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Sai's Take: What I learnt about Modi today

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
April 02, 2019 18:47 IST
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Saisuresh Sivaswamy tells us what we must know from the election news in the print and television media.
A must read column, folks!

 Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi addresses the National Women Livelihood Meet 2019 in Varanasi, March 8, 2019, two days before the dates for the Lok Sabha election was called. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi addresses the National Women Livelihood Meet 2019 in Varanasi, March 8, 2019, two days before the dates for the Lok Sabha election was called. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

News with some views

Television during Prime Time, or as some call it Super Prime Time, is not for the faint-hearted.

Every time I get around to watch the shenanigans that unfold beyond 9 pm in the name of News, I find myself wondering if I will have to up the mg of my anti-hypertension pills or spend extra time on the yoga mat. It is a no-contest, usually.

And Monday night was no different.

While NDTV remained the sole arena for sanity, with Nidhi Razdan's steady hand at the tiller and calm demeanour keeping others in check, the scene elsewhere was a total contrast.

Times Now's Navika Kumar was her indignant self, raising questions in line with the prime minister's attack on the Congress president for scooting off to Wayanad etc.

In fact, this was the theme for most TV channels, and I was sure it would be the leit motif on the TV station so beloved by bhakts.

Republic TV reminds me of Ravan, the 10-headed rakshasa, for that's usually how many talking heads you will find squeezed on to one panel on Arnab Goswami's show, each talking, sorry, shouting at each other, and the viewer unable to figure out who is shouting at who.

In the midst of this cacophony, Arnab himself is a picture of calm, speaking only occasionally, but when he does it is with the stentorian authority of, well, Hector himself.

And the reason his show was not making mincemeat of Rahul Gandhi and his party was because they had got a bigger, better bone to chew on.

Omar Abdullah's declaration that the National Conference will restore the prime ministership and flag in Kashmir had got the gents all worked up, and unable to make out if any sense could be distilled from all that verbiage, I quickly logged out.

But not before catching BJP President Amit Shah on some channel, was it News18? To his credit, the candidate from Gandhinagar was taking what seemed like unscripted questions on camera, and answering them reasonably well.

Better than his boss? That, we will never know because the said boss is yet to do this.

A quick detour to the Hindi networks shows, yet again, how the two media ecosystems operate on different universes.

Rajat Sharma on India TV was gleeful over the Lalu-Rabri Manch of Tejpratap, while Raveesh Kumar kept his dirge-like demeanour going on NDTV India, this time ruing the lack of jobs.


2 reasons why Opposition will fail

Writing in the Mumbai Mirror, Christopher Jaffrelot, columnist with the Indian Express, offers two reasons why even a reinforced Opposition will not be enough to dislodge the BJP from power.

One, he says, despite their efforts at unity, the challengers are not as united, disciplined and organised as the BJP.

And two, the BJP's election campaign may ignore the Modi government's report card and focus on identity politics and other such all of which will not work in favour of Rahul Gandhi who cannot compete with Modi in the role of the strong man protecting India from external as well as internal threats.


Gujarat Model in Varanasi

Coomi Kapoor, unarguably the journalist with her ear to the ground like none other, unfailingly gives the latest goss on Lutyens Delhi in the Sunday edition of the Indian Express, and considering it all comes during Prime Minister Modi's hermetically sealed regime, it is all the more creditable.

Her latest instalment has a few nuggets, notable among them being the many connections between Varanasi, Modi's constituency, and his home state of Gujarat.

For instance, the architect of the recently inaugurated Kashi Vishwanath Corridor is Bimal Patel, the man behind the Sabarmati riverfront project.

C R Patel, the MP from Navsari, Gujarat, is in charge of the two model villages adopted by Modi in the constituency, Coomi points out.

That's not all.

Modi has also appointed Sunil Oza, the former MLA from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, to oversee the development projects for Varanasi. Patel and Oza in turn have called in many BJP supporters from Gujarat to help out, Coomi concludes.

You can read more of her stuff here.


NYAY nahi...

Through the thicket of serious political news comes, occasionally, a report that brings out a chuckle.

Like this one about an Indore man who has told the courts that he will pay alimony for his estranged wife from the Rs 6,000 per month that Congress President Rahul Gandhi has promised the very poor of the country under the NYAY scheme if his party is voted to power.

Well, what can we say, except, kya anyay hai yeh!


Draw of the 7 sisters

Our election coverage is usually and woefully short of reportage from the north east, which sends a respectable 25 members to the Lok Sabha, so it was heartening to read this full pager on the region in The Mint.

Patricia Mukhim, editor of the Shillong Times, does a SWOT analysis and concludes that the BJP, which is making a determined push in the region, pushing out the Congress and emerging as the No.1 force there, will do well, bagging 15 seats out of 25. Hemanta Biswa Sarma's dream of 19 to 21 seats will remain just that, a dream.


Sai's Take

Minority Report

Rana Ayyub's article in the Washington Post, 'Modi's India is a living nightmare for Muslims' brought to mind a conversation I had with A, my cab driver on a recent trip.

We got chatting during the traffic-laden ride, my perfunctory questions turning more personal on learning he was from Muzaffarnagar. Yes, the same town that seared the nation's consciousness with its anti-Muslim riots in 2013, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

A's family suffered in the riots, and here he was, ferrying me and hundreds like me around. Wasn't he afraid of us Hindus, I asked him.Speaking in Urdu-laden Hindi he replied, 'Saab, aap log hain toh hum surakshit hain.'

'Par humlog se bachke toh aaplog yahaan tak aaye ho,' I told him.

'Kya lag raha aapko, kisne danga-fasaad karwaya tha wahaan,' he countered me.

'Wohi log jo aaj satta mein hain?'

He laughed at this and said, with wisdom that can only come from a painful experience: 'Saab, dushman se zyada aapko apne doston ko sambhalna padta. Dushman toh dushman rahega, par dost kab aur kyun dushman banega aapko pata bhi nahi chalega.'

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