BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and SHARANYA KANVILKAR in Bombay write: The stunning defeat of the BJP in the general elections has been dissected so many times and by so many since May 16 that there is little that has been left unsaid.

What has been left unsaid is how the BJP’s defeat also marks the comeuppance of a certain breed of journalists who had chucked all pretence to non-partisanship and made it their mission to tom-tom the party, in print and on air, for a decade and more.

The Congress and the Left parties have had more than their share of sympathetic “left-liberal” journalists, of course. And for longer. But most were closet supporters unwilling to cross the divide from journalism into politics, or unwilling to be seen to be doing so.

However, the rise of the “muscular” BJP saw the birth of a “muscular” breed of journalists who unabashedly batted for the party’s politics and policies—without revealing their allegiance while enjoying its fruits “lavishly“—in a manner that would have embarrassed even the official spokesmen of the “Hindu nationalist party”.

Little wonder, Arun Shourie, the granddad of journalists turned BJP politicians, alleged at the party’s national executive meeting that “the BJP was being run by six journalists.” There are different versions doing the rounds on who the “Gang of Six” were, but some names are no longer in the realm of speculation.

# Sudheendra Kulkarni an assistant editor at The Sunday Observer and executive editor at Blitz, rose to be a key aide to both prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and prime minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani, even drafting the latter’s controversial Jinnah speech.

# Chandan Mitra, an assistant editor at The Times of India, editor of The Sunday Observer, and executive editor of Hindustan Times, found himself “mysteriously becoming the proprietor of The Pioneer, without spending a rupee thanks to the generosity of the BJP and more particularly that of L.K. Advani“.

# Swapan Dasgupta, the scion of Calcutta Chemicals (which makes Margo soap), rose to be managing editor of the weekly newsmagazine India Today, before emerging the unofficial media pointsman of sorts for Arun Jaitley and through him for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

# Balbir K. Punj, the sugar correspondent of The Financial Express, who churned out masterly theses on conversions and other sundry diversions for Outlook magazine, was nominated to the upper house of Parliament by the BJP like Mitra.

# And then there’s a motley crew of fulltimers and freelancers, including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta, who did a spell in Vajpayee’s PMO, and weighty political correspondents and editors of The Times of India, The Economic Times and Dainik Jagran.

“Journo Sena” was what the tribe came to be called, an allusion to the “Vanara Sena” (army of monkeys) that helped Lord Rama fight the armies of Ravana in Ramayana.

However, in the unravelling political epic, the “Journo Sena” stands trapped in the crossfire of a party struggling to come to grips with a gigantic electoral loss, firing wildly at each other—or are being fired at by the big guns.

***

First, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s “candid insider account” in Tehelka, a magazine whose website was hounded out of business by the Vajpayee government, came in for searing criticism from Anil Chawla, a classmate of his at IIT Bombay, for blaming the RSS for the BJP’s plight.

“The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state,” he wrote in a widely circulated “open letter”.

Kanchan Gupta, who many believe was eased out of Vajpayee’s PMO by Kulkarni, took a potshot at his erstwhile colleague.

“Kulkarni who undid the BJP’s election campaign in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ slogan and fashioned the 2009 campaign which has taken the BJP to a low of barely-above-100 mark has written an article for Tehelka, the magazine which tarred the NDA government, causing it irreparable damage, and is now the favourite perch of those who inhabit the BJP’s inner courtyard, blaming all and sundry except those who are to blame,” Gupta wrote on rediff.com.

In a rejoinder in Tehelka, Swapan Dasgupta welcomed Sudheendra Kulkarni’s mea culpa calling it “a welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the BJP’s 2009 election experience,” but couldn’t resist himself from sticking the knife in.

“Kulkarni has provided some interesting insights but has also cluttered the picture with red herrings. This isn’t surprising.

There are many in the BJP who insist that the problem with Advani was Kulkarni“.

When former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha resigned from party posts, ostensibly miffed at the elevation of Arun Jaitley as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha despite leading the party to defeat, Dasgupta rushed to Jaitley’s defence, wondering how the resignation letter had made its way to NDTV.

“TV editors I have spoken to have indicated that there were two parallel points of leak. The first was through an associate of Pramod Mahajan (who hates Jaitley) and the other was was the unlikely figure of a cerebral Rajya Sabha MP.

