Ranjona Banerji: Why no focus on BJP and government formation?

17 Mar,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


The Indian media has shown an interesting turn after the election results of the five states were known. Just to recap, the Bharatiya Janata Party won emphatically in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Congress party won emphatically in Punjab. The Congress emerged as the single largest party in Manipur and Goa. The BJP and ShiromaniAkali Dal ran the Punjab government, so effectively, the BJP lost that state. The BJP was in power in Goa but could not win as many seats as the Congress.

The Congress lost Uttarakhand in dramatic fashion – with the Chief Minister losing from two constituencies. The Congress was not in power in UP and has not been in power there for ages. The Congress was in power in Manipur.

Now how does one interpret all this? If you are Indian television media and large swathes of Indian print media, your line of inquiry is clear. You immediately decide to work out whether the Congress party is dead or in need of life support and what Rahul Gandhi should do. It is as if, as a senior journalist pointed out to me, these people wanted the Congress to do better and are now looking for someone to blame because it didn’t!

And yet, at all times, the focus of the media needs to be primarily on those who are in power. Therefore, the BJP in UP and Uttarakhand questions need to be asked on government formation. Therefore, the focus needs to be on the situations in Goa and Manipur where the BJP has quickly formed governments with rebels and other parties and without being the single largest party. The excuse trotted out by the BJP is that “the Congress did it first”. Is that a valid enough justification for the media?

Take a look at the United States and Donald Trump. He is the president. He makes an accusation or a claim and the media take him up on it. The focus is not on Barack Obama and asking him whether he “wire-tapped” Trump or not. The implications are on Trump. Somehow, many of my colleagues are unable to understand the importance of examining government.

To make it clear, I am not suggesting that opposition parties are not open to scrutiny. Of course they must be. But the larger focus of the media has to be on government. It has to be on the people in charge, at the Centre and in the states. And here the Indian media has been singularly amiss since 2014.

Meanwhile, check for yourself how often we discuss Bastar and the Vyapam scam on national media. Compare that to how often we discuss Rahul Gandhi going abroad to bring his mother home from a health check-up.

Just saying.




For one of the best and funniest media columns I have read for years, please read ShailajaBajpai’s take on the current election results, in the Indian Express. As she might put it, this is “yuuuuge”!:



The Mumbai Press Club has extended the date of entries to the acclaimed RedInk Awards to March 31. Do go to www.mumbaipressclub.com for details and entry forms. And please send in your entries!


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