Bandh a ‘partial success’, no effect on petrol prices

01 Jun,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


Tracking Thursday’s Bharat Bandh protesting against the petrol price hike on TV led to a bit of confusion – was it a success or not. As it turned out, the Opposition-led bandh was what is known as a “partial success” so if you’re a half-glass pessimist, that’s the same as a “partial failure”. For Mumbai, TV showed us a bus in Mulund being attacked by a man in a BJP T-shirt – who either did not have the good sense or was just to brazen to hide his face from the camera. But social networking sites seemed to suggest that people did go to work. The morning papers said 60 per cent turn out in private offices and slightly more in government offices (really!). The commercial loss, said The Times of India, was Rs1,000 crore while Mid-Day pegged it at a more conservative Rs300 crore. Of course maybe with current rupee-dollar rate, both figures mean the same thing?


There is also the other question about the loss caused by damage to property by “bandh” enforcers which as every newspaper painstakingly informed us, we the people would have to pay for.


Across the country, the bandh fared better in some parts than others and apparently had no effect in Kerala at all.


Petrol prices, by the way, had not come down by Friday morning at least.


* * *


As the TV news day progressed however, the bandh was sidelined first by BJP veteran LK Advani who announced in his blog that the BJP had made too many bad decisions recently and used the party’s favourite word “introspection”. This kind of took the wind out of the BJP’s sails as the main “bandh” caller. Immediate speculation began about a rift in the party – something political commentators have long known about.


Arnab Goswami interviewed Ram Jethamalani who had said similar things in a letter to Nitin Gadkari and Jethamalani was a hoot as always, even as he lost his ear pieces for a while and Goswami watched precious air time and money dribbling away.


Jethamalani told Goswami he was a clever man who was trying to get Jethmalani round to Goswami’s opinion. Goswami said he had no opinion.


No comment from me either.


* * *


The other big bandh spoiler was the Indian economy and the fall in GDP growth to 5.3 per cent, the lowest in nine years. Our TV newswallahs who usually shy away from the economy – possibly because they know so little about it – were forced to sit up and take notice and so gave us some uninformed guff, interspersed with a lot of dramatic music and stuff.


Since the economic recession in the West in 2008, international TV newswallahs have become experts at this economy stuff and our TV people could learn from them how to use jargon effectively and impressively. Or, they could hire some journalists with a background in business and the economy. This would be particularly useful for the Sensex channels.


Amartya Sen on NDTV sort of turned the argument on its head by saying that this obsession with GDP was misplaced. He started talking about inclusive growth and stuff which usually makes business people and economists turn faint from boredom as they cannot understand what that means.


* * *


At prime time, Headlines Today was still worried about cricket and Rahul Kanwal was in “hot pursuit” of Gautam Gambhir. Arnab Goswami asked why we need such bandhs at all and then proceeded to have a quarrel with Ravi Shankar Prasad about the NDA’s petrol policies.


Mohandas Pai formerly of Infosys came up with a novel solution to bandhs – he said all bandh-callers should sit around statues of Mahatma Gandhi and hold hunger strikes. BJP people looked bewildered having never heard of this man nor seen statues of him anywhere in India.


* * *


Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi in Thursday’s Indian Express said, “Serious thought needs to be given to the ‘paid news’ that is threatening to erode the value and pride of the press and is starting to shake the foundations of democracy. A voluntary code would be the effective answer”.


He was speaking at the annual convocation of the Express Institute of Media Studies.


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