Ranjona Banerji: Will the BJP-loyal media now relook at the greatness of the Modi government?

24 Dec,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


For six years now, the BJP’s publicity machine built itself up on the story of pro-Congress journalists, colourfully known as “dynasty hacks” or “Lutyens @#$%&” or as so tastefully put by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, “presstitutes”.

Let’s assume, all this was true, that there were droves of journalists who were all on Congress pay roles. As all evidence now points to the BJP being the richest and most powerful political party in India, regardless of the recent assembly losses, and of the country being starved of a functioning economy, it stands to reason that there are journalists who place themselves firmly in a “camp”.

In this, we need not consider “news” channels like Republic TV and websites and magazines like Swarajya and whatever Opindia.com is. These do not pretend to be what they are not. If Saamna is always referred to as a Shiv Sena mouthpiece, then Republic TV & Co are clear BJP mouthpieces. Some of their funding also comes from BJP “supporters”, so there is no scope for confusion.

The problem comes from what is known as “mainstream media” or “independent media”. Let’s use, just as an example, Bhupendra Choubey, “host of India’s most impactful news show” according to his Twitter handle, which appears on CNN News18. This is a tweet from December 23, as the results of the Jharkhand Assembly elections were being announced: “So it looks like @BJP4India will be forced to sit in opposition in Jharkhand. Tribal areas, industrial belts have voted against the party. Message is clear, we need to focus on economy. There is way too much distrust on the ground. #JharkhandElectionResults #viewpoint”.

The rest of the media and world was quick to pick up on that “we” tucked into the tweet. I got it from Nidhi Razdan of NDTV. Mr Chaubey is just one of several journalists who openly support the BJP. Am sure the self-identification with that “we” was a mistake, but it demonstrates once more how shifting political winds leads to shifts in loyalty.

However, there is a fair amount of confusion over this “loyalty” issue and journalism. It was around the beginning of LK Advani’s Ram Janmabhoomi movement that journalists noticed a massive rightwing swing within the fraternity. From the 1990s onwards, this swing became more and more pronounced. Anyone who was not pro-rightwing, was vilified as pro-Left, pro-Congress, pro-caste politics and lately, pro-AAP. Anyone who was just pro-Constitution also got lumped into one category or the other. No excuses, but it became the enormous RSS universe against everyone else. And now, we see that the tables, as it were, have been turned. The last six years of BJP ascendance has led this huge surge in RSS-inclined journalists. The Constitution no longer matters.

These pro-BJP journalists are easily identifiable, even if they don’t give themselves away like poor Mr Chaubey. They usually blame the “opposition”, individually or collectively, for not standing up to the BJP juggernaut. Narendra Modi on the other hand must never be blamed for anything. He may be India’s greatest and most powerful prime minister ever but he is not actually ever to be held responsible.

The great debacle over the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens, more than demonetisation, more than GST, more than lynchings, more than religious and caste-based discrimination, more than rising crimes against women, more than rural distress, more than joblessness, more than the various effects of a collapsing economy, has forced the people of India to relook at the greatness of the current BJP government.

How soon the loyal media figure this out, will be an intriguing viewing exercise.

And on a note to annoy our Hindutva friends, have a Merry Christmas and see you before the year’s out!


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



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