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Monday, May 28, 2012

Media creates its own realities

By Swapan Dasgupta


Perceptions are always difficult to shake off, even when confronted with a new set of realities.

The UPA Government’s ‘policy paralysis’ is on the whole both real and perceived. However, even if the regime suddenly acquired fresh energy and began acting purposefully, it would be some time before the perception of drift was wiped out from the public imagination. This is particularly so where media shapes the tone and tenor of the chattering class discourse.
Mercifully for Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, it is not merely the Government that is at the receiving end of what market analysts call ‘sentiment’. For the past three years, even as the reputation of the UPA has taken a battering, the BJP has also been pilloried for failing to set its own house in order. The transformation of the ‘party with a difference’ into a ‘party with differences’ may be a caricature, but it has also become conventional wisdom.
Given the fact that the media thrives on stereotypes, caricatures and uninformed superficialities, it was not very surprising that the bite brigade that descended on Mumbai last week for the BJP National Executive was looking for reaffirmations of set conclusions. Factional feuds make for interesting TV and lazy copy, and the BJP, it had already been decided, was in a permanent state of civil war. Consequently, when the Narendra Modi-Nitin Gadkari spat over Sanjay Joshi was settled amid a show of bonhomie on Day One, the search went on for something that would bolster a ready-made script centred on a formula. Policy issues and strategies, after all, need a measure of understanding and are difficult for excitable reporters to communicate coherently. And so it was that Day Two saw an overdose of ‘sexed up’ stories on the ‘unhappiness’ of LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj’s ‘boycott’ of the public meeting where Modi had the star billing. The net conclusion: the BJP was still at war with itself.
That everyone in the BJP is not on the same page is a truism. No political party in India, not even the CPI(M), possesses an army where every member of the officer corps think alike. This is democratic normalcy, and it is only in India that the media projects the ideal of politics crafted on the North Korean model.
These may be the reasons why the media missed the dual significance of the BJP’s Mumbai session. It failed to detect the emergence of two very distinct currents that, in turn, are tantamount to a major course correction.
First, the BJP has implicitly recognised that an all-powerful, over-bearing party centre is not viable. It has belatedly dawned on the BJP leadership that the party cannot progress unless it acknowledges and institutionalises the role of strong state parties with strong leaders. The return of Modi to the National Executive meetings after a long gap, the behind-the-scenes parleys that led to BS Yeddyurappa making a symbolic appearance on Day Two and the acknowledgment of Vasundhara Raje’s leadership in the Rajasthan were momentous developments.
If the trend towards a more federal BJP is allowed to proceed, it is certain to address the problem of factionalism too. What had clearly been apparent since 2004 has been the existence of groups and coteries in the States that draw sustenance from individuals in the national leadership. These factions have invariably been at loggerheads with the State leadership. A greater involvement of State leaders in decision-making at the national level has the potential of choking the lifeline of those who waged local battles with ammunition from Delhi. Had the BJP embraced federalism earlier, the problems associated with Karnataka, Rajasthan and Bihar may not have assumed alarming proportions.
Secondly, and as a corollary to the growing importance of State leaders, is the clear emergence of Narendra Modi as the proverbial first among equals. The exceptional status of the Gujarat Chief Minister — the third person to secure that exalted position after Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani — didn’t stem from any formal resolution or even from any informal conclave of the worthies. It was by acclaim and as a consequence of pressure from the grassroots. From the enthusiastic response of the party’s political workers at the public meeting in Mumbai, it was clear that only Modi has the ability to both inspire and enthuse the faithful.
In a possible journey to the top of the political ladder, he has cleared the first big hurdle. He has, for all practical purposes, secured the endorsement of all the major stakeholders of the BJP.
Yet, it is still too early to say whether Mumbai was the prelude to Modi being anointed the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014. Any formal decision has to await the outcome of the Gujarat Assembly elections in December, consultations with allies and the overall flow of politics. Recall that Vajpayee was chosen the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate barely eight months before the 1996 polls. For the moment, and for good or bad, the BJP has honed in on a leader and a structure of politics—significant steps that matter more than the discordant notes the media was hell bent on discovering.
I wonder how today’s media would have covered the Calcutta session of the Congress in 1920? Would it have focussed on Gandhi’s emergence as the new symbol of nationalism? Or would it have honed in on the ‘sulk’ of the Tilak-ites and followers of CR Das?


