Having buttressed their TRP ratings with Modi-speeches all through the day, the media went hammer and tongs at him all evening, trying to salvage the self-inflicted damage to their ideological baggage: This amusing, oftentimes exhausting, serial unfolded day after day in the run-up to India’s 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The media – at least the Indian, English language media – has never been for Modi. Whereas the regional language channels present a mind-boggling array of ‘India-s’, with no two regional channels seeming to talk about the same people, places or events, the English television channels conform to a pattern, each feeding off the other even as they engage in a Darwinian fight for survival. In the race to ‘break news’, they often end up breaking eggs on their own faces. No matter, though; it’s only a question of who’s got less yellow and more white. The most recent example of this syndrome, which I have named ‘simply wipe the egg off the face and get on with the show’, is L K Advani’s ‘emergency’ comment that came like a bolt from the blue a week or so ago.
For one whole day, politicians of non-saffron hues and a pliant media poured vitriol in voyeuristic delight, demonising Narendra Modi to their heart’s content. ‘There’s a deep and widespread conspiracy’…, they said, ‘… dark and threatening forces are taking over the country …’ ; ‘… sinister right-wing forces are at work …’ ; ‘There are both visible and invisible threats’ ; ‘These forces are weakening social justice, hatching fascist designs’, and so they went on and on all day. Twenty-four hours later, Advani in an interview to Karan Thapar clarified that in saying ‘the Emergency could be imposed again’, he was alluding to the Congress’ complete lack of remorse for 1975 and not about Prime Minister Modi’s proclivities. One would have expected that there would be some semblance of shame or at least a retraction from the media or the politicians after they were shown up. But zilch. Instead, they just moved on to another story, once again cautioning the people, warning the nation about the ‘dark forces that are out to undermine democracy’, derail the nation, destroy its dignity and what not. In a brazen show of unethical reportage, some media houses and personalities continue, even as I write, to harp on the wrong message they had been touting before Advani’s clarification.
Interestingly, those haranguing against #PrimeMinisterModi [see quotes in the previous para] use the same language, indeed the very words that the apologists of the 1975 #Emergency used as they cautioned the nation to be ‘united and alert’ and the Indian people to be ‘vigilant’ about divisive forces!
But it is not only the media that is going overboard with its fly-by-night accusations in its attempt to provoke a Prime Minister who remains apparently indifferent to their laboured perorations. A representative of the ‘intelligentsia’, a scion of Mahatma Gandhi’s family writes, of Modi joining the Yoga Day celebrations in RajPath, ‘By personally leading, like an adept instructor, the phalanx gathered on the Rajpath lawns he has choreographed yoga into an opera of mass power… What we have to be wary of is … the robotisation of our minds into a ‘yogic’ acceptance of one drill – majoritarianism – and its masterful drill-master’. (See ‘Mastering the Drill of Democracy’, by Gopal Gandhi, The Hindu, June 25, 2015). When intelligence becomes the hand-maiden of ideology, one loses both innocence and inspiration and is left harbouring only illusions. Amidst this nation of nay-sayers, the Prime Minister’s silence comes as a balm to battered sensibilities.