Sunday, May 24, 2009

Media and elections

the media only picked up the frivolous issues and went into an overdrive. the 24x7 news channels are more influential and pervasive than we would like to believe. and it is fair to say that the media has been antagonistic towards bjp. it has successfully associated bjp with regressive politics.
around 40 percent of india is urbanized. the urban youth might or might not have a different moral compass. but the media projected bjp as diametrically opposite to the ambitions of these youth. this inspite of elements like muthalik not being associated with bjp. the media has considerable influence on this section of impressionable minds. these infulenced voters have voted against the bjp.
what is really hard to comprehend is the missing middle class consciousness. or is this another instance of the pathological inclination of the hindu society towards collective suicide.
is the urban middle class moving away from bjp? we have seen a similar trend in delhi assembly elections also. hard to comprehend, really. especially when the alternative congress has not provided any visible incentive.
on the whole, this election is quite a reversal of trend for the congress. it has ceded power in several states to the bjp. and suddenly it bucked the trend starting with rajasthan. what is really astonishing about the results is how the congress got almost everything right: it won a major share on its own; almost all its allies came out trumps; the allies won but not in a big enough way to threaten or dominate in any way; those who deserted congress lost in a big way. a perfect script. surreal but true.

The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> Three myths and an election
This year’s general election will be remembered for three myths that determined its amazing outcome, catapulting the Congress to an awesome 206 seats and reducing the BJP’s tally to a paltry 116. The first is about the BJP ‘failing’ to break free of its ‘Hindutva agenda’ and coming up with proposals that would appeal to the masses and be in tune with the aspirations of India’s young. This is entirely incorrect. None of the BJP leaders who campaigned across the length and breadth of the country talked about those issues which are identified with what is crudely referred to as the party’s ‘Hindutva agenda’. I don’t recall any leader promising to abrogate Article 370, introduce a Uniform Civil Code and build a ‘grand temple’ dedicated to Sri Ram in Ayodhya. So how did this perception gain ground? The answer to this question lies in the manner in which the media, especially 24x7 news channels, portrayed the thrust of the BJP’s election campaign, wilfully misleading readers and viewers by perpetuating falsehoods in the most brazen manner, beginning with the party’s election manifesto.

Till the day of its release, only the top leaders of the BJP (you can count them on your fingertips) were privy to the contents of the manifesto. To prevent motivated leaks, the manifesto was printed the night before it was released. Yet, for nearly a fortnight before that, newspapers and news channels ran jaundiced stories about how the manifesto would focus on the BJP’s ‘core Hindutva issues’, how the Ram temple would figure prominently in it, how it was meant to revive the ‘Hindu card’, and how all this had caused a rift in the party! I happened to run into one of the peddlers of this fiction a couple of days before the manifesto was released. How do you know all this, I asked him. “Someone who is involved with drafting the manifesto has told me,” he replied haughtily. Really? The poor, pathetic sod and his feckless editor obviously had no clue about who was drafting the manifesto, what were its contents, and yet they manufactured and published stories which they knew were patent lies. I should know because I drafted the manifesto.

And when the manifesto was released, journalists didn’t even bother to read the 48-page document. Instead, they picked up three lines on page 47, which said, “The BJP will explore all possibilities, including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya,” to put out stories on how the party had returned its “old hardline Hindutva”. During prime time news that evening, anchors aggressively confronted BJP spokespersons with taunting questions like, “So, the BJP, bereft of any issue, has fallen back on Ayodhya? It’s communal politics once again?” They grinned as the party’s representatives, ill-prepared and inarticulate, mumbled inanities. A news service that prides itself on being ‘different’ ran a story that was all about the BJP’s previous manifestoes. Others followed suit. And that was it.

The manifesto talked about the economy, foreign policy, strategic affairs, climate change, education, agriculture, science and technology, gender equality, minority welfare. But all that was overlooked because for media those three lines on Page 47 were of overwhelming importance. Tragically, since media chose to ignore the substantive portions of the manifesto, which would have found a resonance with ‘young India’ had they been publicised, those leading the party’s election campaign also abandoned their own governance agenda. Instead, they talked about frivolous issues far removed from popular concerns — for example, setting up cyber cafés in impoverished villages.

And thus was the perception created that the BJP cares only about building a temple in Ayodhya and nothing else. The power of perception over reality was demonstrated when during a television debate actress Nandita Das, asked by a feisty member of the audience what exactly had Mr Varun Gandhi said in Pilibhit to merit her censure, stuttered and stammered, bit her lips, looked at her nails, tossed her head defiantly and said, “You know all those awful things he has said...” or words to that effect. Where did she read or hear about those ‘awful things’? “It’s all over the place... on TV, in newspapers. Look, we all know what he has said.” End of debate. Clearly she didn’t know what Mr Varun Gandhi had said, nor did those in media who painted him as a monster and thus sought to hobble the BJP.

The second myth that did the BJP in is the so-called ‘consciousness’ of India’s middle class whose concern about real life issues like terrorism, inflation, job loss, credit crunch and corruption, vocally articulated by those who claim to represent ‘civil society’, has turned out to be totally bogus. Nothing else explains why the middle class should have voted for the Congress and thus endorsed its poor record of governance over the past five years. We can only surmise from the voting preference of the middle class that people who are educated, well-informed, and alert to what’s happening around them, are least bothered about corruption in high places, the relentless loot of public money, the sagging physical infrastructure, the dire straits into which the previous Government has led the national economy, the repeated terrorist attacks and India’s diminishing stature. Indeed, middle class ‘morality’ and ‘consciousness’ have turned out to be figments of our collective imagination; the next time you hear somebody waxing eloquent on how Transparency International has rated India as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, or how our country has become the favourite destination of terrorists, kick that person in the face. There is no percentage in being polite.


Gandaragolaka said...


Yes, the congress pumped a lot of money into election, yes, the media is biased, and yes the youth are impressionable.

We know all of this already.

I am not talking against what you say, but just that this is a good lesson for us. We cant expect BJP to win unless majority of people want so. So, I believe its time to move on now and create public opinion through basic ground work.

But still, I have to concede that unless one member from each family dies in a jihadi bomb blast or gets converted by evangelists, we will not change.

Arun said...

Vajpayee smiles and dabbles in poetry, while Advani argues like a lawyer. Indians prefer the benign image of the former to the tough image of the latter. This is a lesson for the next BJP leader on how to cultivate his/her image.

Anonymous said...

Spend lots and lots of money to cultivate the media. Congress party and the covnersion lobby have already gained enormous expertise on these lines and way ahead of BJP. Besides, the "whiteness" of the Congress party is an added advantage.