Ranjona Banerji: Gushing about Gandhi gamechanger

25 Jan,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

By one simple action, the Congress Party sent the media into a tizzy. The announcement that Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of Sonia, brother of Rahul and wife of Robert Vadra, had been appointed general secretary of the party, in charge of Eastern UP, led to the media and its mavens (nowadays anyone with three months experience) to speculating on what this means for the Congress, how many votes it will win in the next general elections and so on.

It is almost as if after years of slamming the Congress for its “dynastic” politics, these journalists had actually got the Gandhi that they were waiting for, they were so excited and seemed so happy. The clichés flowed about changing tides and game-changers. News channels immediately held “debates” where everyone merrily abused each other. Newspapers are full of features about who she is, what she does, what she doesn’t, who she likes and so on. “In her ‘social’ life she shows both her chic and warm sides”, reads a Times of India headline to a story by Aarti Singh. The feature looks through Gandhi’s Instagram and Facebook accounts to tell us that she is an “affable woman” and such like.

Bhupendra Chaube of News18, who usually spends his time on Twitter defending or promoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeted that the whole dynasty argument was bogus, after the announcement about Priyanka Gandhi was made. He is right of course. But would that make the BJP and other parties happy, since by Indian political standards, only the Nehru-Gandhis are “dynasty” and everyone else who follows in Mummy-Daddy’s footsteps is just upholding “Indian family values”?

Anyway, evidently, as the um, game changes, we are not so “dynasty-averse”. As of now, there is no guarantee that Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into active politics will make any difference to the Congress Party’s fortunes in UP. What it has done is enthused party cadre, who had asking for this for years. But that’s not for here.

Also interestingly, in various competing opinion polls done around the same time or more possibly before the Priyanka Gandhi announcement, the BJP-led NDA is apparently due to lose about 100 seats in the upcoming elections and the Congress-led UPA about to gain the same amount. This apparent shift in the public mood – I remain a sceptic when it comes to these polls – also suggests a shift in the way the media will function over the next few months. Several of our colleagues are indeed like very sensitive weather vanes.

There is a slim chance that once this fawning is over, the Indian media will get back to the news of the day as well as more pressing issues. And no, I don’t mean live coverage of Modi’s Mann in Baat. The state of the economy, the North East, the Rafale deal, the problems with several government schemes, farmers, cow-related murders, all remain problem areas and potentially explosive.

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Here’s a must-read. About Alan Rusbridger’s years at the Guardian, the revolution in journalism and the deathwatch beetle eating away at us:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/books/review/alan-rusbridger-breaking-news.html

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And finally, a shout out to the most important part of any newsroom: the sub! May your tribe increase and prosper, although, alas, it does not seem that way.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/columnists/2019-01-24-peter-bruce-reporters-write-the-news-but-sub-editors-make-the-newspaper/?fbclid=IwAR3G9IV7K97f7oWg_A8i0cUKruMoT6Cv4Cu0adTGpL0_MYqVkj0ciPqrZBE

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Edior, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

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