, by DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI
What role some sections of media, both print and electronic, played in the state assembly elections that concluded on October 13? Does that section deserve public trust and confidence? Do the candidates who spent unspeakable amounts of money on the paid denunciation of their political rivals and their own financed eulogies deserve public approval?
How far, in this backdrop, it is apt to describe the press as the sentinel and watchdog of public?
Before dealing with these disturbing questions, let us have a glance over the “success” of the parties and persons who made it to the legislatures.
14 AND NINE
Today the Congress and its allies are in power in 14 States and Union Territories – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in nine and the others in the remaining seven. Some columnists have already started writing the Saffron elegy as well as BJP’s obituary. But much depends upon the degree of hate and disaffection the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh creates.
These were the first Assembly elections after the poll for the 15th Lok Sabha in May. The results marked the downward slide of the paranoid parivar and its admirers while the Congress curve continued to register an upward trend.
The ruling party at the Centre won all the three State assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh – but by default.
The case of Arunachal in the 3-0 Congress victory is noteworthy because this tiny state borders China and Tibet annexed by the former. The significance lies in the fact that since 2004, China has been making a claim on Arunachal Pradesh. Since the very beginning, the state has been favouring the Centre.
The Haryana verdict caused dismay as it was much below the New Delhi expectations. Mr Hooda is now dependent upon the Independents. In Maharashtra, besides the divided Opposition, the main factor for the Congress victory was the spoiler role played by Mr. Raj Thackeray, who did not allow his cousin to register his presence over the political scenario of the state. The MNS has made its presence felt with a bang by 12 seats.
The other factor behind the Congress success was Miss Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) drawing blank in the poll. Her daydream of heading a pan-Indian party stands shattered, although she had erected impressive statues of all the Dalit leaders that the Maharashtra state had produced.
Henceforth, it is obvious: the Congress might become more assertive and exacting with its partners in power. The party may also, once again, feel inclined to rule over the entire country, as was the case during the Mrs. Indira Gandhi regime. Simultaneously, fascist thinking may also creep into some morbid minds in the ruling dispensation. This has happened, and may happen, once again.
Normally, this morbidity strikes roots in an atmosphere of sycophancy. See how it has already begun. The party spokesperson, Mrs Jaya Natrajan is explaining the Congress victory. “…it cannot be denied that the leadership of Congress president and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with the sincere and inspirational initiatives undertaken by Rahul Gandhi placed the Congress head and shoulders above other shoulders in terms of infusing confidence and faith of the voters was already impressed by the credibility and charisma of these Congress leaders and believed that the party led by people such as these, would certainly make an honest effort to address and ameliorate their problems” (Asian Age, October 26).
To the utter discomfiture in general public, the Congress won despite non-performance of the party and lack of governance by the Congress ruled states, as we see particularly in Maharashtra.
The Congress ruled Mumbai continued in its obduracy in not punishing the guilty of the 1993 Mumbai riots and the too long rope given to Mr Raj Thackeray, the fuehrer for the periodic chastisements to the people from other states. And this policy may now continue with a vengeance.
The ultimate nemesis of the Congress, so feel some observers, is going to be caused by persistent neglect to the minorities and the Dalits. What is likely to fuel the fire is disdain for ideology, greed and love of wealth and other assets, corruption and politics, shorn of morality. After a couple of decades, the party would not need enemies. It is likely to crush under its own weight of sins of omission and commission.
There is a general decline in character and aversion to higher moral values. The contagion has afflicted not only the rulers but the ruled also in a massive way. The BJP and the Left ruled states are no exception.
What havoc the mining lobby in Karnataka is causing? Controversies at land acquisition in West Bengal, Goa, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh are a few cases in point. Is the situation in UP, Rajasthan and Haryana different?
Shedding light on corruption in the Saffron ranks, Ms Tavleen Singh wrote in The Indian Express,“Most political parties these days are filled with young heirs whose main reason for entering public life is to make easy money. There is no easier way to make pots and pots of ill-gotten money in India than to enter politics. So if the BJP officials are enthusiastically lining their pockets, it should not be held against them. Speaking of which I tried to find out what happened to the rupees two crore that mysteriously disappeared from the party coffers last December and discovered only that the matter has been brushed up. (17:38)
Economic reforms are 17 years now. Earlier the people below the poverty line were 28 per cent. Today they are 38 per cent. How would you philosophise the fact that half of plural Bharat sleeps hopeless and hungry?
The main poverty is not the poverty understood generally. The chief poverty is the poverty of imagination, vision and determination. Is it not a fact – to quote Mr M.J. Akbar, an eminent journalist, that a hundred thousand British civilians and soldiers ruled three hundred thousands Indians. Were they wrestlers of the WWF?
What role the media (plays and) played in this irresponsible and unaccountable politics, seen in the three Assembly elections? To quote Mr. P. Sainath from The Hindu (October 26), “The assembly elections saw the culture of ‘coverage packages’ exploded across the state’. In many cases, a candidate just had to pay for almost any coverage at all. Issues did not come into it. No money no news…. And the game has moved from the petty personal corruption of a handful of journalists to the structured extractions of huge sums of money by media outfits. One rebel candidate in western Maharashtra calculates that an editor from that region spent Rs one crore “on just local media alone” and, points out the editor, “he won, defeating the official candidate of his party.” The deals were many and varied. A candidate had to pay different rates for profiles, interviews, a list of achievements or even trashing his rivals in some cases.
With the channels it was a ‘live’ coverage or special focus or even a team tracking you for hours a day. Let alone badmouthing your rival this ‘pay-per’ culture also ensures that these papers or channels will not tell its audiences that you have a criminal record. Over 15 per cent of the MLAs just elected in Maharashtra have criminal charges pending against them. Some of them featured in adultery news items which made no mention of this while tracing their track record.
Are you listening Bharat, the second largest democracy on the surface of the earth?