Posts Tagged ‘Elections’

CHURUMURI POLL: How many seats for Mr Modi?

3 December 2012

If elections were just a bunch of opinion polls and television shows and magazine covers and advertisements and 3D shows, it would seem as if Narendra Modi has already won the Gujarat assembly elections and the Congress and the other opposition are only there to help him do so—although polling begins only after ten days from now.

In a house of 182, the ABP News-AC Nielsen poll gives the Gujarat chief minister 124 seats, up seven from the current tally of 117; the Congress 51.  The India TV-C-voter poll gives 120 seats; the Congress 55. The India-Today-ORG poll predicts a landslide. The CNN-IBN Hindustan Times poll says he is urban India’s most preferred choice to be PM. Etcetera.

In the face of such drum-beating about Brand Modi and Vibrant Gujarat, and against the backdrop of constant invocations of development and growth, key issues that help a voter make up her mind have been swept under the carpet. There is no talk of the three-cornered contest, even less of education, poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, pollution, law and order, etc—all very live factors in Gujarat as in other parts of the country.

Nonetheless, who are we to poop such a party? So here’s a simple question: how many seats do you think Narendra Modi and the BJP will walk away with?

‘The notion of secular was not known to Hindus’

5 May 2009

Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) tears into the “preamble” of the BJP manifesto saying the party has not given up on its “feel-good” theme. In 2004, it tried to fly the kite of an “India Shining”; in 2009, it is recycling the myth of “India Glorious” from ancient times.

The BJP premable, signed by Murli Manohar Joshi, tries to sell India as “the most ancient and continuing civilisation of the world”, when it was not. It talks of Indian farmers dazzling foreign travellers with their agricultural abundance when famine was common. It talks of a superior “indigenous education system” that compared with the best in England when there were no schools or colleges as we know them today. And it talks of a health care system complete with vaccines and plastic surgery.

“Most insidious is the manner in which the preamble conflates the “Bharatiya world view”, Hindu thought and secularism “in the real sense of the term”.

The notion of the secular was actually not known to the Hindus, as the secular requires giving priority to the human being irrespective of his or her beliefs. Hindus were concerned with establishing caste and sect.

Only the Buddhists expounded a view that might be called secular since they emphasised social ethics irrespective of other links. And the Buddhists were ousted by the Hindus.

Read the full editorial: India Shining to India was Shining

None of the above instead of best of the worst?

19 March 2008

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: When Karnataka goes to the polls in a couple of months from now, the voter will stand before Electronic Voting Machines which have BJP, BSP, Congress, JDS and a couple of other parties and independents marked besides the buttons in front of her.

But should she also be provided with an another option—“None of the Above”—if she thinks none of the candidates or parties in the fray are deserving of her support?

The “None of the Above” option has been much discussed in academic circles in recent times, largely as a device to get our parties to put up more credible candidates. Chapter and verse has been quoted to show that this can be done, and that this can be a good way for the voter to tell parties what she thinks of them and their candidates.

But it has never been tried. The political situation in the State is tailormade to test it out, instead of once again condemning voters to pick the “best of the worst”, as has become the case with candidates with unknown sources of funds and well known cases of crime vying for our trust despite the model code of conduct and the mandatory affidavits.

Look at the emerging poll scenario. The voters has absolutely no choice but to choose from one of the three mainline parties, namely the Congress, BJP and Janata Dal (S), the three parties who, since 2004, have disgraced themselves by their relentless pursuit of the politics of opportunism, caring two hoots for the opinion of the voters.

The mandate was clear in the last assembly elections. The voters had rejected the Congress’ claims for a fresh lease of life, and wanted the party to cool its heels on the opposition benches. The voters preferred the BJP but did not trust it fully to occupy the throne on its own. And the JDS was relegated to play third fiddle, not fit to be the main opposition party either.

The manner in which the three parties twisted and distorted the mandate, by hook or by crook, is too recent to be repeated. Suffice it to say that the voters were taken for a ride and for nearly four years the State had to do without any effective government, which has extracted a heavy price in slowing down the process of development.

Yet, the same three parties, who unabashedly and shamelessly abused the trust of the people, are now seeking our trust.

In the minds of many voters, each of the three main parties may not be fully deserving of our support given their signal disservice, but despite the facade of democracy, there is no real choice before the voter. The only choice that is available before her is a change of combination of her choice!

