Media’s May of Political Maybes

18 May,2018


By Shailesh Kapoor


Television news media does a swell job of pushing election result dates. Before #May16 became a hashtag in 2014, one doesn’t remember specifically any election result date. After May 16, 2014, when the Modi election results were declared, highlighting dates has become quite a trend. The latest one has been May 15 this year, when Karnataka election results were declared.


News channels saw a cliffhanger morning on the Gujarat election results day not too long ago. But that nail-biter last about two hours. It seems May is a luckier month for news channels when it comes to election results. The Karnataka results unfolded a plot with more twists that what the most seasoned writers of political thrillers would be able to come up with.


The first two hours were a bit like Gujarat, where there was a close contest, and BJP made a late surge, and eventually, it seemed they will cross the halfway mark comfortably. Election result fanatics like me decided to go on with our usual day, having seen what we thought was the final verdict of the people of Karnataka.


A couple of hours later, a cursory glance at a TV screen made me jump out of my chair. BJP 104. In Assembly elections, where seats are decided on a few thousand (sometimes a few hundred) votes, a swing of less than 10 seats in late rounds of counting is not surprising. But this was a scenario where it meant a party moved from majority to minority.


Still nursing its wounds from Goa, Congress ensured that its response was anything but sluggish this time. Before the day ended, both entities (BJP and the post-poll Cong-JD(S) alliance) had staked their claim to form the Government. News channels handled it in its usual way, taking political positions that suit their narrative. Nothing unusual still.


It was Wednesday, the day after the results, that brought in more drama. It seemed like the news genre had hit a jackpot. A 2-3 hours results event was now going to be week-long, it not even longer. The Governor invited the BJP to form the government, and in a fascinating turn of events, the Congress-JD(S) combine decided to approach the Supreme Court in the middle of the night. A hearing well past midnight speaks of a vibrant judiciary, all recent issues notwithstanding.


News channels were caught somewhat off guard. But one thing we cannot doubt our news channels for is a zest for breaking news. All top anchors (or their second-in-command in some cases) decided to continue through the night, knowing well that there is no viewership at 3am, unless it’s India playing a huge World Cup match. But a big story is a big story, and it must be followed.


In particular, I was pleasantly surprised with young news channel Mirror Now continuing through the night. They have stayed away from the mad rush for breaking stories in the past, focusing more on civic issues and less on politics. But as the channel completes one year and aspires for more, the realisation that after having covered Karnataka extensively, they must not let it go at the crucial last leg, must have made the channel do a very watchable late-night show with its star anchor Faye D’Souza at the helm.


Thursday was a day of little activity, except a rather drab swearing in, where BS Yeddyurappagot sworn in, all by himself, without a Cabinet. The next Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for morning today. The weekend, and indeed the next week or two, will be a period of immense excitement for news channels. By the end of May, some of the top Hindi and English editors may have learnt a bit of Kannada too.


It’s the IPL of politics unfolding itself. And even it becomes a Test match, the thrill will be no less.



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