In an engaging reversal of roles, Infosys Executive Chairman NR Narayana Murthy posed questions to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, whom he called “India’s best interviewer”, at the Saturday evening launch of Gupta’s book Anticipating India: The Best of National Interest (HarperCollins, Rs 799). The event, held at The Leela Palace Bangalore, was attended by prominent personalities including Roshan Baig, Minister for Information and Infrastructure, Karnataka; Raghavendra Auradkar, Commissioner of Police, Bangalore; TV Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education; Dr Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Hrudayalaya; and Rajeev Gowda, professor at the Centre for Public Policy Research, IIM-Bangalore. The Indian Express Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra introduced the book, an edited volume of Gupta’s column, National Interest, on politics and economics, published over 19 years.
Bangalore is a “feel-good city”, said Gupta, who shared stories from his formative years as a journalist and talked about some of his most read columns, among them a piece published in 2003 titled “The HMT Advantage”. The Hindi Medium Type advantage, as he labelled it, referred to people from small-town India such as Kalpana Chawla and Kapil Dev, who went to native-language schools and colleges and eventually broke the glass ceiling to emerge at the national forefront. Bangalore is one of the few cities in India where it does not matter where you come from or who you were born to, Gupta said.
Gupta credited Murthy with encouraging him to put the book together, and his former editors ,Arun Shourie, Aroon Purie and SP Singh, with helping him find his path in journalism. The conversation encompassed politics, popular culture, business and journalism, sparked by Gupta’s anecdotes from past meetings with those in power. Narendra Modi figured prominently in the discussion. “Modi is fortunate that the UPA government has left him an orchard of low-hanging fruit,” said Gupta. The challenge for him as prime minister would be to protect institutions from “majoritarian excess” and to portray himself as “a right-of-centre, Hindutva-believing nationalist leader whom everyone trusts,” he said.
Gupta also urged journalists, especially those covering corporate India, to base their stories on facts and be platform agnostic in this digital age. “We all know the when and what, we must now focus on the why, how and what-next. Journalists need to have domain knowledge,” he said.
He fielded questions from the audience on Dravidian politics, the role of the media in interpreting Modi’s rise to power, and the future of journalism. Gupta also signed copies of the book, and said that a compilation of his writings on defence and national security will be published next year.
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This story appeared in print under the headline Stories of a Nation