By Apoorva Murthy

Madhu Trehan, a pioneer in investigative journalism and the Editor-in-Chief of media critique website Newslaundry, set the agenda for the session with two important topics in the context of recent developments. The first: Modi’s visit to the US and second, the landmark Jayalalithaa judgment.

On Modi’s visit to the US, Shourie brought to the fore the US’s double standards in dealing with terrorism.

Speaking to a packed audience, Shourie proclaimed Pakistan a smaller problem for India, especially when it is propped up by the US. India’s biggest problem, according to him, is China. He said the crux of Modi’s visit to the US was about developing a strategy for China. He also questioned if we were deceiving ourselves by extending our hand in friendship to China.

With reference to this, Madhu pointed out the Chinese troops’ intrusion. Shourie contends India has gotten accustomed to territorial disputes. It is high time we look after our interests. Perhaps we should stopped writing books about them and instead take concrete action.

Shourie also discussed how, for decades, Pakistan has not been able to take on India in a frontal war. As a result, they’ve engaged in proxy wars. Here again, Shourie stressed the need for building capacity in lieu of florid speeches.

Commenting on Jayalalithaa, Shourie saw the spectacle a case of vendetta in politics. He contended that dealing with the situation will be a positive for Modi. No case on a public servant should take more than a year to be resolved, Shourie feels. He suggested corrupt people be banned from public life but felt the Lokpal would just bring in additional layers within the bureaucracy.

In response to Shourie’s suggestion, Madhu drew considerable applause from the crowd when she pointed out that Jayalalithaa’s appeal on grounds of her poor health drew little sympathy. It brings up the question of whether women politicians would be treated differently regardless.

When asked what had changed after Modi’s landslide victory and what it meant for Muslims, Shourie voiced his support for moving toward a secular and economic criteria for evaluating opportunities and opposes reservations in all domains. He also wished for consistent policies across states: we can’t have development in Delhi yet love-jihads in UP.

He also opined that irrational things done by fringe groups in the name of Hindu groups cannot all be attributed to Modi. But it is time to have all of them fall in line.

It is worth mentioning that each of Shourie’s answers drew applauses from the audience. The session ended with a standing ovation for Shourie.