Instead of voting for the best, she is forced to cast her vote for the best among the worst, a party which in her eyes is less dangerous and less unscrupulous. But can this be a real expression of choice? Or is it a forced choice, which only cosmetically alters the political DNA of the State while retaining its worst genes and chromosomes?

Since staying away from the election is no solution because participating is a sacred duty cast on voters, why not give voters an opportunity to indicate that none of the names fit the bill so that we can have a better estimate of the standing of the parties and their candidates in the eyes of the people?

CHURUMURI POLL: Can S.M. Krishna swing it?

5 March 2008

For more than two years now, news of Maharashtra governor S.M. Krishna‘s return to “active politics” in Karnataka has sustained many a journalistic byline. Hot tips of a coming Union cabinet portfolio if not an ambassadorial posting have been fed by Krishna’s media minders with boring predictability. And so it was on Maha Shivaratri 2008, when news filtered in from Bombay that the former Karnataka chief minister was headed back to his home-state.

This time, though, it was more than just a rumour with Krishna formally putting in his papers, even as the Election Commission looks increasingly likely to call for assembly elections in end-May. But the irony could not be more striking. Krishna was the man who led the Congress to a debacle in 2004, and four years later he is being projected as the saviour who could energise the moribund party and bring it back to power.

Questions: Will S.M. Krishna be able to resuscitate the Congress? Or will his late-entry only further weigh down the Grand Old Party which has at least half-a-dozen aspirants to the chief minister’s gaddi? Does the 76-year-old Krishna with his “hi-tech” image have the required charisma to swing voters towards the Congress again? Or having seen the rousing leadership of Dharam Singh and H.D. Kumaraswamy and B.S. Yediyurappa, is Krishna just the man that voters are pining for? And, if the Congress wins, will Krishna become chief minister again?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: An old flame ignites the media’s insensitivity

After the votes, count the notes. Then add 7%.

22 February 2008

PRAKASH SHETTY‘s take on the Pakistan election verdict which plonks Benazir Bhutto‘s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, notorious as “Mr Seven Per Cent”, in a position of strength.

In prosperous Gujarat, everybody can buy media

3 January 2008

GIRISH NIKAM writes from New Delhi: Now that the elections are over and done with in Gujarat, one needs to look at the role of the media in that State, its pliant nature and the increasing commercial angle in its reportage.

Whether newspapers or TV channels, the Gujarati language media by and large tried to avoid discussing “controversial issues” like the 2002 pogrom, the status of the riot-affected victims, or any of the raging controversies.

Angrezi media ki tarah, hum (Narendra) Modi ko ungli nahin karte (unlike the English media, we do not finger Modi),” was a revealing comment a Gujarati TV channel reporter in Ahmedabad made.

So much so, what was being heatedly discussed in national newspapers and TV channels based outside Gujarat, and also by some of the English language newspapers in the State, was completely avoided by the local language media. All through the campaign, Modi, who was visibly hostile to journalists from the national media or downright cynical, was seen in an unusually good mood on a Gujarati TV channel, while on a “live” programme.

There were no questions asked about the various allegations being made against him by the Congress leaders; no questions about the Tehelka expose which had brought out how the 2002 carnage was perpetrated, in the words of the perpetrators themselves; no questions about the status of the court cases; no questions about the Sohrabuddin issue.

“We are clearly told earlier, before Modi accepts to give an interview, that none of these questions are to be asked and we in the Gujarati media stick to it,” the TV channel reporter confessed.

In fact, the channel went out of its way to ensure during the claimed “live” programme that Modi did not have to face any “inconvenient” questions from the viewers. “It was not a ‘live’ programme. If it was ‘live’ and viewers were free to ask him questions, then why were no telephone numbers being flashed on the screen for the viewers to call,” a journalist of a leading English newspaper in Rajkot, pointed out.

If the tendency to toe a suggested line is worrisome, what is equally worrisome about the Gujarati media is the increased commercialisation of the news space.

“Whether it is the news columns or the editorial page, everything is available for a price in the Gujarati media,” a senior Congress functionary who was actively involved in the Congress campaign, revealed. “We had a separate budget earmarked for the media. If we did not pay, our news stories would not appear at all in these newspapers.”

In other words, the political parties not only had to pay for the advertisements which appeared under the party’s banner in these newspapers but also had to pay for the news items of any event or meeting held by it. “If we refused to pay to cover a rally or a meeting, and sometimes even a press conference, there would be no news about it next day, except for big rallies involving names like Sonia Gandhi or the Prime Minister,” the AICC functionary added.

