Archive for December 24th, 2007

‘Us vs Them: English media is being pigeon-holed’

24 December 2007

The branding of the “English media” as “elitist, pseudo-secular, left-wing, liberal, disconnected, rootless, pro-Muslim, anti-Hindu, pro-Congress, anti-BJP”—as if the English media is one animal; as if all of us receive our assignments from Prakash Karat and our paycheques from the Pope himself—would have gone down as one of the most successful campaigns undertaken under the right-wing captaincy of L.K. Advani, if only it weren’t so subversive in its intent.

Essentially, the premise has been as kindergarten-ish as George W. Bush: either you are with “us” or against “us”.

If you can tom-tom Hindutva as the greatest liberating force on earth, you are with “us”; if not you are anti-Hindu. If you can wear your blinders (supplied) and only see Gujarat’s stratospheric rise under Narendra Modi, you are with “us”; if not you are anti-Gujarat. If you can suspend your disbelief and applaud slaughter as statecraft you are with “us”, if not you are pro-Muslim. If you can call Sonia Gandhi names, you are with “us”, if not you are pro-Congress. Etcetera.

Certainly, the “English media” is not without fault. We get many things wrong; probably, we get everything wrong. We must be questioned, criticised, scrutinised, corrected.

But the result of this Goebbelsian campaign is an extraordinary (and growing) cynicism of the “English media” that plays right into the hands of those who sowed it and pays them rich dividends. Picking holes and splitting hairs has become a fine art, and a national pastime especially among adherents to the “cause” who cannot distinguish between journalism and propaganda, news and opinion, journalists and pamphleteers.

That hallucinatory state of mind got amply reflected in a chat that RAJDEEP SARDESAI , the editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, had with viewers on the channel’s website this evening. In the wake of the victory of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat elections, and the channel’s perceived bias against him, Sardesai ended up batting the usual bouncers.

***

Vijay: The English media is biased against Modi and BJP. “Many” are pro-Congress. An easy way to increase the TRPs is rake up the post-Godhra issue. Why don’t you talk about Godhra or Nandigram?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro- and anti-camps, especially in the context of Gujarat. Why can’t we discuss issues honestly and dispassionately without attaching labels? At CNN-IBN, we speak on a range of issues from Godhra to post-Godhra to Nandigram.

Raju: Mr. Rajdeep, can you accept it (the victory of Modi) is a defeat of media, particularly CNN-IBN also? Because the media is showing maligning and insulting pictures of Gujarat everytime in the name of Modi!

RS: A victory for Modi is not a defeat for the media, it is the defeat of the Congress party. Far from showing an insulting side of Gujarat, we have attempted to show all sides of the Gujarat story, the good, the bad and the ugly. I might add here that in every poll we did on Gujarat, we said Modi was winning.

Sareeta:Why do you think the media failed miserably to predict such overwhelming majority of BJP despite all odds? The English media was optimistic till the last minute that there would be a Congress swing and anti-establishment buzz throughout the state, but it didn’t happen. Modi dislikes English media strongly for this biased and parochial attitude for the media’s so-called pseudosecular tilt. He has not yet given any interview to any news channel, last time it was bad blood in the Karan Thapar show. How do you foresee the English media’s relationship with Modi will go from now? Will it be anti- or pro-Modi now when the Gujratis have given their verdict in huge numbers?

RS: I think the media and pollsters got Saurashtra horribly wrong. We cannot escape responsibility for that. But let me be honest: at no stage, did I feel that the Congress had any chance in Gujarat. In fact, I’ve just won a single malt bet for predicting more than a 110 seats for the BJP!! I think we need to look at Narendra Modi and Moditva without the ideological blinkers. I think the media tends to look at the Modi phenomenon in black and white terms. We either demonise him or lionise him. We should analyse and report on him in a more complex manner.

Rao: Rajdeep. Don’t you feel that “Moditva” is a creation of the media, now a much used word in elitist English media, to try and draw a line between Modi and BJP?

RS: I think there is a new strand of Hindutva politics that Modi is injecting. It combines an aggressive, muscular commitment to religious identity, but also a strong commitment to governance and developmental issues. The politics of Moditva revolves around the personality of an individual, hence the use of the term.

Whizkid_NO1: Why is Rajdeep Sardesai being seen as someone who has become biased?

