Space for Criticism and Scrutiny has Shrunk

28 May,2019


By Ranjona Banerji


The new 100-day agenda for the Modi government’s second term include, according to CNNNews18, e-vehicles, farmers’ income and Make in India. The first actions by Modi supporters have been to terrorise and attack religious minorities. The first action by Modi has been to give a grand speech against such attacks but the second action has not been to stop such attacks.

Since journalists have very short memory span these days, do not expect much insight into what happened over the last five years. The past is a foreign country to quote LP Hartley, (he wrote books, but never mind) and most of today’s journalists have no passport into the past. If they had, more than a few relics like me lurking about, would have remembered how Raj Narain defeated Indira Gandhi in Rae Bareli in 1977. No, no, how can I say that? No one has ever defeated a Nehru-Gandhi since Smriti Irani defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, right?

So, Make in India and farmers, eh? Here’s some advice from Indian economists to the new government on how to revive the Indian economy, because make no mistake, after the last five years of Modi Sarkar, it needs CPR. But we can’t really say that or the government will feel bad. I quote from this Economic Times article:

“The four major engines of the economy — private investment, exports, private consumption and now even public investment — have stalled or are sputtering. Irrespective of the data — not withstanding growing concerns about their credibility — the economy’s health warrants concern.

“GDP growth has been slowing. The crucial automobile sector is hurting. Agricultural distress, lack of fiscal manoeuvrability, serious concerns around unemployment and a stubborn investment drought in the private sector are among a slew of challenges that the new government must tackle head on.”

Any chance that government action on the flailing economy is going to be scrutinised every night full scale on our proud nationalistic TV channels? Okay, that was a joke, don’t answer it.

Let’s look at  the other aspect of the re-election of Narendra Modi and his second term as Prime Minister of India.

It did not take long for supporters of Modi, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to continue their attacks on Muslims and Dalits. All the usual violent behaviour and intimidatory tactics by the majoritarian rightwing we have seen over the last five years were on display once again. Modi’s grandiloquent grandstanding about building trust amongst minorities and those who disagree with him and the BJP, was lauded and applauded by our “neutral” commentators, as if it was the Gettysburg address. Ground realities have never really bothered these “journalists” but some in the media luckily have their eyes and ears open.

The more things change…


We discussed in 2014 the honeymoon period and how the media will eventually get to work. The last five years exposed those naive beliefs since as shibboleths. Since 2014, more and more media houses and journalists have worked as publicity agents for the government and for the BJP. The space for criticism and scrutiny has shrunk. Or let me rephrase that. There is plenty of scrutiny for every opposition party and so it should be.

But when it comes to holding the government to account… let’s finish that quote by Alphonse Karr: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal



Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.