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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Does Narendra Modi need the English Mainstream Media in Bharat?

If one were to read her article ‘Narendra Modi’s media problem’, it would seem that Tavleen Singh seems to think that he does.  It should be stated that there are many in the same section of the media think like Singh, and so the comments made here about what she has to say would apply to all of them.

Interestingly, Singh has written in her article about the nature of the people in this section of the media, and how they have behaved badly towards the Prime Minister ever since 2002.  Some of her one-liners are:

  • They have been unjust to him from the moment he became chief minister of Gujarat.
  • This could well be because their research was poor and their sense of history weak, but it was unjust.
  • They then compounded the injustice by blaming him personally for organising the awful violence.
  • There are other urgent reforms needed in political and administrative matters, and if the Prime Minister has not shown the courage to make them, it could be because he fears the hostility of the media.

So, Singh admits, inadvertently I am sure, that the section of the media she wants Modi to interact with is most unprofessional in their conduct and behaviour.  In fact, quite some time ago, in one of the multitude of the so-called literary fests (nearly all in English, and nearly all having participation of unprofessional journalists), the issue of this alleged lack of interaction was raised.  In this panel, Madhu Kishwar pointed out to Rajdeep Sardesai that the obsession of the media is not substantive but on trivial issues as to why did Modi not wear a topi that a Muslim cleric had offered him.

So, if Modi did interact with this type of media, would the people of Bharat be better informed about what he wants to convey to them?  Based on the characteristics Singh has set out above, clearly they will continue to project him in negative terms.  If so, a supposed seasoned journalist (something that Singh continuously keeps reminding her readers of in various ways) would realise that the whole exercise would be one of futility.

Here it is pertinent to mention that the late Sunderlal Patwa, as the then BJP chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, said that there is no need for the press and the government to have cordial relations.  This does not mean that the relationship should be adversarial either.  But it is a choice that individual journalists would make – most of the English mainstream journalists have made a choice to be adversarial towards the personality of Modi, as Singh herself has narrated in her article.  If this choice to be adversarial is made on the basis of lack of research, then Singh should be castigating those she defines as her colleagues, instead of Modi, for the state of affairs.

The English mainstream media has taken upon itself a mantle of deliberately creating a skewed narrative that with the advent of Modi as the prime minister, there has been a sustained and planned attack on the religious minorities as well as democratic institutions (which are mostly manned by those to whom the English mainstream media would have deep empathy with).  Thus, Anand Ranganathan tweeted:

Some five weeks later, he tweeted:


It is not that the government had made no effort to patiently interact with the media to tell them what the truth is.  One such effort was by the present finance minister, Arun Jaitley, in an interview as far back as nearly three years ago, on one of the most vicious anti-Modi channels.  Please see: ‘Proof That Most Church Attacks Not Communal, Will Media Tell Truth Now?’ Arun Jaitley to NDTV

This interview was given to Barkha Dutt, while she was still with the channel. The answer to the question posed by Jaitley to the channel about its behaviour, and also the rest of the media, continues to be a resounding NO.

In his article in The Indian Express (June 17, 2017), Surjit Bhalla wrote:

The Indian people are asking more questions and demanding greater accountability from dynastic political leaders. But the old elite — politicians, corporates, left-intellectuals, academics — cannot be expected to give up their privileges so easily. They will try to derail the transformation and object at every turn: If that means fake analysis, they will do so. If that means intellectual gymnastics, they will do so. The key point is that they must do so.

Today, it is not just the people at large, but also the regulars in Lutyen’s Delhi who have realised that the country has been inflicted with fake analysis and intellectual gymnastics – in other word, lies.  Some of these regulars, despite knowing that they have been peddling lies, are fighting back, as Surjit ji has said above.  And the method they are using is to peddle more lies.

Thus, if Modi were to talk to such an English mainstream media, as Tavleen Singh wants him to do, he will be giving currency to their lies.  So, Modi is doing the right thing by ignoring them, and letting the social media be his means of communicating not just to the people of Bharat, but also of the world.  And that is why leader after leader (except the usual culprits) seek to talk to him and today see Bharat as a partner for their security and economic needs.

In some ways, Singh has herself exposed her own lack of research right at the beginning of the article where she says:

The day after we discovered that another famous businessman had defaulted on loans worth thousands of crore rupees from public sector banks, the Prime Minister spent the morning talking to schoolchildren. It is possible that this was planned earlier, but it still seemed bizarre because this latest bank robbery is too serious for the Prime Minister’s office to ignore.

What does she mean that ‘it is POSSIBLE’?  Surely, even the children listening to Modi would realise that such events do require planning.  It is not like deciding to take one’s pet for a walk instead of the person who usually does it.  Does society work only on one issue at a time?  And if Singh found a pre-planned talk to the children ‘bizarre’ in context of the exposure of the bank fraud, surely she would say many of the other things that Modi did on that day, and a couple of days after to be equally ‘bizarre’.

She goes on to say:

Others have spoken on behalf of the government but this is not good enough.

So, according to Singh, explanations on behalf of the government have validity only when Modi speaks.  For a true journalist, one would have thought that what was spoken is more important than who has spoken it.

I would like to suggest to Singh that the media should go about doing its job in a professional way with proper research and a strong sense of history.  A professional media is an important part of any democracy.  However, as Singh herself has inadvertently admitted, the media in Bharat, particularly the English variety, gives all evidence that it is not professional.

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Ashok Chowgule
Ashok Chowgule
Working President (External), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharat.


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