BJP: Missing The Bigger Picture
Is the Indian media doing its job properly? That is the question I often face from my close friends who are in bureaucracy, academia and business. Their usual complaint against the media, particularly the television and the English publications, is that it is inconsistent, biased and that often it trivialises news-presentation, making it appear as a well-paid campaign. I think there are some elements of truth in this complaint.
Take the alleged case of corruption involving BJP President Nitin Gadkari. The media is too focused against him. In fact, according to a study, the coverage on the Gadkari affair is nearly 75 per cent more than on the alleged corruptions involving Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Robert Vadhera, Salman Khurshid and Virbhadra Singh, all important Congress functionaries. And that is the case when the common sense suggests that the Gadkari episode is much lesser in magnitude of allegation than the ones involving the Congress leaders. In fact, going by the media coverage over the last fortnight, it appears that the cases involving the Congress leaders simply do not exist.
Gadkari is not the owner of the Purti-group in which benami-investors had put a lot of money. Secondly, the government has been over-active in initiating investigations into the Purti-affair, something Gadkari has welcomed. In fact, right from the very beginning, Gadkari has been saying that he is open to any investigation.
In contrast, see the approach of the Congress leaders. It is mind-boggling how Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, through their outfit called Young India, have grabbed up the defunct National Herald and its country-wide real-estate (particularly in Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh) by paying just 50 lakhs!
See how, the national media has just turned a blind eye to the allegation of a former chief minister of Haryana that Rahul Gandhi has made big bucks from illegal purchase of land in his state. See how the television anchors have simply forgotten the real-estate business of Robert Vadhera (Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law) who allegedly flouted laws of the land and sheer common sense (here one of the biggest real-estate companies of the country, the DLF, gives loans to Vadhera to buy its own property and then buys the same property back from him at more than seven times the price it had sold). Look at the alleged forgery committed by an NGO promoted by the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, in which the “beneficiaries” have denied receiving any benefits from the NGO as shown in the official record.
The national media is almost silent now on the corruption scandal involving former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, not to speak of the cases that many UPA ministers and chief ministers are accused of abusing their positions and making money: the so-called Coal-Gate and 2-G Spectrum cases, and the loots from the Commonwealth games. Unlike in the case of Gadkari, against whom it was hyperactive in ordering investigations, the central government is stubborn about refusing any investigations against any one of the Congress leaders.
Why should there be one set of standards for Gadkari but another set for the Congress leaders? Our television channels and the English publications are simply not bothered. For them, Gadkari’s head must roll first, even though he does not occupy any government or legislative position. They have the same antipathy for Modi. They overplay all his negative points but completely ignore his strength. See the way they went to the town denigrating Modi’s recent remark at an election-rally in Himachal Pradesh that one Union Minister had a “50-crore girl friend, whom he subsequently married”. Many talk shows were held and many editorials and op-eds were written on Modi’s “retrograde anti-women” remark, but the fact remains that none of them cared to hear or read Modi’s entire speech. As a reputed academician (incidentally, a woman) pointed out the other day, Modi’s speech, overall, was actually pro-women; he was talking of the crores of the women suffering in the rural areas because of lack of water and fuel.
See also the utter silence of the edit and op-ed writers as well as the TV anchors over the recently released government statistics that Gujarat has more Muslims in its police force than any other state and that compared to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra, the four states that dominate in producing the so-called secular leaders (thanks to the significant presence of Muslims in each of them), Gujarat has fewer Muslim undertrials. Yet, Modi continues to be projected by them as a monster loving Muslim blood!
The shortcomings of the national media in its integrity, particularly when it is a question of the BJP and some of its leaders, does not mean that the BJP has given a good account of itself. As I have written a number of times in this column, the BJP’s performance as the principal Opposition party of the country has been pathetic. See the way its leaders fight among themselves. In fact, it is an open secret in Delhi that most of the negative material involving the BJP leaders are given by their party rivals, who often go to the extent of arranging special closed door briefings to the select media-persons, who are, more often than not, highly critical of the BJP.
But what pains me most is the way the BJP has just forgotten how to enthuse the country’s rising middle class, which was its natural constituency during the 1990s, arguably its golden period. It does not talk of a single alternative agenda for the country that will take India forward. It is pathetically competing with the Congress and the regional parties in promoting the identity-politics. See its blind support to the retrograde demands for more and more reservations in every sphere. See its notorious intransigence in opposing the country’s pursuits for nuclear power. See the way it is alienating the farmers (who will get more for their products) and urban consumers (who will get things cheaper) by opposing the FDI in retail trade; it is only pandering to the interests of a small section of the middle men and traders, thus reviving its pre-1990 image of being an outfit of traders.
The above instances are only suggestive, not exhaustive. The point is that the BJP is missing the bigger picture and failing to catch up with imagination of a rising India. The country badly needs a conservative party that is forward looking and clamouring for systemic corrections that will make India truly democratic and developed. In my humble opinion, 99 per cent of India’s problems will be over if the country undergoes political reforms, vitally important for promoting accountability and transparency, on two fronts. One is the provision that no legislator and minister (including chief minister, Prime Minister and President) will hold his or her position more than two terms or 10 years. In fact there are countries like South Korea where the President has only one term in office.
Imagine what would happen to the present South Korean President Lee Myong-bak (70 years old), who took the office 25th Feb 2008, if he was an Indian. He is completing his fenure on the midnight of 24th Feb 2012 after serving 5 year only term. Under him, South Korea overcame the 2008 financial crisis and the 3 major world credit institutions rated the country among top level even above Japan. It has become the 7th 20-50 Club (GDP 20,000, population 50 million) in the world. Foreign trade volume touched USD one trillion, the 9th volume in the world. Had President Lee been an Indian, he and his children would have created a dynasty that could have ruled India at least for 20 years, if not more.
The other reform that India badly needs is a change in the first-past- the post electoral system that elects a candidate getting around just 10 per cent votes of the electorate to rule for five years. Such a system will not make him or her accountable as long as he or she has the support of a particular community intact. He or she will simply not bother about what the overwhelming majority of his or her constituency demands. In fact, he or she simply need not care about their sensitivity.
Let us face this bitter truth—India is not a democracy in true sense of the term. Most of our institutions are not democratic in spirit. If the world still recognises and respects us to be a democracy, that is because we peacefully change our governments and our judiciary is fiercely independent. Of course, people say that our press too is independent, but I have my doubts.
By Prakash Nanda