Ranjona Banerji: Does anyone remember what the Lalit Modi escapades are about any more?

03 Jul,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

For what seems like years but could just be under a month, TV news has been going hammer and tongs at the NDA government at the Centre over the Lalit Modi escapades. Every night hapless BJP spokespersons, once masters and mistresses of The Smirk and then emperors and empresses of Arrogance in Victory, are pulverized, pummelled and made to look pitiful by TV anchors in their element.

 

The facts of the case – whatever they were – have long been lost. We jump from new allegation, revelation and expose night after night and have possibly gone so far from where we started that there seems to be no way back. Is the issue Lalit Modi, former darling of the IPL, and money-laundering and other cases against him? Is the issue lack of propriety and probity by Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhare Raje? Is the issue the silence of the prime minister who excoriated his predecessor for his silence when the going got tough for UPA II?

 

By now, I can bet the reader has forgotten what everyone is fighting about. If our news channels would like to continue with this until they get what they want, they need to run little refresher courses about what has happened so far. From what one has seen so far, the Centre would like to brazen this out or take its chances once the monsoon session begins. If TV thinks the story is still worthwhile, then some hard investigation may serve it better than nightly high-decibel hysterics. O lord, do I even know what I’m saying?

 

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Is international news television more adult than India’s or just more boring? The last week has been Greece Greece Greece IS IS IS. Oddly, though, if you go to the home nations where these channels broadcast from then the main stories there are as local and often as piffly as ours. Which suggests that international viewing audiences are extremely aware, intelligent and interested in important world events. Or, they like to snooze with the TV on…

 

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The Times of India, god bless its soul, seems to have lost its bearings a little. I must put in a disclaimer here: I worked for TOI for almost four years and had hardly any bad moments there. But lately, the paper has lost focus and sharpness. Its editorial page is one of the worst in the country and its choice of news and presentation is more questionable than it has been in a long while.

 

The Mumbai edition, which had improved so much to make the citadel impregnable some 10 years ago, now resorts to some very sensationalist and cheap tricks. Take this front page headline from this week: “5 women held in 3 weeks for driving drunk.” The peg (!) of course is the Jahnvi Gadkar case, where a lawyer with Reliance had an accident which killed two people. However, the headline about the drunk women links to a story on an inside page where says that 824 people were booked for driving drunk in Mumbai in three weeks. For those with weak arithmetic like me, that’s 819 men to five women. So is driving drunk a gender issue? A gender problem? Are women behind the wheel (five to 819) a more significant statistic? Do the numbers correspond with the ratio of male to female drivers? Or is this pure sexist sensationalism?
I wonder.

 

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Last week saw the death of one of India’s most erudite, prolific and respected journalists, Praful Bidwai. He was only 66 and died of a heart attack in Amsterdam. His politics was emphatically left but his cogent and incisive analytical style and his scholarship made him and should make him an icon for all journalists. An irreparable loss.

 

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