RS: Because, as I said earlier, we are dividing people into “them” versus “us” based on our own ideological blinkers. I dream of an India that allows greater space for debate and dissent without accusing people of bias simply if we dont agree with everything they say. As a journalist, my aim is to report what I see.

Suyash: Modi’s positive aspects and what he did for Gujarat were not illustrated by the media. Don’t you think so Rajdeepji? Because it’s quite obivious without this he must have not won the hearts of Gujarat.

RS: Modi has definitely won the minds of a large section of people living in Gujarat. I agree his positive aspects need to be looked at more honestly. The media can’t see Gujarat as an ideological battleground only; it must be also seen as a state on the move.

Aamit: You say, “I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro and anti camps.” Then how would describe the concerted and chartered media propaganda against Modi, which we have been seeing on channels like CNN-IBN?

RS: Only last week, a Hindustan Times media critic accused us of being unabashedly pro-Modi! I guess we must be doing something right at CNN-IBN to attract such diverse opinions. We have never run any campaign against Modi. We have, as I said, attempted to present every shade of opinion in and outside the state.

(The transcript has been corrected for spellings, punctuation and grammar)

Read the full text here: The live chat

Photograph: IBN live

Cross-posted on sans serif

Is the BJP still just a ‘Hindu nationalist party’?

24 December 2007

The phrase “Hindu nationalist” has almost always prefaced western media reports of the BJP, and it is no different despite Narendra Modi‘s sensational, conversation-stopping hat-trick. But it is not just fair-skinned whites who feel dutybound to slap the appellation.

# “Hindu Radical re-elected in India,” screams The New York Times. “On Sunday, voters re-elected the politician, Narendra Modi, arguably India’s most incendiary officeholder, as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, reports Somini Sengupta.

# “Hindu nationalists win key vote,” says The Washington Post. “Hindu nationalists won a solid victory Sunday in a closely watched election in Gujarat, one of India’s wealthiest and most restive states, further weakening the ruling Congress party ahead of national elections,” reports Emily Wax.

“Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist and chief minister of the western state of Gujarat has now staked his claim to leadership of his party—and perhaps his country,” reports Jeremy Page, in The Times, London.

#”The Hindu nationalist BJP has won a key election in the western Indian state of Gujarat, final results show,” says the BBC.

# “Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, admired by corporate India as a model politician and feared by Muslim and Christian minorities as a messianic Hindu icon not averse to violence, scored an emphatic victory on Sunday,” reports Jawed Naqvi in The Dawn, Karachi.

# “Controversial Hindu nationalist party leader Narendra Modi swept back to power in… in the Hindu nationalist bastion… in what was called a national victory over the rival Congress Party,” reports Ajay Jha in Gulf News, Dubai.

# “Controversial Hindu nationalist party leader Narendra Modi swept back to power by a wide margin in India’s religiously divided state of Gujarat yesterday,” reports Agence-France Press in The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong.

***

Should the BJP take offence at being straitjacketed as “Hindu nationalists” like “Islamic fundamentalists”? Should it just not care since this is just the outpouring of what it calls “a pseudo-secular, English media”? Should it be justly proud of the epithet?

Cross-posted on sans serif

Analyse this: How shrinks view the Modi win

24 December 2007

G.S. Mudur, the science correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, has an interesting piece on the state of Narendra Modi‘s mind after his victory—”an emotional zenith, an elevated sense of self-image, a feeling beyond happiness, and a stronger-than-ever motivation towards his future goals”.

One psychologist, who has worked with children affected by the 2002 pogrom, says “a feeling of righteousness could in some cases push an election victor towards less tolerance for criticism and even less tolerance for differences of opinion.”

# “The win is likely to reinforce his belief in his own actions,” according to Alok Sinha, a behavioural psychologist and counsellor based in Lucknow. “For him, it’s likely to be seen as the people’s pronouncement on his actions.”

# “Winning is like an addiction. It can lead to a euphoric high, but it could also reinforce a belief that all that one did was correct,” according to Sandeep Vohra, a neuropsychiatrist at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi.

