Ranjona Banerji: If media does not wake up now, when will it?

14 Feb,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


You can still hear the reverberations of the fallout of the AAP victory in the Delhi Assembly elections, results announced on February 11. Across India, the people, commentators, the media all know that something has shifted. It may be a tiny rip in the BJP’s fascist cosmos, but it is a rip all the same.

Journalist across the board have tried to analyse the results, with varying levels of sycophancy to Narendra Modi and his team. But most have been forced to concede that the BJP lost badly. Well, how could they deny it? By the end of the day on February 11, the final tally showed AAP with 62 seats and the BJP with 8.

Though they did try to spin it.

Some very loyal to BJP led with the headline: Congress does not open account, loses deposit in several seats. (The Congress went in with zero, came out with zero.)

Others, also loyal to the BJP, tried this: BJP gets five more seats than 2015 and increases vote share and very small margins of victory for AAP.

The funniest was this story by Swarajya.com, although I am not sure whether it qualifies as a news website or a BJP publicity agent. Anyway, anything to demonise Muslims, increase sectarian hate and polarise society. So, it ran a story while the counting was on to claim that AAP candidate Amanutullah Khan was losing even as he claimed he was winning. And it was the BJP candidate who was actually ahead.


Finally, Khan won by over 70,000 votes. The small rise of 194 votes for BJP’s Singh was one of those odd moments that often happens during counting. To create a whole story out of that just to stigmatise a Muslim candidate takes an enormous amount of hatred and ability to twist the truth. Khan’s constituency of Okhla includes both Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Nagar, both massive thorns in the side of the BJP and its enabling media. Let us not forget attempts by Deepak Chaurasia of NewsNation and Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee News to demonise the anti CAA, NRC,NPR protestors at Shaheen Bagh. Let’s see who gets rewarded first by the BJP. The editors of Swarajya have tried for ages and got zilch so far.


The Telegraph, Kolkata, as usual had a sparkling front-page, taking on the BJP’s hate politics head on (see pic). But commentary within was nuanced. Several newspaper editorials sounded notes of caution, pointing out that AAP and Arvind Kejriwal side-stepped the issues of hate spewed by the BJP and its star campaigners, including Modi and Amit Shah. Below, links from The Telegraph and Hindu, both saying more or less the same thing.




Elections done, the media faces a bigger test as issues that roiled us before still present themselves: the disastrous state of the economy, nationwide fears over CAA, NRC and NPR and the lockdown in Kashmir. If nothing else, the Delhi elections show that a constant stream of hatred and lies from the ruling party at the Centre are not guaranteed electoral gold. If more of the media does not wake up now, when will it?

It is true that rumblings within the BJP are being reported. The people of India need a clear picture of what’s going on before the publicity circus around US President Donald Trump’s visit begins.


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


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