Ranjona Banerji: Advani resig stumps media-savvy BJP

11 Jun,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Is the Bharatiya Janata Party hoping for some more salacious recommendations about cricket in India? Because it is clearly uncomfortable with the media focus on the BJP, especially since its most senior leader, LK Advani, has not allowed the party to celebrate the elevation of Gujarat chief minister to the post of election campaign boss.

 

If I may, in an aside, what’s with the use of the word “anoint” to replace appoint. In my lexicon or any that I have consulted, anoint has to do with rubbing various unguents on someone in a religious ritual, as an act of consecration or as a sign of divine intervention or to choose a successor (in a dynastic kind of way). Is that what has happened with Modi? Is he on his way to sainthood? Or does the choice of word have something to do with the BJP’s chosen path of Hindutva supremacy? I ask this question because Indian news TV is largely irony-free so I am forced therefore to take the use of the word “anoint” seriously. Perhaps that is what TV journalists think have happened here… Modi is about to become one with god or even become god himself. Maybe I should have used a capital ‘G’?

 

At any rate, Modi is on his way to sainthood one day and no famous TV anchor is allowed an afternoon nap on a Sunday. Then Advani throws the mother of all tantrums and all the TV channels smell blood. The anointing ceremony has been somewhat sullied by a sulk. So Monday is another day altogether and one where the knives, sniggers and suspicions are out in the open. I actually felt sorry for BJP spokespersons like Nirmala Seetharaman and Meenakshi Lekhi, being forced to venture into shark-infested waters to explain what was happening in their party.

 

The media is by nature fickle but this is a lesson which few politicians or media beneficiaries will ever learn because they take the spotlight so seriously. The extreme arrogance of the Congress allows them not to court the media but the BJP is usually feted for being “media savvy”. It did not work on Monday evening as Advani’s resignation letter was everywhere and every tweet put out by Modi was being sat on a couch and psycho-analysed.

 

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The newspapers meanwhile had all written edits for Monday morning discussing the Modi appointment (should I succumb to his impending sanctification?) and what it meant for the BJP and how the BJP was changing. Tuesday morning showed that all edit writers had gone back to the drawing board to now factor in the Advani response – resignation from all party posts bar that of the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance – and what that meant for the party he had nurtured.

 

However, I would have liked to have read more insights into what was happening, with some insider information on the Advani camp and who was assisting/ advising him, as well as what was happening in Modiland. The best response here was from the Indian Express, which offered a little more as well as Hindustan Times which went beyond the plain vanilla coverage provided by The Times of India.

 

The better discussions were of course on Rajya Sabha TV, in both English and Hindi, where the anchors do not allow high-pitched hysteria and the guests do not seem so inclined either. It was business as usual on the other channels.

 

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The space given to the suicide of starlet Jiah Khan has been intriguing. Sad as her suicide was, what has warranted full coverage of her funeral as well as sustained front page reports? Is this our obsession with Bollywood going too far or just some inability to distinguish between sad and significant?

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own

 

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