Ranjona Banerji: Election results in, the fun starts now!

16 May,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


How many television journalists made the point yesterday that the whole nation was put on hold as the BJP campaigned in Karnataka? That petrol prices were hiked just as voting ended in Karnataka? And that the Supreme Court questioned the Centre on its lack of action on the Cauvery Water Management Board, to which the government lawyer made the excuse that the Cabinet was campaigning in Karnataka? And after all that, no majority verdict?

What I saw was utter glee on Navika Kumar of Times Now’s face in the morning as trends showed the BJP doing better than the Congress. And later in the day, as results pointed to a hung assembly, Rahul Kanwal of India Today TV made a strong case on Twitter for the BJP’s right to form the government in Karnataka, as the single largest party, regardless of past precedent, the Bommai judgment and the BJP’s own strategies against the single largest party argument in Bihar, Goa and Manipur to name just a few.

“Janta for Modi’s BJP”, “Mandate against Congress” was Times Now’s stand as headlines flashed across the screen. These “hard facts” to quote the channel’s own ad lines, do not take in hard facts like BJP not reaching the target number of seats. Or that the BJP has achieved 110 seats in Karnataka without Narendra Modi. Inconvenient stuff like that.

Prannoy Roy on NDTV called the Karnataka election results, “a humdinger, a Game of Thrones in real life”. As a diehard GoT fan, I can assure you that there is no connection between the Karnataka results and either George RR Martin’s books or David Beniof’s and DB Weiss’s script. Or indeed with the coverage of the Karnataka results. This time though, in the whole exit poll question, at least three got it right with their view of a hung assembly (CNX, Jan Ki Baat, News Nation), one got it a bit wrong, but closer to what happened than those who got it wrong (C Voter) and three which got it wrong (Times Now VMR, Times Now Chanakya and Axis My India).

The exit poll industry and their clients need to sort that out. Or not, because clearly lack of success does not mean lack of customers in this line of work. But for an election that many saw as the first dress rehearsal for the general elections of 2019, the campaigns for Karnataka were far more interesting than the coverage of the results.

At any rate, we got good lectures on the Constitution and the Bommai judgement from TV pundits (excellent from DorabSopariwala on NDTV), which was far more welcome than their usual ranting and raving. But this was one of those stories which did not end when it should have. A hung verdict means the usual discussions, allegations of horse-trading, money and manipulation. None of these are new to us but judging from the reaction of some of my colleagues in TV journalism, all this evil stuff could not possibly happen in these perfect times we live in. To misuse LP Hartley famous quote, the past is such a foreign country to them that they have little clue it even existed. I’m taking about the recent past here, by the way, like Bihar, Manipur, Goa, Meghalaya in the past couple of years.

As this story develops, let’s see how many journalists jump through government hoops and how many assess developments for themselves. By my reckoning, a damp squib overall. The fun – if one can call it that – is happening now.


Meanwhile, in Varanasi, a terrible accident with several dead and injured, as an under-construction flyover collapses. Watch out for this one too. Is everyone’s tragedy equal for today’s media?



Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are her own



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