BHUBANESWAR: With Narendra Modi at the helm, political discourse in the country seems to be increasingly polarised with tussle between liberals and right wing getting intense by the passing day.
Modi hogged the centre-stage at the opening session of the Odisha Literary Festival, 2014 (OLF-14), virtually stirring a sparring match between top TV journalist and author of '2014:The Election That Changed India' Rajdeep Sardesai and journalist-turned-activist Madhu Kishwar.
"We have become an extremely polarised society where differing opinions are not tolerated. At the moment, there is deification of Modi as if he is an avtaar of Vishnu or demonisation as if he is Bhasmasur. Today we have reached a state where questioning runs the risk of being attacked. We are caught between Modi Bhakts and Congress chamchas," Sardesai said.
Speaking at the opening session on "Political Literature: Does kiss and tell model work?", Sardesai said he was never anti-Modi and in fact, he knew Modi better than most.
Kishwar, who has authored the book 'Modi, Muslims and Media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat' retorted back saying Modi has been unjustly subjected to worst demonisation campaign ever faced by any political leader. A cabal was created to vilify him which is still continuing. "My book is an attempt for course correction. Gujarat riots was not a pogrom. A whole brigade was created to portray it in a bad taste," she said.
Sardesai responded that he had never accused Modi of being complicit in the Gujarat riots. "However, be it 1984 or 2002, people do not die if Governments do not allow riots to happen," he stated.A journalist's job is not to correct history but to state facts. The best form of journalism is when everybody has a problem with you, he said.
Even as it was intense with arguments and disagreements, hardselling of individual ideas and inclinations, the panel, moderated by Editorial Director of The New Indian Express and author-in-the making Prabhu Chawla never breached civility.
Former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh, whose book 'One Life is not enough' was released earlier this year confessed that if he had thought of writing the book earlier, "the work would never have seen the light of the day".
Singh provided many light moments to the serious debate by recounting several anecdotes during his time as an IFS officer and in political life. His recount on how Chandraswami met Margaret Thatcher and turned her into a believer had the audience in splits.
Prabhu Chawla, who revealed that he was in the process of writing a book, raised the most pertinent question "Will today's political literature be left for posterity?" Political literature has become more like political news. People need to know real stories of politician. But every kiss and tell story is becoming a subject of debate. "And when questions arise over the intent and subject of a book, can they become part of literature. Will those books be read by succeeding generations," Chawla asked.