“I gather that the follow-up was done by a disagreeable journalist (one who signed the 20-points during the Emergency) whose nomination to the Rajya Sabha has been blocked by Jaitley on two separate occasions,” he wrote on his blog.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting, the “cerebral Rajya Sabha MP” Arun ShourieMagsaysay Award-winning former investigative journalist and author who became a minister in the Vajpayee government—“blamed six unnamed journalists who, he said, were responsible for articles damaging the [BJP] party interest.”

Whether the journalists were all members of the BJP or merely sympathetic to it, Shourie didn’t make clear.

In drawing attention to the journalists in specific, the former journalist may only have been indulging in the nation’s favourite sport of shooting the messenger but he was also underlining the role his compatriots were playing in the BJP’s affairs.

In his column in the media magazine Impact, Sandeep Bamzai writes:

“Arun Jaitley and his band of journalists-turned-politicocs misread the ground realities and the tea leaves completely. Buoyed by several wins in key States, this core team thought that the mood in the States would be mirrored at the Centre when the general hustings came along.

“Price spikes, terror threats and fulminations against a decent PM Manmohan Singh were the new imperatives crafted by Jaitley and his journo boys.

“The entire strategy fell flat on its face and all the journos who hogged prime time on new telly in the run up to the elections turned into disillusioned critics immediately after the results.”

In the India Today cover story on the BJP’s travails, Swapan Dasgupta’s former boss, Prabhu Chawla, seen to be close to incumbent BJP president Rajnath Singh, found fault with Singh’s bete noire Arun Jaitley for being spotted at Lord’s, applauding a boundary by Kevin Pietersen during the India-England Twenty20 match:

“Jaitley, a hardcore cricket buff, was in London with his family on holiday while his party back home was imploding, just like the Indian team.”

On a yahoogroup called “Hindu Thought”, the former Century Mills public relations officer turned columnist Arvind Lavakare, attacked Swapan Dasgupta, presumably for urging the BJP to junk the “ugly Hindu” image engendered by its commitment to Hindutva.

“After quitting a salaried job in a reputed English magazine a few years ago, Swapan’s livelihood may well be depending on his writings being published in a wide range of prosperous English newspapers which are anti-Hindu and therefore anti-BJP. If that is indeed so, Swapan simply cannot afford to project and push the Hindu line beyond the Laxman rekha. Poor dear,” wrote Lavakare.

The comment would perhaps have gone unnoticed, but Dasgupta gave it some oxygen by responding in kind in a post-script on his blog:

“I have no intention of affirming my credentials. To do so would be to dignify Lavakare’s personal attacks as a substitute for an informed debate on ideas.

“I merely hope that the attacks on where I write, who went to college with me and who are my friends are not in any way an expression of envy. It is a matter of satisfaction for me that I get a platform in the mass media (cutting across editorial positions).

“Engaging with the wider world is daunting but much more meaningful than gloating inside a sectarian ghetto. I strong recommend Lavakare also tries earning a livelihood out of writing for “a range of prosperous English newspapers”. It could be a humbling experience.”

Among the few journalists to have spotted the travails of the “Journo Sena”, or at least among the few to have had the courage of conviction to put it on paper, is Faraz Ahmed.

He writes in The Tribune, Chandigarh:

“When the BJP lost power in 2004, all the branded BJP editors—Kanchan, Swapan, A. Surya Prakash and Udayan Namboodri—were pensioned off to Chandan Mitra’s Pioneer. Today, however, each one of them is finding fault with Advani, the BJP and some even with the Sangh.

“These are ominous signs of the demise of a political party and reminds one of the slow and painful death of Janata Dal in the early ’90s when the ‘Dalam’ was dying and BJP was on the upswing and everyone was joining it or identifying with it because that was the most happening party.

“To be fair to these people who naturally represent the rising middle class, they waited patiently for five years in a hope that the UPA government would be a one-election wonder and would die a natural death in the next round. So much for their political understanding.”

Obviously, everybody loves a winning horse and doubtless the antics of the “Journo Sena” would have made for more pleasant viewing had the election verdict been the other way round.

Still, their antics in the aftermath of defeat raise some fundamental questions about their grand-standing in the run-up to the elections: Are all-seeing, all-knowing journalists cut out for politics? Do they have the thick skin, large stamina, and the diplomatic skills required for the rough and tumble?