This was corroborated by any number of reporters and agents cum reporters of various Gujarati newspapers across the State. “Paid news”, as it has become known in the media vocabulary in the State, has become a standard fixture, and the rates are fixed.

Pointing to a double-column story in a Gujarati newspaper, a stringer-cum-agent of a Hindi newspaper in Navsari district says, “See, for this story, the BJP candidate had to pay Rs 12,800.”

Who pockets the money? The stringer says 85 per cent of it goes to the newspaper’s management; the agent-cum-stringer of the town who gets it is paid a commission of 15 per cent. “Everyone in the edition shares it,” he adds with a tinge of regret as his newspaper is not “in demand” and he is losing out on the commission.

The “news report” is obviously heavily tilted in favour of the candidate who has paid for it, with all the positive reasons being written about how he is going to win. This kind of commercialisation has resulted in readers being left utterly confused, as they are unable to decipher what has been paid for in their newspapers and what come to them without any strings attached.

One of the leading newspapers, as if to keep its conscience clean, uses a technique to justify its decision to sell editorial space. “There is a dot (dingbat) at the end of the story, which signifies that it is paid news,” says a stringer-cum-agent of a Gujarati newspaper in Surat district, pointing to a story. But this is confined to only one of the leading newspapers. Others don’t have any such qualms.

Result: readers are left high and dry when it comes to getting honest news, views or trends about the elections.

A hotel owner in Himmat Nagar in Sabarkantha district expresses this confusion of the readers by pulling out the previous day’s leading Gujarati newspaper. On one page, side by side, are two stories, both double-column stories of the same size, about the two rival candidates in a particular constituency.

“Look at this, this story says this candidate is surely winning the elections, while the adjoining story about the rival candidate also says exactly the same thing, that he is going to win!” points out the hotel owner. “These newspapers are making fools of all of us. Sab bikhau hai (everything is on sale).”

The candidates have now come to believe that the only way they can get publicity is by paying the journalists. Even a journalist whose intentions are nothing but journalistic also is seen through the same eyes by the political parties and especially the candidates.

“When I went to talk to a candidate to get details about him and his campaign, I was asked, ‘Yeh sab chodiye, yeh bataiye kitna dena hai (that’s all right, just tell me how should I give)”, and he pulled out bundles of one -hundred and five-hundred rupee notes from his pocket,” revealed a young reporter of a Hindi daily newspaper in Surat.

After a fact-finding enquiry undertaken by the Editors’ Guild of India following the 2002 carnage in Gujarat, Dileep Padgaonkar had remarked about the role of Gujarati media: “I feel their prime interest is commercial.” It is only getting worse going by the recent experiences in the Gujarat election. The only people who stand to lose in this politician-media nexus are the ordinary readers, and of course, the cause of good journalism.

A translated version of this piece appears in the latest issue of Outlook Saptahik

Also read: ‘Media is now part of a conspiracy of silence

SUCHETA DALAL: How The Times of India sells its editorial space

SUNIL K. POOLANI: Selling editorial space; changing times

Cross-posted on sans serif

CHURUMURI POLL: Should US restore Modi visa?

29 December 2007

On the night of Narendra Modi‘s thumping win, Veerappa Moily decided to further expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the Congress. Appearing on a CNN-IBN show hosted by Sagarika Ghose, the former Karnataka chief minister, quoting a newspaper report, said Modi had hired a Washington-based image consulting firm called Apco Worldwide, that had previously burnished the image of assorted dictators around the world.

Moily recounted the story, published exactly 36 days earlier, with great glee. That Apco had a record of boosting the images of corrupt African and Russian leaders who had fallen out of favour with their followers. That Modi’s government was paying $25,000 (approximately Rs 10 lakh) a month for the job. That Apco’s brief was to build and sell Brand Gujarat to the outside world, but any help in making Modi look better wouldn’t go unappreciated.

With which part Moily had a problem is obvious. But a juicy rumour now doing the rounds in Delhi is that India’s best known “image management and communications consulting firm”, run by a former journalist, too was in the running for the Modi account. But the firm backed out when it realised that, among other things, it was also required to polish Modi’s image to such an extent that it would pave the way for a United States visa for Modi.

Now, as everybody and his uncle knows, Modi’s US B1/B2 (tourist/visitor) visa was revoked in 2005 “for alleged violation of religious freedom”. His request for a diplomatic visa too was turned down. Modi said the United States had “insulted” India, and the Manmohan Singh government said the move was “uncalled for”, and that it displayed a “lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally elected chief minister.”

