Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Monday attacked the Prime Minister's Office for what he called attempts to "crush" a foreign correspondent for criticising Manmohan Singh in an article.
The BJP leader's main target was the prime minister's communications adviser Pankaj Pachauri, formerly a journalist with a leading Indian television channel.
In a blog post Monday, Advani wrote that "stupidity" was a great crime in public life. He held that the episode involving the PMO and Washington Post correspondent Simon Denyer was "a high point of disservice", coming from a man hired to serve the prime minister.
Joining ranks with other commentators who saw the PMO's attempts to respond to the scathing criticism in the article as a storm in a tea cup, Advani held that if the Washington Post instance was indeed an attempt to send "a stern signal" to Indian reporters, it had backfired.
"A perfect storm was brewed out of a non-event when an officious media advisor to Dr. Manmohan Singh thought that he would crush a journalist from the Washington Post, Simon Denyer, and send a stern signal to Indian reporters in the process, with a withering salvo of accusations," Advani said in his blog.
"This pesky foreign correspondent had dared to commit the unpardonable impropriety of criticising the Prime Minister of India. If this was intended to cow down Denyer, it had the opposite effect. And if it was meant to frighten Indian media, then the consequences were worse, for a story which would have been ignored or reduced to the margins rose to the top of attention," Advani said.
"The official's pomposity was an invitation to laughter, and who could resist such an offer? This must be a high point of disservice to Dr. Manmohan Singh by a man hired to serve," he added.
Wondering what was a greater crime in public life - corruption or stupidity - the BJP leader said if corruption were a political death sentence, quite a portion of the UPA cabinet would not have been elected in 2009.
"Perhaps corruption is measured by extent; only when lubrication turns into loot does the voter decide that enough is enough," he said.
"Conversely, even passing silliness creates disproportionate damage, possibly because the punishment is ridicule. Laughter can be more dangerous for reputation than a court sentence," he added.
Advani also borrowed from senior journalist M.J. Akbar's writings: "The worst person that the government can hire to 'manage' the media is a journalist. He becomes holier than thou. And so, when told to fix a story, he attempts to fix the journalist," he wrote.