Ranjona Banerji: Much ado about the ‘tragic figure’….

06 Sep,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


What ridiculously thin skins we have, whether it’s the TV media constantly looking for slights against India or the government which reacts when it should just keep mum and keeps mum when it needs to react.


An article in the Washington Post by Simon Denyer calls Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a “tragic figure”: “But the image of the scrupulously honorable, humble and intellectual technocrat has slowly given way to a completely different one: a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government.” (see: link)


Denyer quotes Ramachandra Guha, Sanjaya Baru and Jagdish Bhagwati among other people, who have their own interpretations on why Singh has not been king in UPA 2.
There’s nothing in the article that the Indian media has not been saying – in fact, Singh has received some very acerbic criticism especially in the last few months. But instead of taking it in our stride, we have to tear ourselves and our self-respect to shreds over this, like we did with Time magazine’s ‘Underachiever’ cover.


One wonders whether news channels have staff on the job, scouring the international press for anything with possible anti-India content which can be turned into a sensational story. Because they never do it with the Indian media: call various opinion writers and columnists to their studios for daring to criticise the prime minister. Why, they might be able to dedicate a daily show to this. (Vinod Sharma versus Kanchan Gupta every night on TV, wow, what drama!)


All day on Twitter there were rumours that the Prime Minister’s Office had asked Denyer to apologise, then that Denyer had apologised, then Denyer tweeted that he had not apologised and on and on it went. Why should Denyer apologise?


On CNN-IBN, with Rajdeep Sardesai, Manish Tiwari of the Congress party tied himself up in knots over trying to balance a token nod to freedom of speech with why the Congress and government were upset. Denyer stuck to his stand.


Does anyone remember the kind of press George W Bush received during his presidency? How many jokes were made about him being dumb, corrupt, controlled by his father, having used his brother to falsely win the first time, the folly of the war in Iraq…?


The job of a journalist includes being critical. Even if the general public doesn’t like it, one expects that other journalists would know that. That should include TV.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator living in Mumbai. She is Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own.


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