Questions: With Modi re-elected, should the United States revoke the revocation of his visa? Has anything materially changed in Modi’s standing from a legal and diplomatic point of view through his reelection for his visa to be restored? When scores of dubious leaders manage to get into the US, should Modi, with the backing of “five crore Gujarati people”, be blocked? Should Modi be bothered about a US visa at all? Can an image management firm pave the way for a US visa for a politician with a documented record of blood on his hands, when ordinary Indians sweat and toil for it? Will human rights activists succeed in blocking a US visa? Or will Gujarati NRIs succeed?

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Why young Indians in the West admire Modi

28 December 2007

B. Raman, former additional secretary, and director of the Institute of Topical Studies, Madras, in Outlook:

In the Hindu diaspora in the West, more young people admire Narendra Modi than grown-ups. Many of his young admirers in the US were born and brought up there and had the benefit of the best of secular education. In spite of this, there is a sense of pride in them that the Hindu community has at long last produced a leader of the calibre of Modi.

What is it they see in him?

His simple and austere living? His reputation as an incorruptible politician? His style of development-oriented governance? The fruits of his policy, which Gujarat and its people are already enjoying? His tough stance on terrorism? His lucid-thinking on matters concerning our national security? His defiance in the face of the greatest campaign of demonisation mounted against him the like of which only Indira Gandhi had faced from her political opponents and sections of the media in the 1970s?

All these are factors, which influence their favourable perception of him, and which have already been highlighted and analysed in the articles on his impressive election victory. But there is one factor, which is more important than these and which has not found mention in the analyses…

That is, for large sections of the Hindus—young and old, even more among the young than among the old—he gave them a sense of pride in their identity as Hindus. They feel that he removed from their minds long habits of defensiveness as Hindus carefully nurtured by the self-styled secularists.

Bharathiyar, the Tamil poet who inspired millions of Tamil youth to join the independence struggle under Mahatma Gandhi, wrote: “Tamizhanenru Chollada, Talai Nimirndhu Nillada (Say You Are a Tamil, Hold Your Head High).”

The growing legion of Modi’s admirers in the Hindu community all over the world are saying: “Hindu Enru Chollada, Talai Nimirndu Nillada. (Say You Are A Hindu, Hold Your Head High).”

Read the full article: The secular hypocrisy

‘Media responsible for Gujarat’s national impact’

28 December 2007

Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“In Gujarat, the media were neither disinterested observers nor merely biased against Narendra Modi; they were an active participant. From disseminating ridiculous stories about lack of crowds in Modi’s meetings and overplaying the Patel revolt in Saurashtra to Yogendra Yadav’s self-confessed doctoring of the exit polls, the media took it upon themselves to ensure Modi’s defeat. The suggestion that the English-language media were the worst offender is not true; for purely collateral reasons the Gujarati print media led the charge.

“Media activism ensured that a large section of India switched on to their TV sets last Sunday morning fully expecting the downfall of the man who has been painted as a cross between Hitler and Attila the Hun. The results helped catapult Modi to the national stage as the man who could dare—and win. If it hadn’t been for the media becoming a prisoner of their own fabrications, the impact of Gujarat would have been strictly regional.”

Read the full article: Merchant of victory

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

You’re a winner if you get one vote more. Still…

27 December 2007

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Narendra Modi‘s victory has deep-frozen the political discourse. The pseudo-nationalists are acting as if the kingdom is already theirs—for keeps. And the pseudo-secularists are acting as if the world is about to come to an end for royalty of the Janpath variety.

Meanwhile, breathless TV anchors are looking forward to their annual holiday in Goa.

Make no mistake, Modi won and won big. He won on his own terms, bucking all the usual cliches like anti-incumbency, caste, dissidence. But, even five days after the verdict, we are still to receive the clear-eyed analysis that we used to in the past.

Result: one side is talking as if for the first time since the dawn of human civilisation, voters like progress and development. And the other side is acting as if they didn’t know this at all.


Since the pseudo-national camp is punch drunk to even bother with the details, it is left to the pseudo-secularists to attempt a dissection of what happened in Gujarat and what it means.

CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai has exploded some myths. He writes: The BJP actually did much better in the non-riot affected areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat than it did five years ago. The BJP won 12 of the 13 scheduled caste reserved seats. The party performed impressively in the tribal belt of South Gujarat, while its tally actually went down in Ahmedabad city, it performed strongly across rural Gujarat, including those districts which conventional wisdom suggests have been left out of the vibrant Gujarat platform.

