Monday, December 24, 2007

The State Of Indian Politics - Post Gujarat Elections

The state for now is definitely Gujarat. Much has been said, written, heard, spewed, vomited, acted, faked, dramtised before, during and after the elections in Gujarat. There was never any doubt about Narendra Modi's victory in Gujarat. Perhaps what was to be keenly watched during this election was Modi's victory margin, in Maninagar constituency where he was facing Union Minister Dinsha Patel and the overall assembly tally. Both the results have given enough fodder for the analysts and experts to stuff their mouths with and shut them. Funnily enough, they still go on. Perhaps it's the TV studio lights or the press printing machines that are to be blamed. I don't think the English language media that Ms. Ghose refers to, gets it. The average Gujarati, definition of which may vary and is open to discussion, doesn't watch any of the English language news channels, leave alone sit through the analyses and the debates. He doesn't even read the English newspapers, leave alone read the complex and sometimes fanciful Op-eds and guest articles. This of course, is in addition to the national media brand of reporting carried in the regular articles. The average Gujarati is a very real person, more concerned about what's happening with him and around him. Perhaps that little time spent through flipping Gujarat Samachar or Sandesh, the time spent through catching on a bit of ETV Gujarati or Alpha Gujarati or time the spent in the trains to and from work is his window to the external world and a source of knowing what is the world saying about Gujarat. The Prannoy Roys, Barkha Dutts, Rajdeep Sardesais, Arnab Goswamis, Karan Thapars, Yogendra Yadavs and soon to come, Vir Sanghvis (with or without Gangulys) are nowhere on his radar. These media men and women seem to have missed this point completely.

What makes Narendra Modi different from the other political leaders is that he's more real and if one were to use that phrase, in your face, than most of them. Compare him with the Gandhis, the Vajpayees or the Karats, and you find there's something enigmatic about them, as if they're only meant for those rare appearances, with the people that is. In contrast, Narendra Modi is everywhere, with his SMSes, ringtones, masks( Tehelka, of course, had an issue even with that, literally. The cover story was titled The Mukhauta Campaign) and even YouTube videos. While he's able to widely connect with his audience at the grass-roots level, he remains being very subdued and measured in his public appearances. Just being seen is not enough, being there is important.

Now that the General Elections are drawing close, we are in for some entertaining times on TV and in the papers. New phrases around actresses will be coined, like BISPASA it was the last time around. Social and political scientists from JNU, Made-Only-For-TV leaders from all parties will join the presenters and the reporters in entertaining us. But what makes me wonder is that if I, and perhaps Seth, are the only ones who seem to know the possible truth? That the country did neither vote the Congress to power because of its aam aadmi campaign nor did it vote the BJP out for its Indian Shining campaign. What helped the Congress, rather what is now known as UPA, were the huge victories in Andhra Pradesh(with TRS) and in Tamizh Nadu (with DMK), some deft coalition cobbling by M/s Ahmed Patel and co. and the Left's compulsion to align with secular forces and not communal forces like the BJP. That is all, nothing more nothing less. And Mr. Advani, you lost some respect when you recently said about the India Shining campaign being a mistake. In fact, it made a lot of us feel good about the state our country was in then. And the feeling wasn't just restricted to the urban middle-class people. Blaming the campaign for your defeat wouldn't be the right thing to do. Let's see what else is in store for us like he said in that movie - "Pichchar abhi baaki hai mere dost". But Mr. Khan, that's movies and this is politics. And politics is real.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

To Ms. Suhasini Haider, Senior Anchor and Correspondent, CNN-IBN

Dear Ms. Suhasini Haider,

Warm greetings. I'm writing to you regarding comments made by you during the night bulletin you were presenting on CNN-IBN on Dec 6, 2007.

At the outset, let me share something with you, which hopefully, you will be glad to know. A lot of young people in this country watch you on national television, and one day, hope to become what you are. They form their opinion based on what you say, based on what you show them and based on what you make guests on your shows say. That's a fine art, putting words into people's mouths, and you and your brethren in the media seem to have perfected that. These young people, being impressionable considering the age they in and the age they are of, appreciate that fine art as well. Stupid as it may seem, they take a lot of what you say very seriously. Hence my humble request to you is to be measured and balanced when you say something on national television.

On Dec 6, 2007 while referring to the exhumation of dead bodies at Nadigram you said - "It is still not known which party the dead belonged to" The dead, Ms. Haider, are dead. Please do not politicize their death. Those young boys and girls, you see, will talk about it in their college, talk about it during their bus and train commutes, talk about it during their numerous hang-outs and chill-outs and soon they will come to believe that the dead need to belong to political parties. Such is the power of your work and the profession industry you work in. Please use it responsibly.

Nikhil Kulkarni

Monday, December 03, 2007

To Mr. Meghdoot Sharon, Correspondent, CNN-IBN

Dear Mr. Meghdoot Sharon,

Warm Greetings. I'm writing to you regarding your article headlined
BJP makes bachelor CM its ladies' man in Guj on on Dec 3, 2007.

While I understand that Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai is your boss and you might feeling honoured to work with an intellectual like him, it doesn't necessarily mean that you share the same disgust that Mr. Sardesai has for Mr. Modi. It's a different thing if it is a company policy in CNN-IBN to always spew venom at Mr. Modi, however flimsy or trivial the reason for that great piece of journalism maybe. If you and your team are that sure about Mr. Modi's complicity in the riots, which are to be condemned in the strongest of terms, please come out with hard facts and take on Mr. Modi. Do not fight from the comfort of your air-conditioned glass-walled studios, that's not fair. Give the other person a chance to respond. And if the belief is that the evidence is all there and still there's no action, then there's something seriously wrong in the justice delivery system in our country and maybe that is what you should be looking at setting right, and not targetting an individual. In fact, Mr. Modi appears more dignified with his silence compared to your
repeated diatribes, which are, more often than not, are needlessly vitriolic and below the belt. What about this article headlined Modi sells Guj Inc, 'appeases rich and ignores poor' which appeared on Nov 18. Articles like these, Mr. Sharon, are not, in good spirit and smack of vengence and a huge sense of political and maybe, even personal vendetta. It doesn't appear to be reporting or journalism, it's sleazy and sickening.

I don't think I need to clarify, but I'm no supporter of Mr Modi. If that man is found guilty by a court of law and even if he's to be hanged for the crime he's to have committed, so be it. But do not become the judge yourself. I'm reminded of that famous quote from Spiderman here. At least, credit him for the work he has done in his term as the Chief Minister. And if you stay in Gujarat and have seen things around you while you report, I'm sure you'd agree with me, that development in Gujarat has happened, and has happened at a good pace.

Good Night, And Good Luck

Nikhil Kulkarni