Indian media is biased against Modi government. You don't need more proof today

Coverage of the Gujarat polls shows that mainstream media has not given up misleading and misinforming the nation.

 |  5-minute read |   27-12-2017
  • ---
    Total Shares

The mainstream Indian media (MSM) coverage of the Gujarat elections shows a curious combination of false hopes, wishful thinking, wrong calls, clutching at straws, or, all told, missing the point. That many a seasoned psephologist or media commentator occasionally makes mistakes is hardly surprising; we are not talking about such errors in judgement.

Prejudice

But what is much more troubling, is the deep-seated prejudice, even hatred, that MSM displayed throughout. When the media gangs up against a party or individual, it is a cause for serious concern. This, unfortunately, is what we have been witnessing since Narendra Modi’s victory in 2014. It is as if there is a combined media antagonism in place now that the main opposition party, the Congress, is coming a cropper.

But, by a curious twist of fate, MSM is being snubbed election after election, issue after issue. Though repeatedly blindsided, it has not given up misleading itself or misinforming the nation. As a result, the credibility of the entire news fraternity has taken a hit. An informed citizen is the pillar of democracy. But where does one turn to for reliable content and commentary when much of the mediascape appears so tainted, if not malign?

Mainstream English media is especially culpable in the current credibility crisis. Remember how certain channels predicted an upset in Gujarat? How report after report projected a rejuvenated Congress led by newly anointed president-elect Rahul Gandhi, not only giving the ruling BJP a run for its money, but also sleepless days and nights to PM Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah?

Would it be unfair to consider such broadcasts disguised as forecasts as ploys to influence voters ahead of the polls? And when every single poll predicted a decisive BJP victory, how these same reporters and media houses started focussing instead on caste, cows, and kind of India BJP was creating? Or else analysing why the “Gujarat model” was fake, a combination of bad economics and bad politics?

When the counting actually began, with the election being much more closely contested than the surveys predicted, remember how some channels prematurely announced the BJP’s defeat? And when the tally was out, with the ruling party not only improving its vote share, but ending with a respectable tally of 99 of 182, how media commentators and spin-doctors started highlighting the urban-rural divide as indicative of skewed development in the state, how the number of seats won was the lowest in decades, below the triple-digit figure for the first time for the BJP, and so on.

modi-copy_122717091229.jpg

Challenges

True, compared to 2012, the BJP lost 16 seats, while the Congress added 19. But few spoke of the challenges of overcoming anti-incumbency or retaining the favour of the people after 22 years. Some senior journalists even echoed Rahul Gandhi’s line that the results had proved Congress’s “moral victory” over the BJP.

The problem with such blinkered or biased journalism is that several significant issues get totally overlooked. For instance, how viable or advisable is it to keep weak chief ministers in Gujarat so that the people believe that the Prime Minister will personally look after them as their de facto karta-dharta even after moving to Delhi?

Also, what about the second or third rung of leadership in the BJP? Or how to balance between what is truly good for India and Indians as opposed to what appears beneficial only to Hindus? India is too big a country to be served or saved only by Modi’s charisma or Shah’s organisational skills. The BJP’s electoral machine may appear unstoppable, but shouldn’t it be backed by real development and good governance on the ground?

Mainstream

Why are such matters ignored in the mainstream media? Why do they instead focus on caste, as in Lalu Prasad’s conviction, conveniently forgetting that the chief accused and acquitted in the 2G scam, A Raja, carries the Dalit tag? Why is the media so selective or prejudiced or purblind? It seems that all the evidence points to a serious media malaise.

India is changing, with Modi being our most powerful change-agent in recent decades. The so-called Lutyens elite, including those who control MSM, have not wrapped their heads around the extent or pace of this change. Their visceral hatred for Modi and what he stands for notwithstanding, the BJP rules 19 states today as compared to four ruled by the Congress. More states may fall into the BJP kitty as 2018 advances.

There’s much more to understanding elections than vote swings, caste calculus, urban-rural divides, cow vigilantes, temple visits, and so on. The big picture, the pulse of the people, where the country is heading — these are far more important. It’s not enough to talk to your taxi driver in Ahmedabad, Farsanwala in Surat, or suffering farmer in Rajkot. Nor is it sufficient to promote a Hardik Patel or a Jignesh Shah as the new youth icon to defeat Modi. If we are so invested in a particular narrative or outcome we become incapable of seeing the big change that’s overtaking India.

The issue is not just of a partisan versus independent media. Indeed, in a democracy, media can and does take sides. The real problem is media that has ceased to seek or report the truth, so corrupt, complicit, or deluded it is. That is serious failing, a national calamity.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: Telecom operators should not be asking you to link your phone number to Aadhaar

Writer

Makarand R Paranjape Makarand R Paranjape @makrandparanspe

The writer is director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The views are personal.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.