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Why senior journalists are saying BJP will win UP elections

Amit Sengupta
Amit SenguptaMar 07, 2017 | 20:30

Why senior journalists are saying BJP will win UP elections

They could have waited for just about a few days. Pray, what was the big hurry?

Why did certain celebrity editors put their neck on the line to predict a BJP victory in UP? Why are they sticking their neck out and also their journalistic credibility, whatever remains of it?

Why are so many anchors jumping up and down, as cacophonic and boisterous as ever, only to prove that there is almost a “Modi wave” down the ghats of Varanasi, with rose petals falling from the heavens as a divine sign of redemption? Why is this entire magic realism, in the absence of exit polls, so pathetically predictable, motivated and repetitive?

From where have they derived their empirical evidence and mystical powers? Are they prophets?

Among the editors, while the others are using clichéd statistics, complicated tables and charts, caste combinations and number-crunching to scare all and sundry, one of them was so overwhelmed that he really went overboard: “If a wind is blowing from Maharashtra and Gujarat through Punjab and Haryana into Odisha, can UP be immune? No, politics in UP today is not local. There is little support for any local BJP leader. The chant you hear everywhere is, Modi, Modi, Modi.”

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Why did certain celebrity editors put their neck on the line to predict a BJP victory in UP?

From the corridors of addictive power at Fleet Street in Delhi and elsewhere, it is quite transparent that the chant always sounds so lovely and pure. Like a mantra which dulls the mind the more you repeat it. The chant of power is always so alluring and seductive. The more you repeat it, the more absolute it becomes. And, thereby, journalists turn prophets. QED.

LK Advani once quipped that during the Emergency journalists chose to crawl when they were simply asked to bend. Indeed, even if there is no Emergency, the crawling and bending seems to have become a bit of a yogic habit with our profession, across the spectrum, for reasons as transparent as the smell of newsprint, or, the zing of a sound bite.

Surely, editors, reporters and anchors have every right to predict a BJP victory. One "bhakt" Hindi media organisation, with a history of biased and distorted reporting whereby media ethics has been dumped into the garbage can, actually published an exit poll predicting an overwhelming BJP victory in UP. It was clearly done with the motivated intent to influence the voters who were still to vote. Media ethics?

If the media owners and their top editorial brass are so confident that the BJP is winning, they can sure pronounce it from the pulpit. Even those gloating over a BJP victory for the last one month on social media, have a right to post their opinion. Celebrate they must, but there is a catch.

One, they have no evidence to prove it; it is as hearsay as tales of a new prophet arriving on earth one day. The ground reality is as hung and as neck-to-neck in the last phase of the polls, and it is transparent like light.

Scores of cabinet ministers camping in Varanasi for days, the finance minister himself hosting reluctant and disgruntled traders who are old, committed and loyal BJP supporters hit badly by demonetisation, and the prime minister himself criss-crossing this temple and that, day after day, after a not-so-impressive debut road show in his  own constituency.

So where is the wave? Whatever happened to the magic, the chanting, the mantra?

Even a cub reporter will tell you that his first road show in Varanasi was lacklustre, compared to the massive turn out for miles for the Akhilesh Yadav-Rahul Gandhi road show. The BJP quickly said, it was a spontaneous road show, not really a road show. I mean, if a road show is not a road show than what is a road show? Hopping across temples? Feeding puris and bananas to cows?  

The prophet-pollsters-editors should have walked the sticky bylanes along with the great helmsman and tried to read the undercurrent, instead of jumping the board. Hundreds of reporters are travelling through the arid and dusty terrain of UP’s remote districts and reporting from the ground. They are giving all the versions, recording aspirations and hopes, as much as mass disillusionment, testifying to caste and community consolidation, always keeping the edge of objectivity and impartiality intact in their grassroots reportage. None of them have become prophets. Even if they can sense the mood on the ground.

Indeed, the best of them, old hands who know UP’s ground beneath the earth like the back of their hand, are still unsure about the fate of this hard-fought election. “Neck-to-neck”, they would say. “Hard to say, don’t underestimate the "gathbandhan", even the BSP.” Perhaps, a “hung assembly”?

If demonetisation is not an issue, and if farmers, traders, daily wagers and workers have not been hit hard, then why did the BJP lose the Jat vote in western UP?

If "sabka saath, sabka vikas" is the principle slogan of development, then why did the prime minister throw the dangerous and divisive rhetoric of "kabristan and shamshan" down the throats of the people of UP who are still suffering from the pangs of the Muzaffarnagar riots?

If the BJP was so damned confident of scoring as big as 2014, then why rake up "Kasab" — what is the rational link of Kasab to UP politics, now that he has been hanged, and even the false biryani metaphor cannot work anymore?

In 2014, during the Lok Sabha elections, there was a wave and it was there for all to see. It was also a "manufactured wave" in the manner the media backed a new messiah patronised by the corporates and big business.

In a country where every few second you have a break on television, and every four and sixer in a cricket match is followed by a commercial break, the messiah was "live" on all channels, across the board, with no breaks, often with feed provided by his party itself.

If the medium is the message, as the cliché goes, the message was already out in the open: “Acche din aane waale  hain.” At least 31 per cent of the Indian population lapped up both the medium and the message. Three years later, there are doubts.

Some in the media predicted that BJP will clean sweep Delhi during the last Assembly elections. The AAP got 67 out of 70. On the day of the Bihar election results, the prophets on a top English channel said the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance is losing Bihar. They got egg on their face. Indeed, their prediction that the AAP might clean-sweep Punjab might come a cropper.

Certainly, they have a right to be prophets, and to speak their mind freely. But, so do old-fashioned cynics and scribes; they too have the right to believe that these predictions are uncannily too close for comfort in a tough and protracted Assembly election in a huge state.

There is reason to not disbelieve the perception that a section of the media is “toeing the line” of some mythical and powerful forces, if not actually crawling or bending. There is also reason to believe that the prophecies are driven by the vested interest to create some sort of a "victory ripple" for the BJP in the final lap of the relay race. If these assumptions are even remotely true, than it is neither good journalism, nor good prophecy.

It is as bad as it gets. 

Last updated: March 07, 2017 | 21:55
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