Key meet at the Club to decide his fate this evening
Delhi Crown Bureau
New Delhi, June 13: A crucial meet of the Governing Committee of Delhi-based Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) of South Asia is to be held today (Tuesday the 13th) amidst demands for the resignation of president S. Venkat Narayan over his recently-concluded controversial visit to Mynamar where he met and interacted with the leaders and ministers of the junta government.
Venkat’s junket from June 6-9 to Myanmar has led to much furore in Delhi’s journalistic circles over the past three days, even as close to 15 foreign journalists have given up their FCC memberships as a mark of protest to his visit to India’s neighbouring country which is currently ruled by the military crushing democracy under its boots.
Among the journalists who quit FCC’s membership include Aletta André (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting), Sebastien Berger (AFP), Sean Gleeson (AFP), Laura Höflinger (Der Spiegel), Peter Hornung (ARD German Radio), Oliver Mayer (ARD German Radio), John Reed (Financial Times), Lena Schipper (The Economist) and Gerry Shih (Washington Post). Some of them even expressed their “shock” and “horror” on Twitter.
Venkat’s close aides told www.thedelhicrown.com – “Venkat has said it in as many words that let the foreign journalists give up their memberships…they hardly matter to this Club as they seldom visit and take part in the Club’s regular activities.”
People who know Venkat closely are of the view that he won’t step down as he has been “too ambitious and opportunist” throughout his life, and literally grabbed the FCC top post two months ago despite his old age and much opposition.
“At the age of 75 Venkat was greedy enough to grab the post despite there being much opposition to him being installed as the Club’s president. Prior to his current term, Venkat had been FCC’s president five times, including his two-year tumultuous term two years ago. Foreign junkets, like the one which he enjoyed in Myanmar recently, seem to be the only reason behind him eyeing and grabbing the post for a yet another term,” said a former Treasurer of the Club.
During his Myanmar “sojourn” Venkat was accompanied by president of the Press Association C.K. Nayak, but the latter didn’t stir up any controversy as he “informed” the Press Association’s office bearers well in advance. But “smart” Venkat kept his visit a top secret, and intentionally didn’t disclose his plans even to the office-bearers and members of the Governing Committee of the FCC of South Asia.
Ever since the controversy surrounding his Myanmar visit erupted, Venkat has maintained the stance that he went there in his “personal capacity” and not as FCC president. But the members of the FCC of South Asia aren’t ready to buy his argument.
A news report quoted an FCC member as saying – “It is stupid to say that he had gone there as an individual when he is the FCC president. A public position comes with an additional baggage of not doing certain things. There are more don’ts than dos for somebody holding a public position.”
In his defence, Venkat has reportedly said that he went to Myanmar to “advise” the junta-run newspaper “The Global New Light of Myanmar” as to how they can improve the design and content of their publication. “I just met the editorial board and advised them how a newspaper should be run and how events should be treated,” he has been quoted as saying by a section of the Indian media.
Amazingly, Narayan feigned ignorance about the fact that the newspaper is run by the junta military, which had unseated the country’s elected government and jailed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. “Venkat has his inimitable style of shrugging off his shoulders while denying something or feigning ignorance about a certain thing,” quipped an FCC member.
One of the Club’s current office-bearers told www.thedelhicrown.com “Venkat is hardly seen at the Club. He comes here whenever he arranges or organises an event, including a book-talk, a book-launch, or a press conference by a diplomat etc., gets his photos clicked and videos broadcast live on social media platforms, and leaves the Club instantly. He hardly shows interest in the overall management or upkeep of the Club. It seems his only ulterior motive behind grabbing the top post two months ago was to enjoy foreign junkets and freebies.”
Venkat’s contemporaries and his former colleagues recall him as being selfish to the core. “He has always been a selfish guy. He likes being in the limelight, enjoying free lunches and foreign junkets and free air trips. People often get misled by his simple looks and sophisticated ways of talking and carrying himself,” says a member of the Press Club of India (PCI) who worked with Venkat at one of the mainstream media in yesteryears.