Paid news, sponsored programmes
By Faraz Ahmad
If there is anything that can be described as “Paid news” it is the TOI rating: With 77.5 %, Modi govt gets Distinction in its first year” says the Times of India front page lead headline on Saffron Sardar Narendra Modi completing one year as the Prime Minister of India.
The TOI rating has passed Modi with a distinction awarding the second NDA government led by him 77.5%. The paper is unabashed in admitting that its own TOI-Ipsos poll conducted by a supposedly professional outfit had only awarded first division to the Modi government giving it 66 per cent.
It is interesting why and how the ToI has junked its own survey to award Modi additional 11.5% grace marks to allow the laggard to top. The copy makes some interesting reading for it says, “What we have tried to do is to look at actual changes on the ground (visible only to a trading media), together with what is proposed(Aha!); we have also tried to judge the seriousness of purpose/intent. We have given some credit for trying hard…”
The paper has also frankly admitted that its survey is quite contrary to its own “sponsored” assessment, for it says, “The TOI-Ipsos poll had given the government 66% approval rating with (mind you, only) 19 per cent saying ‘very good’ and another 47 per cent saying ‘somewhat good.’ On the basis of just 19% the TOI shamelessly admits to have awarded the Modi government Distinction, completely ignoring the fact that there were 34 per cent of the selectively surveyed people who rated first year of Modi government as “Bad” or “Very Bad.” Goes without saying for the TOI makes no mention of the opinion of these 34%.
It is nobody’s case that these surveys are the true reflection of people’s views or real situation on the ground for it has been repeatedly proved that these surveys are largely restricted to urban middle or upper middle class gated societies whose people lead a cloistered life.
For last one week the media, particularly the visual media, which had initially started assessing the performance of one year of Modi government somewhat fairly and objectively has fallen in line and why not. Starting from the last days of the Budget session of Parliament, Modi’s Man Friday Arun Jaitely has thrown in four lavish dinners to the Who’s who to whosoever of the media, each of which Modi attended mingling freely with Editors, proprieters, news purveyors, planters and even their minions the beat reporters. However not a word of what was stated by the ‘Gormint’ ever leaked out, for I was told by someone who claimed to have attended at least one of them, each one was first made to swear by his or her god, go through the lie detector test and before passing through the usual metal detector placed on the gate of Jaitley’s 2, Krishna Menon Marg bungalow, to never ever mention Modi even off the record. Of course they were well fed with Modi’s achievements but with a strict warning not even to mention a “Source” in the Government or the BJP, leave alone admitting to breaking the bread with the Prime Minister. Actually they didn’t, for Modi left the place before the House opened to feasting.
But then that is perhaps not the only reason why the media fell in line. Modi has been the ruler first of a part of India, namely Gujarat and now the whole country for last 13 years and has all along shown himself as an arrogant, overbearing, petulant and ungracious character, intolerant of any criticism, even if it is well meaning. Why else would he have thrown out Vijay Trivedi, formerly of NDTV, India, from his helicopter for questioning his development agenda and claims of Narmada water? Why would he have been so vindictive towards Rajdeep Sardesai and Shekhar Gupta, who were willing to compromise and play Modi tune on the Development issue? But because they fairly reported 2002 Gujarat pogrom, first thing he did after assuming office was to get them sacked. We are all seeing the poor Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand how they are being hounded by the Gujarat government even after Modi has relocated himself from Ahmedabad to New Delhi. The media is not just sold out but running scared of him.
Yet this is India and there are times when his admirers like Pratap Bhanu Mehta or Surjit S Bhalla too raise a Point of Order. In the Centre-page article of the Indian Express, Mehta writes today: “Modi was elected at a moment of two separate yearnings: the need for a decisive leader to infuse energy in government on the one hand and to build institutions on the other. Modi has staked his claim on projecting the first, while entirely short shrifting the second…Institutions that supposedly protect individuals: justice systems, police, bureaucracy, the CBI, the CVC, the RIT are in disrepair.”
Bhanu Mehta concludes by saying, “The fascination and frustration with Modi is that all the contradictions of India play out in his persona: the arrogance of “I” combines with a curious lack of boldness in deference to democracy. There are grand plans, but little attention to detail. There is ambition and even a hint of liberality that ambition brings. But there is the temptation to knock down all opponents…The man after one year, still remains elusive.” And that is from a Modi admirer.
The fear of Modi among some is not without reason. Modi threatened his critics from Mathura yesterday of “Bure Din.” “Dare criticize me and I’ll fix you, boy” sayeth the Prime Minister of India, After all if the next door Maldivian ruler can publicly drag and put illegally deposed former President behind the bars, what should we expect from a piqued and petulant Modi.
But Bure din for whom: For those who question the official inflation figures by pointing out the rise in the prices of milk, Dal, Sabzi and chicken in one year of Modi rule. (Incidentally it also includes Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) chief B N Rai who told Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatraya to ask his wife the reality of inflation coming down and Rai is no friend of the Congress or Rahul and Sonia) Bure din for those who play up the Saamna story which charged the BJP with Rs 25,000 crore scam in supposed purchase of LED bulbs for Maharashtra. (By the way Modi dare not openly confront the Tiger for the Sainik claims to be a more militant saffron comrade; Bure din for all of us who show Modi the Ghar Wapsi and forcible conversion mirror and Bure din for that hapless Muslim girl of Juhapura in Modi’s citadel Ahmedabad who kept running after Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel with a written representation questioning why her house was being demolished by a bulldozer at the instance of the Government. But then what is the big deal? Did any of us expect “Achhe Din under Narendra Damodardas Modi?