From the embarrassment they have caused and are causing to their party of choice, it is clear that there is an element of truth to BJP president Rajnath Singh’s statement that he can “neither swallow nor spew out” the journalists.

Then again, L.K. Advani started his career as a journalist.

Also read: How come no one saw the worm turn?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

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29 Responses to “BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism”

  1. harkol Says:

    This is utter Drivel!!

    There have been many journalists who openly supported and continued to operate as journalists. MJ Akbar was in Congress and even won election from congress, while continuing to be a journalist, though he later he left congress. Rajiv Shukla continues in congress, though he has now left journalism (just like Arun Shourie). There are umpteen other examples.

    BJP and congress both have their sympathizers in all walks of life, journalism isn’t an exception.

  2. Anna Says:

    Churumuri… no other job? how much are you being paid? forget BJP now. It’s becoming so repeatative. have stopped visiting Churumuri daily. Now it is a weekly affair. doesn’t matter to you right?

  3. huttadallihutta Says:

    Stunning defeat???

    BJP has got 116 seats, down 20 + from what they had in the previous election.

    Compare that to the Congress which won 114 seats, just a decade back. In the 1999 elections.

    So nothing is impossible in the elections.

  4. mysore peshva Says:

    Beautiful analysis. Thanks much, Pritam Sengupta and Sharanya Kanvilkar.

  5. Geronimo Says:

    Just naming a chunk of journalist doesn’t serve the purpose mr.author.
    99% of journalist in India are anti-right wing.
    Thats the education they get in journalism courses,whatever be the reason,just bash the Right.

  6. kharaharapriya Says:

    Churumuri,
    How much did you guys get paid for all the “secular” journalism you profess??

  7. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Interesting analysis. I would like to know why the ’20-point’ journalist of BJP started going ‘sour’ on the Nuclear Deal. Where did he get his inspiration from? It was not the strategy that failed BJP. OddVani as a leader was simply a bad idea. QED.

  8. Ankit Says:

    Thre are too many people like Vir Sanghvi, Vinod Gupta, the whole IBN and NDTV cartel and many more who did the propaganda campaign for Churumuri’s party in this election. Churumuri may be regretting that neither RJ seat (that went to Shobhna Bhartiya of HT) not the padma awards (many of them went to the IBN/NDTV gang) seem anywhere in sight for the most effort of this blog :)

  9. Dr.R.K.D.Goel Says:

    The downfal of BJP is due to its Hardliner hindutya policy of Moditya in Gujarat.

    Post Godhra riots of 2002 and supresson of Muslims is the result of bJP defeat.

    If Modi will not check his pseudo hardliner hindutya Saffron parivar of Vadodara, there will be worst period for BJP ahead.

    They are celebrating the victory of BJP in Vadodara by a margin of 1,35,000 votes in the history of last 5-6 Parliament elections which is won on hindutya only will be dangerous for harmony in between Muslims and Hindus of Vadodara.

    10 % youth of Muslims of Vadodara are becoming SEMI / IM / LeT terrorists. They will be problem for internal Security in case the LeT attack again as ehey are giving warnings of repeating 26 /11 Munbai in bigger way.

  10. khan Says:

    Indeed the dark days for BJP, When the very promoters turn their poisonous pens against each other. Thanks to authors for collecting some of the “vaner sena” quotes, and presenting in the manner which is making supporters squirming.

    Expect this article to “kheencha chela aaega” for the RSS supporters, as they reveal in…you know what??

    Do they have the thick skin, large stamina, and the diplomatic skills required for the rough and tumble?

    Thick skin??? you must be kidding to even mention that, for they take offense at any thing and everything at, no matter what they say to others. You know the “hurt” thing!!

    Large stamina?? Ah Ah, they were all in that “to enchash”, seeing dilli door ast, they don’t know what to do…… each one trying to out do others to fit in the system.

    Diplomatic skill??? Yes when you are talking about writing/spinning in their dark corners. But connecting to the masses they know not.

  11. Goldstar Says:

    Why not a SINGLE article about the Left’s disastrous drubbing in the polls? This was a equally (or more) significant loss of BJP’s 20 odd seats. Scared CPI(M) goons would do a “Nandigram” on you?