# “In an election victory, the sense of elation occurs in different degrees in different people, but is likely to be higher among right-wing politicians,” according to Rajat Mitra, a clinical psychologist based in New Delhi

Read the full story: Victor’s high: More motivation, less tolerance

Conventional wisdom is upside down, inside out

24 December 2007

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express:

“Incumbents can’t win, they said. Narendra Modi proved them wrong. Sonia Gandhi has acquired a new aggression, they said. Modi cut her down to size. Caste equations would work against Modi, they said. Modi managed to rise above standard caste politics. India is experiencing a political backlash against growth, they said. Modi has ridiculed that idea. It is impossible to win if a significant section of the party works against you, they said. Modi has proved that the party is dependent on the leader rather than the other way round. You can’t cater to both tribals and capitalists, they said. Modi has turned this logic on its head. So-called normal politics would triumph over the politics of polarisation, they said. Modi has made nonsense of this distinction. Modi has created a new paradigm in Indian politics, whose ramifications will be felt for years to come.

“Modi’s win calls for a serious reflection on the so-called secular/ communal divide. Why does secular politics carry less credibility than it ought to? Why does secularism remain a mere slogan, a straw that bends in every wind? Part of the reason is that the secular/communal divide is not, as the Congress would like to believe, a divide between two species of Indian citizens: one secular and one communal. It is a fissure that runs within most citizens, rather than between them.”

Read the full article: Why the idea of Modi wins

Cartoon: E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Narendra Modi be PM?

24 December 2007

Now that he has proved his pseudo-secular critics and detractors wrong, the question is: what next for Narendra Modi? In an SMS sent to mediapersons after his victory, the Gujarat chief minister said he was “CM” and he would be “CM”. But whether he meant chief minister or “common man” no one knows. But that hasn’t stopped TV channels from speculating furiously on whether, having conquered Gujarat, his ambitions would be seeking a larger national canvas.

In this YouTube video, courtesy of CNN-IBN, the economist and writer Lord Meghnad Desai strikes the contrarian note. He says Modi’s victory, contrary to the verdict of most pundits, is not going to weaken BJP but is actually going to help the BJP win the next general elections. Far from creating a rival power-centre, Lord Desai bravely predicts that Narendra Modi will be PM after Lal Krishna Advani.

Questions: Will Modi be PM, one day, some day? Will Moditva—aggressive cultural nationalism + development + personality + security—be acceptable across the nation, especially in States where the population of the minorities is larger than in Gujarat? Will it be acceptable among the allies of the National Democratic Alliance, or will there be no need for pesky allies if Modi can replicate his Gujarat model? Or is everybody counting the chickens before they are hatched?

Also read: Why the Gujarat model won’t work across India

CHURUMURI POLL: Will you vote for Modi?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will law catch up with Modi?

‘Modi has punctured vanity of corporate media’

24 December 2007

Sheela Bhatt, managing editor (national affairs), rediff.com, and one of the few journalists who predicted the Gujarat elections accurately, on the strange symbiosis between the media and Narendra Modi:

“In Gujarat, many people wondered: “Look, how powerful is Modi. He can even defeat the media.”

“Today, the common belief is that the corporate media wields power. And the media, too, has come to believe in its power. But Modi has punctured the vanity of the corporate media. He ignored the media barons. Modi is the first Indian politician to transcend India’s corporate media. The result was predictable. He got so much bad publicity that the people started sympathising with him, concluding that he was a victim of the ‘power-wielding’ media.

“When the media delivered brickbats to Modi, BJP supporters gave him bouquets. His image of being a lone ranger also came in handy for Modi even as the media mauled him with epithets. The common man felt, “The poor fellow—the media is just not allowing him to work for Gujarat’s progress.”

“The Congress’s biggest mistake was to believe the anti-Modi propaganda. Some of it was actually planted by its leaders. They were trapped in their own web when they started believing the so-called logical arguments and not looking at the emotional fervour within the masses.”

Read the full column: Understanding the alchemy of Modi’s victory

Also read: For Modi, like Bush, either you are with us or…

Photograph: courtesy rediff.com

Not of what was but of what was to be?

24 December 2007

Whether Sonia Gandhi‘s “Maut ka Saudagar” jibe actually turned Narendra Modi into a “Vote ka Saudagar” can be debated till the cows come home and go back in the morning.

PRAKASH SHETTY, the hugely talented cartoonist who worked for The Week magazine and now does cartoons for Eenadu Television, interprets the Congress chief’s controversial statement as a sign of prescience.

Not of what happened to the aam admi in 2002, but what was to happen to her not-so-aam candidates in 2007.


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