Pramod Kumar for BeyondHeadlines
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s three day fast was nothing short of spectacle. Keeping with the megalomania of Modi our 24X7 news channels lost no time in jumping to grab an opportunity for their TRPs and give the spectacular jamboree full coverage.
Full page advertisements in all leading newspapers to propagating his ‘cause’ was clearly a PR exercise aimed at image makeover. The Govt. also took recourse to technology to appeal to the general public to watch its webcast and to give missed calls (toll free) to join the gala event.
It is perhaps for the first time, in our history, that a ruler has gone on fast to promote harmony, unity, brotherhood and peace which got disrupted primarily because of action or inaction of his government.
Media allowed itself to be overwhelmed by the arrangements and is, in turn, doing exactly the same to its viewers. It has resorted to every conceivable trick to emphasize the support for Modi, in all sections of society, including Muslims who were at the receiving end of the ‘anger’ of the Hindus after the Godhra carnage.
Cameras thus lingered on the skull-cap wearing men and burqa –clad women who had been brought to the site of the fast by different agencies of the government from different parts of the state so that any doubt about Mr. Modi`s acceptability to the victim community of 2002 carnage is laid to rest. There were religious leaders of Hindus, Christians with their crosses prominently displayed, Muslims, Sikhs present on the stage to bless Modi and to help him not develop or retain any ‘ill-feeling or bitterness towards those who defamed Gujarat or Modi by making false allegations’. The missing supporters at the jamboree were the corporates but it was apparent that they had allowed the news TV to do their bidding in support of Modi.
It is apparent that the build-up, from the various interviews which Narendra Modi granted to the luck few, was no better than PR. Obsequious ’senior’ journalists were in competition with each other to show deference to and win approbation of the Hindu Hriday Samrat, who was trying to hoodwink the people of the country to believe that his saintly persona got besmirched by only those who flourish on divisive, anti-national and vote-bank politics.
In this connection, Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today outdid almost everyone else. He interviewed apparent prime ministerial candidate in Hindi so that he could ‘address a larger section of the people’. The tone and tenor of Kanwal`s questioning was so much at variance with what he normally does when he is interviewing others, was something hard to miss. His brazenness for pleasing the interviewee was blatant and outrageous.
Narendra Modi claimed in the interviews that he had commiserated with the victims even in 2002 but the media did not give it proper coverage. There was no interjection, which the arrogant anchors/editors are prone to do frequently whether his references to “Hum Panch Hamare Pachhis” amounted to sharing the pain of victims? Whether his calling a Muslim dominated ghetto Juhupura “a mini Pakistan” was to strengthen the harmony, unity and brotherhood? If the theory that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction theory” is symbolic of a just and fair administration?
None of the TV reporters/editors even asked why was it necessary to bring out the religion of the Chief Election Commissioner, by laying stress on his full name James Michael Lyngdoh during the elections which followed?
Modi has claimed, in a speech he made at the beginning of the fast, that he had feels the pain then and now also it is being felt by him. But he has been vilified and abused for over nine years. He picked up the stones that were thrown at him and used these to build a staircase to the current prosperity of the people of Gujarat. This may well be true but the stones on which the prosperity has been built were not those which were thrown at him for the victims have been too frightened, too petrified by what they have gone through, to lift even a finger. Stones came from the ruined houses, destroyed lives, criminal discrimination and thwarted dreams/aspirations of “equal in all respects as per our Constitution” citizens of Gujarat.
Even earlier, the media had given enough prominence to the US Congress Research Service report which referred to Gujarat as “perhaps India`s best example of effective governance and impressive development is found in Gujarat where controversial Mr. Modi has streamlined economic processes, removing red tape and curtailing corruption in ways that have made the state a key driver of national economic growth”. The media had blurred the distinction between US Congressional Report and report by a research service aimed at briefing Congressmen and senators about issues. It also ignored the clarification given by the CSR that their observations were based on secondary sources and not primary sources. Only The Hindu newspaper, to its credit, had pointed this important aspect.
The incessant propaganda about the good governance has been punctured many times by the Supreme Court by transferring cases outside the state and constituting various Special Investigation Teams.
The media of course did indulge in its favourite pass time by speculating half-heartedly about the real purpose of the Fast. The speculation was limited to the re-invention of Modi persona, his prime ministerial ambitions, his position in the BJP and the likely effect of all these on the national polity
It is certainly to the credit of media that Modi today is mascot of Gujarati asmita (honour) and ‘fast’ tracking to take centre stage in national politics as well.