“In each of the last four Assembly elections, the BJP’s support has kept increasing, from 42 per cent in 1995 to 50 per cent now, which in a two-party state ensures comfortable majorities. With the exception of the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the BJP has dominated every election in the state over the last 12 years, including at the panchayat level. This suggests the emergence of a saffron bastion, not too dissimilar to the Left Front in West Bengal,” writes Sardesai.

Vidya Subrahmaniam in today’s Hindu, has attempted a bit of number-crunching. And what she establishes is that the Gujarat election wasn’t the cakewalk it is made out to be for Modi (a point Mallika Sarabhai made on churumuri yesterday). But the Congress was lucky too.

The BJP won only one seat out of the 116 it secured for the first time. In all, writes Subrahmaniam, 48 seats were won with a margin of under 5,000 votes; 20 of them under 2,000 votes. But it is not as if only the BJP benefited from this, the Congress did too. While the BJP won 24 of these seats, the Congress won 23.

Shabnam Hashmi, the wife sister of the slain activist Safdar Hashmi, has been circulating a note in the pseudo-secular camp. She writes:

“While the whole media except a handful of journalists is under the spell of Modi’s magic, it is important to register the fact that, for example, in Gandhinagar, though 81,864 people voted for the BJP, there were 78,116 people who voted against BJP and Modi.”

Indeed, if you look at the table below of 33 constituencies, being circulated by Hashmi, you can come away with three conclusions. One, the race was certainly closer than we have been told. Two, in many constituencies, a third candidate or an independent (or the two together) secured more votes than the difference between the BJP and Congress. And three, Mayawati‘s BSP is making far greater inroads than either camp, or the media, will acknowledge.

