Modi in the Media

02 Sep,2014


By Ranjona Banerji


100 days is now a media mantra when it comes to anything at all. Should one go as far to say that this has something to do with the title of a book written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Probably not. So we have to assess 100 days of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. Not three months (which would be around 90 days) and not 200 days but perhaps we’ll re-assess the government at 365 days and call it one year?

I put “100 days Modi government” into Google and got stories headlined around that theme, in order, from IBNLive, DNA, Indian Express, LiveMint, India Today, Hindustan Times, NDTV, Zee News, Times of India and Economic Times. So much for originality…

Having decided to play “follow the leader” on the 100 days theme however it has to be admitted that all media outlets did not take the same line. Some gushed, some focused on the misses, some talked about hits and misses both, some spoke to the Opposition.

The biggest takeaway from all this seems to be that Modi has made his ministers accountable. According to a fascinating story carried in Niticentral, a rightwing website, this has been achieved by spying on his own ministers.

So the100 days theme runs like this: Modi has cut through plenty of slack, he has improved systems by making sure his own ministers work, he has travelled to many countries, he has not spoken enough, he has not made good on several other promises, some of the benefits accrued to his government come from UPA policies, he has renamed certain existing schemes, he has made an Independence Day speech, he has fed fish in Japan, he has stopped his party people from talking too much, he has stopped his ministers from speaking almost completely, he has got rid of several governors, he has sidelined the old-timers in the BJP, he has made his right-hand man Amit Shah party president…

How much of this is remarkable and how much is pedestrian perhaps lies in the eyes of the believer. As TV news tries to jump from issue to manufactured outrage and print sprints to keep pace, we see a fractured image. There is a larger-than-life Modi in carefully posed pictures in foreign lands, we have a Modi who promises security for women and toilets for all, we have a Modi who says everyone must have a bank account.

We have a BJP which launches a campaign in Uttar Pradesh claiming that hordes of Muslim men are conspiring to make Hindu women fall in love with them to convert them to Islam and thus increase the number of Muslims in the nation. We have BJP-run state governments and the Union HRD ministry trying to manipulate history. We have local BJP units and BJP allies pushing for India as a “Hindu” state. We have the RSS jumping in and claiming credit for Modi’s victory.

And we have a media which is unable to put all these refracted elements together. So Gaurav Sawant of Headlines Today and a reporter from CNN-IBN got to Japan and behaved like no one has ever been to Japan before. They make ridiculously banal comments about Japanese trains, they comment on cleanliness. They say: “Look at these Japanese people sitting silently on a train.” “When will India ever have such clean stations?”

What is this? A delegation of idiots goes to Japan? Where is Mark Twain when you need him? The tenuous connection is the promise of a bullet train in India made by Modi. The obsequious brainlessness of some TV journalists and presumably their editors will be part of an ignominious chapter in the history of Indian journalism.

P S:

Meanwhile, tells us that Shekhar Gupta is no longer vice-chairman of the India Today group. He is now an “advisor”. This is a mere two months after he took over, having ended a long stint at The Indian Express.

What gives at India Today? Is it family matters or recalcitrant employees? MJ Akbar didn’t last too long, Siddharth Vardarajan didn’t get further than signing a contract and Gupta is out in two months…


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