Electoral politics or keeping people happy

06 Jan,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The poor BJP must be quaking in its shoes. There it was, happily chugging along on its collision course with the Congress over corruption and the government’s inept handling of the Lokpal Bill. And then, wham! India’s star TV anchors have turned against the party for a little transgression – nothing more the usual games played in electoral politics.

 

But were Arnab Goswami and Rahul Shivshankar of Times Now and Newsx, to name just two, willing on Wednesday night to accept that election compulsions made strange bedfellows? Of course not – by admitting Babu Singh Kushwaha, recently chucked out of the Bahujan Samaj Party by Mayawati on corruption charges, the BJP had walked into indefensible territory. In television land, at least, where no person is too unlikely to be made into a saint if an anchor desires it and what goes up can also come down.

 

On Times Now Meenakshi Lekhi screamed in defence of the BJP and though Goswami gave her time enough, he did not accept her explanation that the Congress was more corrupt or that Kushwaha was admitted into the BJP to help with the elections and not because there were corruption charges against him and that the Congress was also to blame for the CBI filing charges against Kushwaha.

 

On Newsx Dr CP Thakur was far more subtle and distinctly un-hysterical as he provided the cynical explanation for the BJP – this was the way things were done during elections. You looked for the caste and community politicians to push your party’s case forward. Like Goswami, Shivshankar was also unsympathetic.

 

They both refused to accept that politics was a dirty game, in spite of what everyone else said. The BJP, they said, had sworn to fight corruption. LK Advani, they said, had gone on a rath yatra against corruption. The BJP had supported Anna Hazare and the anti-corruption movement. And now the BJP had taken into its fold a man sacked by Mayawati on corruption charges and they were supposed to accept it as part of electoral politics? Never!

 

If I were the BJP, which depends a lot on TV to keep its middle class supporters happy, I would be scared. Is winning UP more important that losing the hearts and minds of middle India which watches TV news? I wonder.

 

**

 

Newsx and Shivshankar went a step further than Times Now and put Anna Hazare’s committee in the dock as well. Mayank Gandhi tried to explain how Team Anna (which is what it calls itself now) was not looking at individual cases but systemic change, although it condemned the BJP. This was not good enough for Shivshankar and definitely not for Team Anna supporter and former bureaucrat Arun Bhatia who slammed Gandhi for being mealy-mouthed in his condemnation and his explanation.

 

To make matters worse, on Thursday morning, Headlines Today carried a detailed report on the rifts within Team Anna over the Mumbai fiasco and support to the BJP.

 

**

 

One small sliver of hope for the BJP and Team Anna is newspapers are still slightly more balanced. And the only thing that can save them is if the eagle eye of our anchors shifts to India’s remarkable performance on the playing fields of Australia.

 

Otherwise, hell hath no fury…

 

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