Ranjona Banerji: When the PM sprang back to life

17 Sep,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


And suddenly, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh sprang back to life, with no warning. He had more or less been accepted as defunct and obsolete, a non-working part of the government. The last time he spoke he said he preferred silence, whatever that means.


Here we were, one Parliament session wasted and the Opposition licking its chops. The coal allocation scam was getting dirtier and murkier and allegations flying fast and free. And then, the government announces, in quick succession, a rise in diesel prices and a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders for home use, 51 per cent FDI in multi-retail and 49 per cent FDI in civil aviation. This was an attack that came out of nowhere.


The media and the Opposition were taken aback. Who would have guessed that there is life after death? Now what was someone to do? The media found itself in a piquant position. The journalists who understand the economy are small in number anyway and almost none of those work in TV. The so-called business channels are cruelly stock market channels (although the stock market was happy with these decisions so they were happy). Then there was the prospect of letting go of the deliciousness of “Coalgate” and jumping into the economy.


The diesel price hike and LPG were great though. Immediate manufactured outrage over the plight of the common man (also known as Mamata Banerjee) and the middle class person makes for great TV. This works as long as some economist is not invited by mistake who then goes on about fiscal deficit and GDP and other big words which no one on TV can understand.


The newspapers however were all thrilled. They immediately saw more money and in some cases, more ads. If FDI can revive the economy then maybe it can help the media industry too. Journalists in TV are probably more pure or perhaps more innocent.


The Opposition was not so much confused as in a quandary. The BJP when it was in power had to deal with this whole oil company deficit thing. It had also mooted FDI in retail. But now it was in the Opposition. So it had to oppose. It also felt all the “Coalgate” advantage was about to slip away.


The other parties also felt they had to have their say. Bandhs, strikes and whatnots are on the cards for Indians. The media does not like bandhs and strikes and don’t be mean and say because it means more work. The media is disapproving of such laziness in general when the future of the nation is at stake.


Whether the economy has woken up or not or whether Manmohan Singh has proved that rumours of his ‘demise’ were exaggerated, foreign direct investment has sent us on another merry-go-round of excitement and confusion.


Some people of course are just thinking about all the things they can buy!


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