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The letter Lalit Modi wants you to see, but should hope you don't

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:16 IST

The letter

  • Lalit Modi has written an \'Open Letter to Media Barons\'.
  • The letter sets terms for the media if it wants access to him.

The execution

  • The letter is barely coherent and seems hastily drawn up.
  • Modi demands the media obey him but insists they don\'t have to toe his line.
  • He ends the letter with a whole paragraph in capitals and signs off with an emoji.

The objective

  • Modi\'s intention behind the letter is nothing but to leverage the media.
  • Its objective simply seems to be a desperate attempt to get back a feeling of power.

One wouldn't expect to see Harish Salve, Barkha Dutt and Mukesh Ambani being addressed in the same email.

But, then again, nothing is predictable when it comes to Lalit Modi.

After making politicians and bureaucrats sweat with his 'shoot from the hip' approach, it's now the media's turn.

Or at least that's what Modi's creatively titled "Open Letter to Media Barons" indicates. And while he threatens the political class with expose after expose, he's threatening the media with access.

The letter, addressed to both Indian and foreign media persons, is Modi's attempt to establish a power dynamic with the media. The purpose is ostensibly to set terms for access to him.

Realising the TRPs he's capable of generating in a cricket-mad country, he isn't wrong in attempting to leverage the media. He's just going about it horribly.

Whimsical and unrealistic

The letter is barely coherent and hastily drawn up. You'd imagine a man who claims to have made the country Rs 47,000 crore would have a secretary to fix these things. Or the ability to draft a half-decent letter. Or the ability to at least frame an argument. None of these are the case.

The letter has a childlike quality to it, not because of any semblance of innocence, but because of the whimsical and unrealistic nature of it.

Modi begins by demanding the media get every political party to answer his "1 single Question" - whether he's been convicted of anything.

SPOILER ALERT: the answer is no, but not for want of reason.

This "1 single Question" is a recurring theme through the letter. Its purpose? "TRUTH". For, Lalit believes, "That's what India and the world deserves".

That this might be achieved if he faces his day in court is not the point. The good news, though, is that the "TRUTH" is readily available: on www.lalitmodi.com. Because how could a website owned by and named after Lalit Modi be anything but fair and balanced?

Threat of retaliation

In between his pursuit of "TRUTH", Modi manages to slip in veiled threats of retaliation, along with an example (much to lawyer Rahul Mehra's dismay).

He even manages to take offence to NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain taking offence to Modi cancelling an interview. After Jain flew 12 hours for it. An interview Modi subsequently gave to a rival channel. After promising Jain he would be first. The nerve of this Jain chap!

If Modi's attempt was to come off as reasonable, he fails miserably. In the same breath, he demands the media obey his whims while insisting they don't have to toe his line.

He claims to not be accustomed to blackmail - after explaining how he can (and will) systematically blackmail his accusers.

He hashtags his pictures #notafugitive while refusing to enter the country. The man is a study in contradiction.

Modi's letter to 'barons' is a ploy to establish a power dynamic with the media and set terms for access

This letter isn't winning him any friends either. Or none that matter anyway. By releasing it publicly on Twitter (including his whatsapp conversation with Jain), he all but forced Jain into writing a piece countering it.

Both better written and edited, Jain reveals the story about the interview that wasn't, among other things. The piece shows Modi as volatile, self-obsessed and deluded.

Just in case any part of his letter (or this article) made it seem like he was a reasonable and mature adult, Modi ends his letter with a whole paragraph in capitals (imagine him shouting it with a lisp) and signs off with an emoji.

Theatre of the absurd

With all of this, Modi has successfully managed to orchestrate a theatre of the absurd, where he's the star. But that's okay. That's exactly the point.

This latest episode, like everything else Modi has done recently, is aimed at just one thing - getting back a feeling of power. This is a man with a famously swollen ego, one that has taken a battering in the last few years.

From being at the pinnacle of the lucrative Indian cricket scene, to seeing his name dragged through the mud and having to flee the country, this is a man who knows that his glory days are behind him, desperately seeking the feeling of power he once enjoyed and craved.

Every name he drops, whether in his "exposes" or in the list of his mail recipients, is the act of a man desperate to feel connected and powerful. Something Modi once was, but no longer is.

None of what he's doing will exonerate him. At best he'll take some people down with him. But Modi's smart enough to know that. Instead, it seems, he's content to enjoy playing puppet master while it lasts.

First published: 2 July 2015, 2:09 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.