1. RAJPIPLA: BJP 37722, Congress 37091, Difference: 631, BSP 2807

2 . MANDAL: BJP 34843, Congress 34166, Difference: 677, Independent 3818

3. KHAMBHALIA: BJP 40358, Congress 39560, Difference: 798, Independent 4275

4. KANKREJ: BJP 37930, Congress 37090, Difference 840, BSP 28934

5. JAMNAGAR: BJP 33021, Congress 31941, Difference 1080, Independent 1098

6. KADI: BJP 65835, Congress 64508, Difference 1327, Independent 3848

7. GADHADA : BJP 50579, Congress 49152, Difference 1427, BSP1478

8. SURAT CITY: BJP 39607, Congress 37908, Difference 1699, RJD 2584

9. ANAND: BJP 63745, Congress 61975, Difference 1770, Independent 12134

10. KALOL: BJP 27565, Congress 25255, Difference 1884, Independents 1427 + 1016

11 . CHIKHLI: BJP 59471, Congress 57204, Difference 2267, BSP 2708

12 . SIDHPUR: BJP 52610, Congress 50181, Difference 2429, Independent 2694

13. MANGROL: BJP 48256, Congress 45625, Difference 2631, BSP 3389, Independent 2782

14. BOTAD: BJP 69662, Congress 66474, Difference 3188, BSP 2134, Independent 3188

15. VIRAMGAM: BJP 47643, Congess 44327, Difference 3316, BSP 3286, Independent 3364

16. MANSA: BJP 44381, Congress 41011, Difference 3370, BSP 10478

17. GANDHINAGAR: BJP 81864, Congress 78116, Difference 3748, BSP 1766, Independent 5128

18. RAKHIAL: BJP 53993, Congress 50048, Difference 3945, BSP 1395, Independent 1428

19. DASADA: BJP 38174, Congress 34108, Difference 4066, BSP 3898, Independent 2408

20. SIHAR: BJP 50756, Congress 46638, Difference 4118, BSP 3501, Independent 2973

21. AMRELI: BJP 48767, Congress 44578, Difference 4189, Independents 3143 + 1397

22. VISAVADAR: BJP 38179, Congress 33950, Difference 4229, BSP 3399, Independent 2074

23. UPLETA: BJP 36602, Congress 31917, Difference 4685, BSP 1946, SP 4141

24. SOMNATH: BJP 61233, Congress 56004, Difference 5229, BSP 7099

25. BAYAD: BJP 40395, Congress 34711, Difference 5684, BSP 3107, Independent 3569

26. CHHOTA UDAIPUR: BJP 44422, Congress 38304, Difference 6118, Independent 8056

27. KALAWAD: BJP 39497, Congress 33225, Difference 6272, BSP 3449, Independent 3693

28. WADHAWAN: BJP 47466, Congress 40564, Difference 6902, Independent 23261

29. DANGS: BJP 56860, Congress 48977, Difference 7883, Independents 5010 + 4446

30. KUTIYANA: BJP 37130, Congress 27980, Difference 9150, BSP 3064, Independent 8060

31. VADGAM: BJP 50481, Congress 40776, Difference 9705, Independent 16372

32. ABDASA: BJP 39004, Congress 28985, Difference 10019, BSP 12397

33. CAMBAY: BJP 50163, Congress 40086, Difference 10077, BSP 3081, Independent 8684

We cannot make a big deal of the margin of the BJP victory in these constituencies. In a first-past-the-post system, electoral fortunes have been decided by single-digit margins, and then tilted again by a recount. So, the lotus bloomed whichever way you look at it. Still, there is a case for a sober-eyed view of elections and results than the puerile propaganda we have been dished out so far by both sides.

There is nothing to suggest that if the BSP or the independent/s were not there, the Congress would have triumphed in these constituencies. And there is no reason why they should have paved the way for the Congress. Still, as an arithmetical exercise, the numbers are interesting because they point to something we are not being told by the mainstream media which seems so in love of its own creations: “Moditva”, a national role for Modi, and what happens to L.K. Advani.


JamesScottyPreston, the former New Delhi correspondent of the New York Times who became the executive editor of the paper, writes in his memoirs that he always preferred not to predict which way an election would go. “An election is a secret communion between a voter and democracy.”

Both the pseudo-secularists and the pseudo-nationalists seem to be ignoring that cardinal piece of advice.

As Harish Khare wrote in The Hindu, “In a democracy an electoral defeat is always a sobering moment, but it would be doubly counter-productive for the Congress and the other secular forces to feel overawed by Narendra Modi’s victory… The Sunday win does not necessarily endow any kind of ideological legitimacy to Modi’s voice nor does it provide a licence to communal forces or even political respectability to his message outside of Gujarat.”

MALLIKA SARABHAI: “BJP was also plain lucky”

26 December 2007

Narendra Modi’s detractors in Gujarat and elsewhere might be squirming at his victory, but one of his most vocal and visible critics, Mallika Sarabhai, says the fineprint is actually encouraging. The Ahmedabad-based dancer and activist, daughter of the renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, and an MBA and doctorate from IIM, Ahmedabad, has been on the wrong side of Modi since the Gujarat riots of 2002.

She was made to pay for this, when in 2003 a dancer in her troupe filed a case against her, alleging that she had cheated her in not taking her on a promised US tour. For more than two years, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, which Mallika runs, was routinely targeted by the Modi regime on the basis of that case. It was evident that the complaint was politically motivated and the charges were finally dropped for lack of evidence in early 2006.

Mallika continues to strongly oppose Modi’s brand of politics, but is not all cut-up with his recent victory. She tells VINUTHA MALLYA why:


VM: How does it feel to see Narendra Modi back as chief minister for a third term?

Mallika Sarabhai: Initially, I was very depressed, but after watching the election analysis, I am feeling much better.

VM: And why is that?

MS: The victory margin by which the BJP has won in many seats is very narrow. In some seats it is as little as three votes! In the state capital, Gandhinagar, BJP has won 81,000 seats against the second candidate who got 79,200 votes. The BJP has won narrowly in as many as 70 seats. So, it is not as disastrous as we thought. They have won hugely by luck.

VM: What is your interpretation of verdict 2007?

MS: Just because Modi has won does not mean all of Gujarat is behind this man. It is just not true to assume that. The margins also show that not every single person in Gujarat is ‘brainwashed’. So, I believe that this election has in fact shown encouraging results.

Photograph: courtesy Darpana Academy of Performing Arts

‘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),, 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

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.

A small step for Gujarat, a giant leap for India?

23 December 2007

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Narendra Modi‘s stunning blitzkrieg will have all the usual pundits taking up all their usual well-advertised positions.

Those who subscribe to his brand of politics will say that the verdict is proof that good governance can win votes, that development is the only permanent band-aid, that Indians are sick and tired of minority appeasement, etc.

Those who don’t buy into Moditva will say the exact opposite. That Moditva, a cocktail of thigh-slapping cultural nationalism and communalism will spell finis to India as we know it if taken outside the State’s borders.

But for those outside Gujarat, and it is easy to forget in the hype that 29 out of India’s 30 States are, the point to ponder is if, in Modi’s victory, the country has taken the first, most strident step, towards a presidential style of politics.