  12. Rajesh R Says:

    Looks like Churmuri, NDTV, IBN-CNN are dissecting BJP more than required…. come on guys they have lost the election and they accepted it… why to dissect more?? instead why don’t you guys concentrate more on MMS governance? why don’t track the promises done by MMS?? Congress’s win is again because of media and journos…..

  13. Anshuman Patel Says:

    Seriously it’s getting a bit boring and repetitive..this unending post-mortem of NDA’s defeat. Ofcourse the sterling service in this regard was done by its own pack of in-house journos and well the main-stream media has jumped in with apparent glee.

    But really what’s amusing is the indulgent analysis in media about the power and influence of media itself in forming the opinion of vast majority of Indian electorate. Now seriously! Arent’ we here being a li’l too simplistic and naive?

    If one trawls in the ‘right’ leaning websites/blogs, one would find out the ‘real’ reasons for BJP’s defeat as articulated by an overwhelming majority of bleating sheep..ie EVM very closely followed by ELM! (EVM – Electronic Voting M/c, ELM – English Language Media).

    It’s actually hilarious if not a bit tragic. Do we really think majority of the electorate soaks up the media religiously for say 3-4 months and then get’s that a-ha feel..’Gotcha! There is light and the truth shines and I got the right candidate and party to vote for’! Do we really think media plays such a big role in shaping the psyche of me, myself, my chaiwalla, my maid, my boss..oh well!

  14. Ankit Says:

    “why to dissect more?? instead why don’t you guys concentrate more on MMS governance? why don’t track the promises done by MMS?? ”

    Haha..that would have effect on paapi pet of the establishment slaves.. :) A media that is co-opted by the establishment and whole sole purpose is to advance the establishement’s case is otherwise known as propaganda. A sample is on this website.

  15. mayura Says:

    This is very rich coming from psuedo-secular news media, who acts as self appointed spokesman for the congress and also does its hatchet job on a ongoing basis. We will never see the usual suspects like Mount Road Mahavishnu aka Chinud, or Outlook mentioned in the same vein. Not to forget the Electronic media which is constantly yammering about the non existant greatness of congress and get handsomely rewarded for their services in cash and kind

  16. Geronimo Says:

    1] Churumuri
    2] prannoy roy
    3] rajdeep sardesai
    4] sagarika ghosh
    5] barkha dutt
    6] vir sanghvi
    7] shekhar gupta
    8] vinod mehta
    9] vinod dua
    10] jug suraiya
    11] deepak chaurasia
    ALL THESE GUYS SUPPORT THE BJP, ISNT IT !!!!!!!!!

  17. Simple Says:

    Geronimo

    All the 11 journalists you mentioned tried to project that BJP was winning the 2004 LS elections.

    ALl the 11 journalists again, in 2009, wanted us to believe that BJP would get 150 seats and Cong too would get the same.

    BOth the elections, all the 11 journalists under-estimated cong. clearly, was this an attempt to whip up a wave in favour of BJP?

  18. Goldstar Says:

    Simple,

    Are you for real?? Do you really really believe that Vinod Mehta, or Prannoy Roy “attempt to whip up a wave in favour of BJP” ?

    True, they sure underestimated Congress and Over-estimated the BJP. But thats because of stupidity, not intentional.

    “You can never underestimate the stupidity of the general public.”
    Quote by Scott Adams (Dilbert).

  19. Geronimo Says:

    @ Simple.
    For your kind information i was being sarcastic.

  20. kaangeya Says:

    The BJP’s so called party journalists have had a life outside politics for a long time. Swapan Dasgupta is an historian and has never made light of either his Hindu cultural leanings in the Nirad Choudhury mould or his dislike for the Gangetic Plain Hinduism of the BJP. Chandan Mitra and Kanchan Gupta, Udyan Namboodiri and Ashok Malik – all Bengalis by culture or language – have been unsparing in their criticism of the BJP when warranted. This is a cheap piece of drivel. If anything the journalists in the BJP camp have intellect, spine and character on their side compared to vacuous jelly fish like Vir Sanghvi and Prannoy Roy.

  21. Simple Says:

    Gold Star,

    I am as real as you.

    if the media under-estimates Congress it is their stupdity.

    if the media supports congress, then the media is cong chamcha.

    either way you want to win.

