Televised Myth of a Modi Wave – Jawed Naqvi

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Supporters of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party celebrate the Delhi election results outside the party headquarters in New Delhi
Supporters of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party celebrate the Delhi election results outside the party headquarters in New Delhi

Fact is, senior Hindutva leaders have gone to court to argue against electronic voting, while another wrote a researched volume against EVMs with a foreword by L.K. Advani. But that was when Dr Singh had won two straight elections. Today, however, Arvind Kejriwal, the Congress, the communists, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee and others are projected as if they are stricken with Modi fright, to question the infallibility of EVMs

JAWED NAQVI

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]V CHANNELS won’t tell you this. If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) really won the Delhi municipal elections to accord with an ongoing Modi wave across India, as claimed by most channels, who won the previous two of the BJP’s three back-to-back victories? After all, the party has now toted up three wins in a row at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Prime Minister Narendera Modi arrived on the scene in May 2014. Therefore, which superman or what innate genius triggered the other two waves before he burst onto the scene? Were the other victories not waves, which they had now become.

 Let’s assume that Hindutva’s prior wins were a rebuke to the corrupt Manmohan Singh government, as TV channels now believe one or both of his terms to have been. In which case why could the BJP not extend its anti-corruption popularity to the Delhi state assembly, the bigger political arena? The last 10 years of its municipal rule coincided with Dr Singh as prime minister.  Why was Modi’s party stuck in not repairing more than sewage lines at the head of the MCD? Across the road, the Congress party’s former chief minister Sheila Dikshit won her three straight assembly victories between 1998 and 2013 while the BJP was confined to the MCD.

 I vividly remember the evening when sitar maestro Budhaditya Mukherjee, not known to speak from the stage when he is performing, made it known loudly during a recital at the packed Kamani auditorium that Delhi had become the best venue for classical music concerts in India over the years. He didn’t name Dikshit, only praised Delhi’s growing liking for the finer arts in recent years, which happened to be under her watch.


Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani had described the spine of the Indian media aptly. “Indira Gandhi had asked them to bend, but they chose to crawl.”


The arts, we are told, flourish when a state is at peace with itself. However, peace in an unequal society comes with damning undercurrents. Dikshit eventually lost her fourth bid to the Aam Aadmi Party, still not to the BJP, after she drove out pavement dwellers from the city to pretend to the Commonwealth Games visitors that Delhi didn’t have a poverty problem.

While Dikshit was ousted after three straight wins, it was Modi who was spectacularly stalled in Delhi and then drubbed in Bihar. Hurt and seeking revenge, his party forsook democratic niceties. Before snatching Manipur and Goa where the Congress had more seats, he had unsuccessfully tried to topple opposition ministries in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. Wave?

Let’s suppose then that the people of Delhi were not prepared to hand over their politics to the BJP, only their municipal requirements. It’s a puzzle but also a fact. It’s too complex a story for the TV to want to explain. It’s also a simple story they cannot share with you.

Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani had described the spine of the Indian media aptly. “Indira Gandhi had asked them to bend, but they chose to crawl.” Advani’s description of the media could apply equally to the larger middle classes and their political leaders comprising Modi’s simpering opposition.

One could agree with the TV channels’ propagation of Modi’s surging popularity, but only if it includes the reason for it — setting homes on fire and pitting the poorest against the very poor, murderously, cynically, to contrive a 41 per cent victory, or a 41pc wave!

Far too many of my friends seem to go through the daily sadomasochistic experience of watching TV news. They end up cursing the poor anchors though their anger should be directed at India’s very own wannabe Murdochs.

Under their watch, it is a struggle to say that about most Hindi and English TV channels if one is watching news or taking a lesson in mythology.

A straightforward discussion on electronic voting machines, for example, has been twisted to comply with a penchant for the absurd. While mythological channels have created space to posit that ancient Indians flew aeroplanes and performed head transplants, the supposedly temporal news channels would suggest that all that is possible but what is not possible is that EVMs can be rigged.

Give Finance Minister Arun Jaitley credit. He told parliament that in theory the smart card called Aadhaar can be hacked as in theory even “the Pentagon firewall can be breached”. That simple logic seems to elude votaries of the EVMs assembled with foreign-made chips.

Fact is, senior Hindutva leaders have gone to court to argue against electronic voting, while another wrote a researched volume against EVMs with a foreword by L.K. Advani. But that was when Dr Singh had won two straight elections. Today, however, Arvind Kejriwal, the Congress, the communists, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee and others are projected as if they are stricken with Modi fright, to question the infallibility of EVMs.

My reading of the Modi wave is quite different from my friends who watch TV news. I gave up on news channels sometime ago. With the Rajya Sabha TV poised to go under Hindutva’s control when a new Indian vice president is elected, the burden of keeping a democratic conversation going will fall on anchors like Ravish Kumar. The few agreeable men and women still around are a relic from India’s waning age of sanity.

A fear has been stalking the opposition-ruled states that some are going to feel the brunt of the government’s autocratic ways. And if that does come about, nobody should expect the TV channels to stand up for democracy.

If opposition governments are dismissed, it would not be the first time. Indira Gandhi, following the footsteps of Morarji Desai, dismissed nine opposition governments when she returned to power in 1980. Her post-Emergency comeback vote tally was around 50pc. No one, not even Doordarshan, had called it a wave then or ever.

c. Dawn

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