Presidential style, mind you, not presidential form.

Hear me out.

By all accounts, this election has been like none we have seen before. An individual towered over the party, even its senior leaders getting the short shrift. The masks of Modi that fans of the chief minister wore, the chappan ki chaati (56-inch chest) that Modi thumped, left no doubt as to who the people were being asked to vote.

The person more than the party.

Even otherwise, in the five years preceding the poll, the focus and fulcrum of Gujarat politics had been one man.

As one commentator wrote, he was answerable to none and accountable only to himself. He was known to be inaccessible not just to voters but even his legislators. He showed the door to old apparatchiks like Keshubhbhai Patel and Suresh Mehta.

He eliminated the middlemen. He refused to entertain the satraps of the sangh parivar looking for a few loaves of power. He took tough, uncomfortable decisions unmindful of the votebanks that had been assiduously built and nurtured.

All power was concentrated in his office and all decisions were his.

The actions may have been authoritarian and dictatorial, positive or negative, but Modi left no one in doubt as to who was in charge. At the end of years, Modi also left no one in any doubt as to who was seeking the vote. In plumping for him, four-square, out of their own wisdom, the Gujarati voters have sent a clear message that they backed this kind of governance by the leader in charge.

Question is: is this what voters outside Gujarat want too? A jump from the safe, consensual, but eventually ineffectual politics of the past to a more direct, hands-on, individual decision-making process that produces results?

Photograph: courtesy prudentindian

One question I’m dying to ask… secularists

23 December 2007

Narendra Modi‘s thunderous victory in the Gujarat elections—despite the pogrom of 2002, despite the scrutiny and strictures of the courts, despite the carping of human rights bodies, despite the sting operations of various media organisations—is an even more thunderous slap on the faces of secularists, pseudo and otherwise.

Nothing, not the rebel factor, not his haughty style of functioning, not the sidelining of the sangh parivar, not even the larger-than-life he created for himself, seems to have worked against Modi’s carefully calibrated brand of cultural nationalism, hinged on Gujarati asmita that tapped into the fear of the other.

What is the one question you are dying to ask secularists, who have never been able to forgive or forget 2002, who have never been able to take his claims of development on face-value, who have never been able to entertain the possibility that the overwhelming majority of people may be in favour of such politics?

Also read: What does Narendra Modi’s victory say about us?

What the BJP should do after winning Gujarat

16 December 2007

Sudheendra Kulkarni, former media advisor to Atal Behari Vajpayee and trusted aide of L.K. Advani, in the Sunday Express:

“A victory in Gujarat should neither make the BJP overconfident nor tempt it to think that what works for it in Gujarat will do so in the rest of India…. The BJP leadership should take advantage of this situation to broaden its appeal, and, in particular, reach out to the Muslim community, without losing its traditional support base.

“A sincere and credible assurance by the BJP to address the legitimate concerns of the Muslim community would, far from being an act of appeasement, help the party politically. This strategy may not bring a lot of Muslim votes for the BJP, but it would certainly enlarge the acceptability of its leadership, and help expand and strengthen the NDA.”

Read the full article: Lesson for victor: shun confrontation

Moment of reckoning is here for Narendrabhai

10 December 2007

Yogendra Yadav of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in The Indian Express:

“Democracy is taking revenge on Narendra Modi. This election may well be the long deferred moment of truth for the man who invoked popular mandate to bypass norms, laws or the Constitution.

“Democracy’s revenge is of course not taking the expected path. For one thing, Modi is not being punished for presiding over the massacre of Muslims in 2002. Nor is it a routine case of anti-incumbency, or more appropriately a punishment for mis-governance. This is not a popular rejection of Narendra Modi either.

“Democracy’s revenge is taking an unusual and perhaps unholy form in this election. Modi’s success depended upon shutting down the routine and normal business of politics, on not having to share power with anyone. While Modi could tame the opposition and shut up his critics, he could not shut down democratic politics.

“This election is about the resurfacing of normal politics. The quotidian, the mundane, the local and the parochial stuff of politics refused to die, thus forcing Modi to play on a turning pitch that he is not comfortable with. He cannot win this election in one, single, grand masterstroke. He has to win it bit by bit, constituency by constituency. This may well prove the nemesis of Narendra Modi.

“Rebellion within the BJP is just one of those forms. Another form is the rise of media, and not just the Delhi-based English and secular media, as counter-establishment. Finally, caste-community equations have resurfaced in a much stronger way than before, defying all attempts to subsume these under an overarching Hindu identity.”

