage "your reporter's imagination" and "aimed at promoting some personal agenda."
Meanwhile, Thukral landed in yet another row with a rather bizarre explanation about the presence of Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar attending a meeting of administrative secretaries and district commissioners, convened by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
When media persons asked Thukral in what capacity did Jakhar attend a purely administrative and official meeting on May 31, Thukral said it was not much of an issue because Amarinder was also a former Punjab Congress president, just as Jakhar currently is.
A senior principal secretary rank official, when informed about Media Advisor’s reasoning, prominently reported by the Indian Express on Friday, chuckled, "May be he is right, and Amarinder also attended the meeting as former PPCC chief and not as CM. Who knows better than those who advise? So, maybe next time, (Akali Dal's) Parkash Singh Badal can also attend the meeting since he was also a former CM."
In remarks that would sound rather strange, coming as they did from someone who has worked as a senior journalist reporting on Punjab, including on Amarinder Singh government in its earlier avatar from 2002-2007, Thukral also explained Jakhar's presence saying that since the state government has adopted the Congress manifesto as its policy programme, it was justified.
Not surprisingly, not one senior journalist covering the government saw the issue in the same light. When asked, a senior journalist said Media Advisors in Punjab do tend to have a rather unique perspective about indefensible positions, an ability that is a precondition for the job.
While the "rebuttal" issued by PR department of the state government in response to the Punjab Today story seemed particularly concerned about "great injustice (done) to an editor of Mr. Harish Khare’s standing and stature by attributing to him false statements with no rhyme or substance," Mr Khare's office pertinently refused to confirm or deny the meeting.
Some senior editorial staffers of the newspaper, contacted by Punjab Today, said they, too, have been made aware about the reported meeting and what transpired during that interaction.
"CM must ask Minister Gurjit Singh to step down in order to ensure a fair probe into allegations of corruption against him." - Indian Express' editorial on June 1. Clearly, another occasion for a letter to the editor! INSTEAD OF THE USED NOW
The editor's Personal Assistant, contacted by PT, said the newspaper cares little about any attempt to have a rebuttal published and anyone with point of view can write to the editor, a route Mr Thukral finally took, scoring his two-bit worth of brownie points with a letter to the editor published in Friday's edition of The Tribune, titled, "Media trial unfair."
Meanwhile, the perceived unfair media trial, if that is how the CMO sees it, not only continues but is gaining momentum by the day. On the very day the CM's Media Advisor was taking pains to have his rebuttal published in The Tribune and refuting PT's story about strong attempts made in this regard, it was the Indian Express' turn to come down on the Amarinder Singh government.
"(The) CM must ask Minister (Rana) Gurjit Singh to step down in order to ensure a fair probe into allegations of corruption against him," the Indian Express' editorial titled "Over to Captain," commented on June 1. Subordinate staff working with the Media Advisor did not confirm if another rebuttal was being drafted in this case, too.
At least three senior journalists who have worked in close proximity to Mr Khare in the past said the man was virtually immune and inured to such pleadings by anyone claiming to have been hurt by the newspaper's reportage.
While it took no less than US president Donald Trump's move to pull out of the Paris climate deal to push out news items about Rana Gurjit's former employees' remarkable ability to win multi-crore sand mining contracts from the front pages of region’s newspapers and relegate these to inside pages, respite does not seem on the horizon.
With newspaper headlines screaming about Income Tax authorities' move to seek bank details of Rana's staff and opposition continuing to stir the pot - AAP MLAs met the governor yesterday on the issue - the Amarinder government clearly needs to do more than draft rebuttals to media reports. As one editorial writer said, it is Over to Captain, and he has to act decisively.