    I have another label for such people , ‘losers.’

  22. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Looks like the cheddi posters on churumuri havent unlearned their journo compatriots’ losing tactics – creating and then attacking the ‘pseudo-secular’ strawman.

    Maybe they should learn from this article instead of indulging in this ineffective game.

    BTW where are the post-poll heroes of such posters – Tathagatta Spammerji and Hindtuva-Palahalli and their loong hate-spewing posts?

  23. Aryan Says:

    Is it really that ‘mystifying’ for the Congressi dhoti-wallahs or their supporting topi-wallahs to see that most of the sellout jhola-wallahs invariably swing to the left? You have an insane advantage, bask in it while it lasts.

  24. Dr.R.K.D.Goel Says:

    Where this post mortem of Jinnah will take the BJP? Several senior BJP leaders are leaving the party. Mr. Rajnath Singh BJP party president can’t tolerate healthy criticism of BJP under him. He should calmly resign from the BJP accepting the responsibility of BJP defeat in 2009.

  25. Gopi Says:

    This is really a funny article esp the claim that left-leaning did not corss the line. Have you ever seen an article similar in tone, critique like those written by Malik, Dasgupta, Gupta, Chawla etc crticising Sonia, Rahul & Co by, say, Vir Sanghavi, Vinod Mehta, Pankaj Vora, Harish Khare, AJ Philip, the Rams / Malini P of Hindu, TN Ninan, A Desai, Rajiv Desai, Malvika Singh, Khushwant Singh, and many Nambus, Pambus & Tambus of DNA? Just cite one such article from 1999 onwards by any of these worthies that was as critical of The Leader as so-called BJP journos have been of Advani & Co!

  26. Doddi Buddi Says:

    All Jinnah lovers from BJP should join and form another party called RJP
    Rastriya Jinnah Party!

  27. mohaneesh thapar Says:

    Hi every1 i m 20 years old ..i m kinda nu to all this but wht i seriously feel tht Congress ruled India for more then 60 years n BJP has ruled India for 6 years but wht BJP led NDA did in 6 years the same Congress led gov was not able to do in 60 years of governance ..n yeah all these 60 years most of the time Congress came into power was due to sympathy over the prominent leaders being assassinated (Rajiv Gandhi n Indira Gandhi) when both of these 2 Glamour Gandhi Icons were no more in this world..the sympathy factor worked for them ..i personally feel tht all Congressmen actually gangraped their very own motherland n now the Media (Print n Electronic Media) has joined the bandwagon. I m not a BJP supporter n also not a Congress supporter haha forget the Reds i m not tht either i m simply a devotee of my nation ..n cant see how much we r letting our very own country down ..just look at China the very own nieghbour or ours we say “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” n they say 你给我的母亲笨蛋东北及整个喜马拉雅 translate that it comes out i want north east and the whole of Himalaya ..n yeah 1 more thing wht if tomorrow China invades India does MMS gov has it to defend its own territory …..1 more thing i totally agree with Geronimo the list is 100% correct this Secular Mafia Journlist should be banned frm India. thnk u

  28. ruddy Says:

    hey….i cann’t understand the post-poll honeymoon period these media worms are still enjoying. Polls are over, one party has won another lost, as it happens in any election, in any sport. but Vinod DUA kind of Congress touts in media are incessantly carrying out their hackneyed and awkward campaign full disdain & hatred against BJP (that represents a good portion of our people equivalent to 116 MPs). In NDTV, it seems reporters and jurnos are incentivised to air all rubbish stuff about BJP. they are sick, in fact, as fanatic as taliban & Raj Thakre. rather then to pin point loop-holes in goverment policies & programs ( that would eventually help in better policy making & effective implemetation), they sit at their shows just to air the tussle in BJP and do not miss a single chance in lambasting the party which is no more in power. Political parties are always at odds against eachother but media must be fair, unbiased and imaginative. By their deeds NDTV is proving itself just a media partner of Congress party. AND…..the trend is not good for a democracy at nascent stage.

  29. Indian Express & Shashi Tharoor – is it Personal ? – POV Says:

    [...] – Shooting your mouth off to journalists, on a public forum, – especially those with BJP affiliation -reeks of poor decision making. That ‘holy cow’ statement is possibly going to come [...]

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