How the media misses the woods for the trees

RAJEEV RAO writes from Bangalore: Watching the coverage of the 2009 general elections the last few days, I am struck by how little coverage there is in the electronic media on any governance issue that really matters.

It is all about alliances, breakups, hate speeches, Varun Gandhi, criminals, Sanjay Dutt, who will be prime minister, etcetera, etcetera.

I understand that these are compelling topics.  But is there no time that any media could muster to talk about and grill the wannabe leaders about what they are going to do after getting elected?

It is as is the purpose of elections is elections itself—and not governance.

At least these wannabe leaders will start thinking and preparing about it rather than coming and glibly talking and supporting or condemning Varun Gandhi.

It is not that the voter is not bothered about issues. Yes, he is probably too busy trying to point out to the media that these issues matter as well.  But, he will listen if politicians present their view on real issues, he will evaluate and at least a few will separate the wheat from the chaff, and those few might just matter in the end in a close election.

There are enough and more issues to cover—corruption, terrorism, reviving economy, infrastructure development, women’s reservation, reservation (this will mean more fights on TV, but better before elections rather than after on this one), rural education, primary education, healthcare, girl education, foreign policy, the list can go on.

The last three chief ministers got re-elected only for one reason: governance (Sheila Dixit, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chauhan), and that is the only thing that is completely missed out in all election coverage.

Or I have completely missed the point on the Indian elections?

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9 Responses to “How the media misses the woods for the trees”

  1. Shravan Says:

    Someone is off the point….
    I don’t know who…..
    Although it is more likely to be the media… as always..

  2. Mohan Says:

    You have missed Mr. Chandra Babu Naidu from AP in the list of CMs who were voted back to power because of sheer excellence in governance. Ofcourse not in the current term though!

  3. maald Says:

    This report from BBC makes the exact opposite argument. I hope we are past this phase and today’s voter rewards performance.

    High growth, low votes

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7950027.stm

    Political parties in India who have delivered high economic growth have lost elections in the past.

  4. Coffee addict Says:

    You are absolutely correct.

  5. sureshot Says:

    The biggest challenge to India’s democracy and its Republic is the electoral system itself — unless we can quickly and decisively amend the constitution to ensure those elected enjoy at least majority support among those who cast their votes, we are headed for an increasingly more fractious, venal and unrepresentative polity which feels little or no accountability for its deeds and words. The current first-past-the-post system is a travesty of electoral justice when candidates who may get as little as say 28% of the valid votes may end up winners simply because the rest of the votes are split over a multiplicity of candidates — in effect it means 72% of those who voted in that seat were against the final winner — a low cost solution and a must try in my opinion is adding in a simple second preference vote on the ballot: u say x is my choice and y my second preference and the final winner must have atleast 50% of the first and 2nd pref votes together. wonder what others think about this.

  6. Trayambakam Shastri Says:

    @Sureshot

    Introducing a second preference – Thats a good Idea. But the general Indian public will find it difficult to understand such complexities. 39% of our fellow citizens are illiterate. They have no clue about what the country is or what they need but they are the ones who really Vote. They vote for small enticements like a botter of cheap liquor, sarees or 100 rupee notes.

  7. Gururaj B.N. Says:

    The highest priority of the veteran or wannabe leader is to somehow get elected. Next priority will be to recover the money spent for election. Third priority is to make sufficient money to ensure getting ticket for next election and election expenditure. Thereafter, make enough money to last a couple of generations of his progeny. At present, corruption is so high that almost no decision is taken in the government which does not have quid pro qua for the bureaucracy and the political leadership. Latest petty example is that in Bangalore city center, all the good footpaths which have lasted over forty years are being broken up to be replaced by cement concrete, which won’t last more than few years. Many people are making money in the bargain, the contractor, the JEs upwards, local carporator and heaven knows who else.

    When such petty jobs are also not spared, would any other program have any sanctity. No wonder that providing drinking water or sanitation to distant rural areas, or improving literacy level, law and order no longer occupy center stage. It has come to such a pass that we the citizens too no longer expect any commitment, even for public consumption, from the wannabe leaders. Any citizen who tries to question the electoral candidate in one of his public meetings on these issues is likely to be bashed up as a stoolie from opposition party.

    The nonchalant confidence of the netas comes from vote bank politics. They do not anymore care for what the 80% or 85% of voters think. They need jsut about 10% to 12% of the votes to romp home. The rest of the voters may rot in hell for all the netas care. This is just about the percentage of votes which most of the victors have managed to secure in the last to general elections.

    Therefore, to begin with, if each one of us go to the polling both and exercise our franchise, we can make the difference. The country can come out of the grip of 10% of the voters, who are the back bone of this irresponsible and corrupt political class. Nothing is more important than voting on that day

  8. Rashmi Says:

    You are spot on and literally echoed my emotions! I have blogged the same in http://rashmiwithin.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/role-of-media-in-indian-election-09/.

    People who watch news media are from urban class who are highly influenced by opinions and discussions in news media. However, there are so many core issues missed out in day-to-day discussion. The same news media was chewing “mumbai attacks” for 2 months and now, they seem to have completely forgotten about it! Nobody is talking about security measures, border patrolling, terrorism etc. They are so busy with Varun Gandhi, IPL, Jagdish Tytler!

  9. Tusar Datta Says:

    I fully endorse your view. One gets the impression from the TV coverage that our society is intellectually inept to discuss serious social, economic and political issues. Budgetary position of the government this year is precarious. There is no view how incoming government plans to tackle this problem. Rapid infrastructural development is a must for the economy but how that can be ensured is not discussed. Criminalization of politics, judicial activism, poor quality of higher education, threat of terorism and maoism, instability of Pakistan, relation with China, energy security, land acquisition, formation of small states, reservations- all are serious federal issues but we do not find any discussion on them either by political leaders or by intellectual experts in the media. Can’t media organize question answer sessions on all such topics of paramount interest? These are electoral issues and all political parties must have some views and possible policy approach towards them. I know people are eager to know about these things but what can they do if only mundane sensational things are dished out to them?

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