Ranjona Banerji: Headlines Today tops Modi discussions while Arnab Goswami tires us

21 Dec,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


To my absolute surprise (I can be charged with “misunderestimating” here), the better discussions on the assembly election results on Thursday evening happened on Headlines Today – barring of course Rajya Sabha TV which lives up to its reputation of being above the rest. Between Shiv Vishwanathan, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Seshadri Chari, Ashok Malik and Vir Sanghvi, moderated by Rahul Shiv Shankar, you had a lively and sometimes funny discussion on Narendra Modi’s third term, with some insights as well.


Arnab Goswami’s excitement and his various poses of offence and defence are starting to get very tired now. His ruse of taking a position and then manipulating or browbeating everyone else around him is so transparent as to be ineffective. His political sense is not as finely honed as his finger on the pulse of how to save the nation and this means Times Now suffers when the subject is politics. Put Goswami at the helm of a discussion about gang-rape and he is bound to win because you feel his pain and feel that he articulates your anger. If the subject is politics itself however and the lack of depth is evident – much as understanding politics requires any depth at all, perhaps all you need is a feel for the iniquity of human character!


On NDTV, there was Barkha Dutt in a pink top in the morning and Barkha Dutt in a green top in the evening. Prannoy Roy, who invented election results broadcasting as far as India is concerned (introduced us to the word ‘psephology’) was nowhere to be seen. Why a channel should hide its trump card is inexplicable.


CNNIBN was its solid self – neither terrible nor extraordinary. This may be all right in normal conditions but election results require a little more fire perhaps.


Hardly anyone, it must be admitted, focused much on how the exit polls went a bit wonky – as they always do. (Although on Friday morning, Hindustan Times had a story on that.)




Together with Narendra Modi’s hat-trick in Gujarat, TV channels did not forget the gang-rape victims and gave us occasional updates. However the fracas in the Lok Sabha over the quota promotions bill with the House being adjourned many times seemed to be forgotten.


TV’s recurring problem is lack of depth. Every time some BJP leader said that Modi’s hat-trick was historic as being the first ever in human history, no anchor or reporter managed to correct them. Even Rajdeep Sardesai of CNNIBN almost made the same mistake but then quickly changed his sentence. His channel through the day told us that Modi first came to power in Gujarat in 1998, when it was in fact in October 2001 (sent to replace Keshubhai Patel after debacle over earthquake rehab), won a by-poll in February 2002 and the assembly elections in 2002. One has to thank The Times of India for giving us a box on all the chief ministers who have managed more than three terms throughout human history. It’s a long list as it happens and Jyoti Basu of West Bengal tops it with five terms!


What did get forgotten more or less was Himachal Pradesh as Modi towered over the news and the discussions all day and night on TV. Perhaps there was nothing to say?




In their editorials, The Times of India, Hindu and Hindustan Times all dealt with Modi’s victory. TOI pointed out that his Hindutva image would be a problem for his all India ambitions even if his achievements in Gujarat are formidable. The Hindu did not focus on Hindutva so much as on how Modi’s authoritarianism alienates many within his party and its larger family and polarises his voters. Hindustan Times focused on how the Congress did not put up a leader to combat Modi’s enormous presence.




Since I have managed to write this, I can only assume the world has not ended yet or that December 21 2012 was not so much the end of the world for the Mayans but one more Mayajal!


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