Sunday Pioneer, May 27, 2012

7 comments:

Suchitra Kulkarni said...

An absolutely incisive article that puts the whole issue in the correct perspective. The mainstream media has never tried to understand the ethos behind the BJP and their analysis comes from their warped vision. Their use of anonymous sources to confirm their findings is a good ploy too.

Anonymous said...

For last decade, mainstream media specially english media has been indulged itself into phantasma of stories , ignoring real mood of bhartiya janta. Their hallucination with UPA, whose major party congress is known for north korean model if leadership, person oriented leadership, so they are bound to see defects with BJP who along with CPM avoided any single person hold centre position. You should have sympathy for these immature journalist who mistaken disanting voice in a democratic party as negative rather than appreciating such culture. unlike congress where any voice not in tune with madam is silenced, jagan Mohan is before us all as example facing changes of inheriting money accumulated by a congress CM only. BJP will always have such clash of ideas, I wish it remain for sake real democratic ideal, only challenge would be to remain united still respecting various voice of individual, regional aspirations. Our long history of monarchical politics also responsible for people failing to apreciate such trends and still rely on single family/ yuvraj to rule them. Its only bjp where people like modi can rise to this level n large population don't even know what his father name is.

Anonymous said...

" The return of Modi to the National Executive meetings after a long gap, the behind-the-scenes parleys that led to BS Yeddyurappa making a symbolic appearance on Day Two and the acknowledgment of Vasundhara Raje’s leadership in the Rajasthan were momentous developments".

So true ! And it is no mean achievement. Whereas in the corrupt & communal congress veryone has to rally behind Sonia Gandhi & her son and daughter. And their progeny. If one would bother to think a bit , the truth would dawn that congressis actually have no special love or regard towards Sonia Gandhi's dynasty. It is the ONLY adhesive that can hold that party together. In the process all the sycophants manage to loot & enjoy power.

Sri.Narendra Modi is one such rare leader who has the goodness of our country as his objective. One can add Smt.Jayalalitha also to that list. Both of them have good cordial understanding. She has also considerably remedied the rot wrought by utterly useless DMK.

It is the anti Hindu media which gloated over America's refusal of visa to Narendra Modi. Whereas Narendra Modi by God's Grace is so full of sang froid as to remain unperturbed.

BJP should join hands with Jayalalitha & also do away with EVM.

On assuming power OUGHT to change our constitution.Religion should be one's personal pursuit & not determine unfair concessions, reservations & subsidies.

Anonymous said...

" The return of Modi to the National Executive meetings after a long gap, the behind-the-scenes parleys that led to BS Yeddyurappa making a symbolic appearance on Day Two and the acknowledgment of Vasundhara Raje’s leadership in the Rajasthan were momentous developments".

So true ! And it is no mean achievement. Whereas in the corrupt & communal congress everyone has to rally behind Sonia Gandhi & her son and daughter. And their progeny. If one would bother to think a bit , the truth would dawn that congressis actually have no special love or regard towards Sonia Gandhi's dynasty. It is the ONLY adhesive that can hold that party together. In the process all the sycophants manage to loot & enjoy power.

Sri.Narendra Modi is one such rare leader who has the goodness of our country as his objective. One can add Smt.Jayalalitha also to that list. Both of them have good cordial understanding. She has also considerably remedied the rot wrought by utterly useless DMK.

It is the anti Hindu media which gloated over America's refusal of visa to Narendra Modi. Whereas Narendra Modi by God's Grace is so full of sang froid as to remain unperturbed.

BJP should join hands with Jayalalitha & also do away with EVM.

On assuming power OUGHT to change our constitution.Religion should be one's personal pursuit & not determine unfair concessions, reservations & subsidies.

mokrish said...

That is an interesting comparison - comparing Modi's rise to Gandhiji's rise. God save India

Vishnu Padhiyar said...

modi sarakar koi kam ni nathi

Vishnu Padhiyar said...

gujarat me modi sarakar ne koi kam nahi kiya he