Ranjona Banerji: Going gaga about Priyanka G

12 Feb,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

As we move towards the next general elections, it’s going to be great fun watching how journalists and media houses remain steadfast to their earlier stances or shift with changing winds. Let’s start with Narendra Modi’s “special” Rafale deal with 36 planes instead of 126, at three times the price per plane and Anil Ambani as Dassault’s offset partner.

N Ram and The Hindu have come out with some very explosive revelations since January 19, 2019 on Modi’s special deal: that the price difference is inexplicable, that the PMO interfered in Defence Ministry negotiations and that the government waived the anti-corruption clauses in part of the deal.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/modis-decision-to-buy-36-rafales-shot-the-price-of-each-jet-up-by-41/article26019165.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/defence-ministry-protested-against-pmo-undermining-rafale-negotiations/article26207281.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/government-waived-anti-corruption-clauses-in-rafale-deal/article26231793.ece?homepage=true

Some of these have been questioned by the Opposition, but in a very milksop manner by most of the media until now. TV discussions have been few and far between. In many of them, anchors have positioned the deal as “Government versus Other Political Parties” rather than doing much investigative work themselves or even treating the deal like something which deserves to be investigated. Indeed, many anchors, as has been their wont through the entire Modi tenure, positioned themselves as BJP spokespersons and spouted the government’s “national interest” excuse. Which was of course nothing but government obfuscation.

NDTV is likely to do a discussion tonight about the deal, on Left Right and Centre with Nidhi Razdan.

Earlier, most newspapers, news sites and hardly any news channels which questioned Anil Ambani as an offset partner, given his company’s lack of experience, have been slapped with defamation cases. The Rafale deal has been smouldering for a while now, with several of the questions being raised in France.

The Hindu upped the ante. And now The Indian Express has followed with this investigation by Sushant Singh, that Anil Ambani met French defence officials two weeks before Modi’s announcement of his “special deal”:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/two-weeks-before-rafale-announcement-anil-ambani-met-french-defence-officials-5579069/

Since the expose came from rivals, some news organisations insist on the “Cong versus BJP” angle to cover up their lack of work. One supposes that’s a step up from the earlier policy of never covering what your competitor has done. Perhaps there is some limited understanding that the Rafale deal is too big to ignore. Smouldering coals are now in flames.

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Then there’s Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics. This has apparently enthused not just Congress cadres but also parts of the media, which is going a bit gaga. Intriguing as this is, I would reckon that Rafale and the NSSO job data ought to remain top of the headlines, not just crowds at rallies.

It is likely that former Modi Toadies will now jump ship if they sniff there are rewards coming their way from the other side in the future. This includes many of our colleagues in the media, as well as their owners. Those who take orders from their owners about tomorrow’s front page, “breaking news” are worth watching. Wind socks of sorts.

And so we reach the tricky part. The BJP is no longer the dominant party across Indian states. Areas where they have newly entered are in turmoil, like the North East. Their behaviour in Karnataka would have been ripped apart if any other party was doing it. The majority of the Modi Toady media is looking at it this way: attack all Opposition parties only in the context of how Modi is affected. That’s because they’ve bought the BJP argument that the Opposition is the enemy of India. Yes, I agree, these are not journalists at all.

Then there’s the pro-BJP anti-Modi: promote Nitin Gadkari.

And the pro-opposition lot: Hide whatever the local or national party is doing.

And finally the tiny minuscule rest: Attack everyone in power. Time to get to work.

 

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

 

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