Ranjona Banerji: Warring over Wharton

05 Mar,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The world of twitter was abuzz with the Wharton India Economic Forum and Narendra Modi. As the day progressed, Wharton withdrew the invitation to the Gujarat chief minister and the event’s main sponsor, the Adani group, also backed out. The war of words between Modi fans and Modi detractors on social media got some extra fillip and as usual soon deteriorated into insults and name-calling.

 

I also learned from Twitter that Union finance minister P Chidambaram did a Google Hangout, taking questions on the budget. The choice of technology/forum was discussed on Twitter with most thinking that the Congress was late to the social media party and had chosen the wrong platform. The UPA has been neglectful and a bit North Korean about the internet and if it wants to earn brownie points from netizens, it can start by getting rid of section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

 

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Modi continued to be the topic of conversation on television over both his speech at the BJP meeting – televised live on Sunday – and the Wharton drama. On Karan Thapar’s Last Word on CNN-IBN, N Ram, Kumar Ketkar, Swapan Dasgupta and Najeeb Jung discussed Modi’s speech and his prime ministerial prospects. Ram, Ketkar and Jung were unimpressed and Dasgupta tried to tailor his remarks to the argument. He did not for instance launch into an expected defence when both Ram and Ketkar discussed Modi’s intemperate language towards the prime minister, although Thapar felt that personal criticism was par for the course in politics and Ram pointed out that the Congress/UPA had to be taken to task for its misdemeanours. All three non-BJP commentators discussed the many contenders for the top job within the BJP and how Modi was not a sure shot, his speech notwithstanding. The BJP’s lack of geographical footprint was also discussed. Again, Dasgupta seemed a bit downcast.

 

On Times Now – which I only watched for a few seconds – Dasgupta seemed to have regained some spirit and was arguing with far more vigour over Wharton’s behaviour. The day on television however was consumed with the resignation of Raja Bhaiya in UP over the murder of a police officer and his imminent arrest.

 

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The media failed with the rapes and murders of three sisters in Bhandara, Maharashtra – although kudos must go to Mid-Day for correcting that, sending staff to the area and rigorously following up on the story.

 

The other story which is not getting enough play is the ongoing unrest in Bangladesh. The country is in turmoil over war crimes trials for those who supported Pakistan in the 1971 war for independence. Like in Tahrir Square, young people gathered in Shahbagh in Dhaka demanded justice and the death penalty for Jamaat-e-Islami leaders who were against the freedom movement. The blogger Rajib Haider who spearheaded the movement on social media was murdered. The courts gave in to public pressure and handed out death penalties to Jamaat and other leaders. The Jamaat hit back but the Shahbagh protestors and civil society have not backed down.

 

In all this, to mainly concentrate on president Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to his in-laws’ village is bad journalism. One understands that the current zeitgeist is to only get an India angle on every single story for readers who are so jingoistic that they cannot apparently digest news any other way. In which case, I might like to remind our media that India had a significant role to play in Bangladesh’s separation Pakistan.

 

Although CNN-IBN did send a correspondent to Bangladesh the coverage was sparse. In newspapers, most of the coverage has been limited to the edit and opinion pages.

 

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The Economic Times has an interesting story on how celebrity advertising is working in India – a subject which has interested me lately. Apparently, in spite of what the gossip pages say, Shah Rukh Khan is still on top. I was just happy that the ads which annoy me the most – Priyanka Chopra for Garnier, Anoushka Sharma for “fearer underarms for Nivea, Bipasha Basu for McVitie’s and Sakshi Talwar for Kellogg’s were not mentioned at the top of any lists! http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18804798.cms

 

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