Ranjona Banerji: Foreign media is only credible observer of Indian politics

17 Jul,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


There is now only one credible observer of Indian politics – the foreign media in India. We cannot fully assess if a politician is good or bad until a foreign journalist pops by, talks to a few taxi drivers and Indian journalists and then writes a complimentary (good) or scathing (bad) comment piece.


Now, you’re thinking, aha, sour grapes but far from it. It is all a question of perspective. Indian journalists, especially in Delhi, are too close to the centres of power. They are so familiar with what’s going on and party to so many secrets that they now spend more time discussing whether the blue in Manmohan Singh’s turban has changed in the last eight years. (Some say yes, some say no and the rest are fence-sitters.)


The foreign media however comes in from far away and has no clue about all this inner stuff. They attend a few parties (these are vital sources of information and political analysis, as those who read through the diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks will know), meet a few Indian print journalists (bluer, paler, maybe both), they may meet a few TV journalists but that’s for entertainment since they have no political perspective, although I hear they throw really good dinner parties. And, obviously, the few taxi drivers. This is imperative as every traveller knows – one taxi driver can be equal to at least five other potential interviewees.


Yesterday, I met a cabbie in Mumbai who told me that Indian politics turns on Uttar Pradesh. Now I know. If these foreign political commentators are really smart however, they will never even leave whichever country they come from (usually the USA or the UK). How else have I become a world renowned expert on Barack Obama and David Cameron? (Actually, by watching Comedy Central and Graham Norton.)


Therefore we now know that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a poodle, useless, confused and steeped in doom and gloom. Everyone has said it from Time to the Economist to The New York Times to the Independent.


The poodle reference can be translated in Indian terms to a puppet. Yes I know, Indian commentators have been saying that for years. But what do they know, eh? (On the other hand, their view has now been authenticated!) Meanwhile I must be off to watch a few more skits on Comedy Central so I can hone my analytical skills.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Foreign media is only credible observer of Indian politics”

  1. Enjoyed your article Ms. Banerji. On a daily basis we DO turn to the Indian news media for update. But I suppose the analytical Reader/viewer is bound to tire of the propaganda of incumbent government and strong opposition parties. That’s why we reach out to the Economist or Time.. In hope that we will get some insight. It isn’t necessarily because we awe the West, its more because of the general mistrust the government and fourth estate has created among us.

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