“Portrayal of negativity is fine. But optimism is the oxygen we require so much.”-a BJP sympathizer told me yesterday. The direct sources of communication which the Prime Minister employs to connect with the republic is not only a euphemism of articulated democracy, but it only shows how the view of Modi towards the media has only forged greater indigence and lesser empathy. The name of Modi got scuffled with controversies, as the inner party mechanism sabotaged him as a trouble maker within Gujarat in the initial 1990’s after the historic Rathyatra. Modi was packed off to the national capital where he resided along with other pracharaks and ate in a common mess.
Modi got what he likes and he was made the go to man in the media cell. Rajdeep Sardesai in his book on the 2014 elections show the affinity they shared while Modi was in Delhi and Sardesai in NDTV. “I would call Narendrabhai, whenever we were freed of the pleasure of spokespersons of the saffron end. And invariably he would turn up.” The bonhomie which Modi inculcated with the media flagged of humour and light heartedness . On NDTV, in the show “the Big Fight” Modi pitched for the title of Islamic Terrorism. He lambasted Rafiq Zakaria, eminent Islamic scholar and Congress leader.
But there is a caveat or a corollary. Modi even then irrespective of his bonhomie attacked the “pseudo-secular media”. He roared,”It has taken so long for the pseudo secular media of India to acknowledge the existence of Islamic terrorism.” Siddharth Vardarajan, then with TOI also seem to take on the future PM. But Modi, with his rocky eyes seem to come out as the macho speaker in the otherwise sensitive, volatile debate. The charisma only seemed to better itself in the years to come. Interestingly, though Modi had great inhibitions against the left of centre NDTV pattern of media, he approached a person who flaunted himself as nothing but a pseudo-secular.
His name is Vinod Mehta. Modi, to believe the enfante terrible Mehta supplied the editor papers against Keshubhai, who had reportedly failed to carry on effective administration and relief with the Bhuj Earthquake. “The next thing I heard, was that Narendra Modi has become CM in Keshubhai’s place” tells Mehta in his memoir sequel- Editor Unplugged. The conflict between Keshubhai and Modi was well known. But the way the media seemed to have engaged itself as a party to the situation makes an interesting read.
If you consider these initial years of Modi and Media, you will find it a bit mismatched to the reality in the present. Like most politicians on power, Modi is not cushy towards criticism. But the media with its own vigour has reposed little morality, to take a larger ground on ethical magnanimity. The Niira Radia scandal has only proved how hollow journalism as a profession has become. Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Prabhu Chawla as well as Vajpayee son in law Ranjan Bhattacharya are interesting characters in convoluted, power struggle the journos are part of today.
But here lies an antithesis. No politician discovered #Barkhagate as it came to be known on a then relatively new nascent Twitter. It was Manu Joseph and Vinod Mehta who exposed the hurly burly of power broking to which a largely self-interest driven media honchos are part of. Media has always been arrogant. Take for instance, what Dileep Padgaonkar said about his profession. “I do the second most important job in the country after that of the Prime Minister” he said, with greater snobbery and lesser self-restraint. However blaming Arnab Goswami is like comparing apples and oranges.
A man who exposed the CWG, 2G, JijaG was threatened to be censored by the erstwhile political dispensation under the Congress. He never budged. So to expect him to stay mum, while our Shiv Sena supported PM candidate (who now is in charge of the Lalit Mess) fails to practise propriety which she preached as LOP is unconvincing. To be intrinsically frank, both the Media and the Modi Government have flaws and favours-both have had their honeymoon. Now, we should look for grounds of ethical governance rather than mudslinging at each other. The cyber army of Modi must also be taught to express restraint, rather than abusing specific journos and celebrities who fail to agree with the Government on a number of issues. To call the Vice President a “jihadi” has to be condemned in the strongest of terms. If the Government fails to do it, voices of dissent must arise. To quote the “Flood of Fire” author, “what is left of free speech, if there is no space of criticism?”