Read the full article: Modi’s moment of truth

Illustration: R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Advani’s Hindutva vs Narendra Modi’s Hindutva

9 December 2007

Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times:

“The conventional view of Narendra Modi is that he is a Hindutva hero. It is true that he represents an aggressive brand of Hindu politics, but it’s very different from the kind of Hindutva that the likes of Lal Krishna Advani have espoused since the mid-1980s.

“Advani’s view of Hindus is that they are tolerant, mild-mannered people, who have been driven to anger by the favours shown to Muslims by vote-hungry politicians…. In Advani’s Hindutva, the target is not the average Muslim, but the pseudo-secular establishment whose pursuit of vote-bank politics has left Hindus feeling like second-class citizens in their own country.

“That’s not Modi’s position. His brand of Hindutva is angry, vituperative, aggressive and overly macho. Advani is the elderly, cultured uncle who tells you that enough is enough. But Modi is the brash demagogue shouting questions at the crowd and waiting to hear the roar that emanates in response.

“Nor is there any subtlety to his politics. Like all crypto-fascists throughout history, his style is to isolate an easily identifiable group and to then portray it as the enemy. Adolf Hitler used this strategy to turn Germans against the Jews. Modi uses a variation to sow mistrust of Muslims.

“Modi’s brand of Hindutva has more in common with classic fascist demagogues than it does with the Sangh Parivar tradition. The BJP realises that it cannot afford to subscribe to this philosophy…. So, that’s the ultimate paradox: the BJP finally has a leader who can deliver an entire State but it simply cannot afford to let him rise any further.”

Read the full column: The Gujarat paradoxes

‘The real battle in Gujarat is Modi versus BJP’

8 December 2007

Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express:

“If Narendra Modi succeeds in pulling through despite the wide spectrum of forces ranged against him, the BJP may not necessarily be the gainer. The autocratic Modi is unlikely to allow his party to share the credit. In fact, the BJP central leadership will have to contend with a man who, bolstered by a second electoral victory, will assume he has a legitimate claim to play a decisive role in shaping the party’s future.

“Modi would be encouraged to believe that his tactics of divisive demagoguery, mud-slinging and cocking a snook at the judiciary and the rule of law have been vindicated. A victorious Modi would push the BJP further towards hardline Hindutva, the consequences of which would be the party’s growing isolation.”

Read the full article: Modi vs BJP

The Economist calls Narendra Modi a “disgrace”

7 December 2007

The Economist, one of the world’s most influential weekly magazines—and a champion of the free market, to boot—has weighed in on Narendra Modi and the Gujarat elections in the latest issue:

AS A cheerleader for the emerging India, a giant democracy with—at last—an economy to match, Narendra Modi is a disgrace. His six-year leadership of Gujarat, a booming western state, is widely cited as a paragon of economic management. But double-digit growth is not all that Modi—who is seeking re-election in a poll due to begin on December 11—is alleged to have orchestrated.

There is also the small matter of 2,000 murdered Muslims, victims of a 2002 pogrom carried out by his Hindu-nationalist followers with the collusion of Gujarat’s bureaucracy and police…. A small matter, however, is just how the pogrom is viewed in Gujarat, the birth-place of Mahatma Gandhi, and a bastion of prohibition, vegetarianism and gnat-respecting Jains. Its last election, later in 2002, gave Modi a thumping majority, biggest in those districts where the bloodshed was worst….

This time Modi’s campaign has been more sober. He has unleashed the odd rant against “terrorists”, and a few barbs at Musharraf. But the BJP’s leader has been much keener to trumpet Gujarat’s recent economic performance—including growth of 11.5% last year. The change of tack may be because he is chary of the contempt the outside world holds for him. In 2005 America revoked his visa. EU countries have also denied him diplomatic status. This has been damaging to his ambitions to lead the BJP, and India. Modi is already its most globe-trotting state boss. This year he has visited China, South Korea, Japan and Switzerland.

But elections in India are not won by leading trade delegations—even in Gujarat, which has 24% of India’s coastline and a proud commercial tradition. Moreover the slogan Modi is most associated with, “Vibrant Gujarat”—the name of a biennial trade fair he has staged—recalls the ill-fated “India Shining” campaign run by India’s last BJP-led government for the general election in 2004. It was turfed out by the masses for whom India did not shine. Many in the Congress party, which leads the coalition that won that election, predict that Modi will suffer the same fate….

Text courtesy: The Economist

Read the full text here: Don’t mention the massacre