Ranjona Banerji: No glee about these defections!

14 Jan,2022

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

Defections from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh have created a slight problem for Modi’s caged media. Unlike the glee with which similar deflections from the TMC to the BJP before the West Bengal assembly polls were met, the movement from the BJP to the Samajwadi Party before UP’s assembly polls is being treated with a neat mixture of bewilderment, dissembling and deflection.

 

Thus R Jagannathan of Swarajya magazine writes in The Times of India – which appears to have given away its edit page to the RSS and its supporters as it carried Sanghi author Ashwin Sanghi on the same day as Jagannathan, who wanted to convince readers how Modi was greater than AB Vajpayee – that the UP elections don’t really matter and have no bearing on the 2024 general elections.

 

Remarkable how the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, despite everything else happening in this country, apparently spent 14 hours in a meeting to discuss these defections from the BJP in UP. This is more time than he has spent on his actual job as home minister but one may argue that is a blessing in disguise.

 

Other media people – this time from TV, as in Pallavi Ghosh and Sanket Upadhyaya – sent out remarkably similar tweets about how since the defections from TMC to BJP did not affect the TMC’s ultimate victory, why should these defections hurt the BJP in UP. Though later I saw Ghosh had decided the BJP might be affected after all.

 

My two-bit advice for these worthies, if they care not to look such obvious sycophants, would to at least consult each other before they retweet what they receive from the BJP IT Cell, and maybe exercise some judgment. But whatever.

 

The Print has tried to saddle, not successfully, the two horses of both sides. Well. I did say tried. One 50-word edit says Punjab has become the laughing stock of India. Not sure where they have noticed this.

 

Another 50-word edit from The Print says the defections from the BJP in UP make the BJP look bad. In case you think, aha, objectivity, you would be well, wrong. The next few lines advise the BJP that this is what happens when they pick up people from other parties. The inference is clear: it’s not really the BJP that is to be blamed but just that part of the BJP which allowed these people into their party.

 

Erm. Does this same logic apply to all those other people who have joined the BJP from elsewhere?

 

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The bigger stories that affect the core of India’s future: the economy, the spread of Covid, the spread of hatred, the spread of China; now these cannot be as important as Modi’s time spent on a flyover and on elections.

 

That the BJP IT Cell uses an app to infiltrate people’s WhatsApp accounts to spread misinformation would be a bigger story for the Indian media if the large sections of the Indian media had not happily surrendered their minds and social media to the BJP anyway.

 

Right?

 

**

 

It is at times like this, with elections everywhere, that one must pay tribute to the late Gerson da Cunha. He was an influential figure in advertising and theatre. And one of the stalwarts of Mumbai’s “movers and shakers”.

 

But of his many talents and hats, for me his greatest gift to us was AGNI, the organisation he began in 1999. Action for Good Governance and Networking in India is a remarkable and successful effort to get people more involved in local politics and ensure that they have a voice in policy and to ensure good governance.

 

Mumbai, despite being seen as politically apathetic, in fact has a long and effective history of citizens’ participation and pressure groups.

 

Journalists have since depended on AGNI to understand and assess candidates and to delve into localised issues.

 

I myself had several fruitful and educational sessions at AGNI’s public interactions, and with Gerson da Cunha himself.

 

May his legacy continue to inspire!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal

 

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