The Indian electronic media have their candidate for the post of the next prime minister all tied up in ribbons and bows regardless of the internal politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party. They are not delving, even superficially, into how this many-layered, diverse and pluralistic democracy may choose to vote when the time comes. Characteristically, Narendra Modi declaims from any rostrum he is allowed to speak from, insults the opponents whom he despises with personal, base remarks, and then hammers the Congress, spewing pent-up venom instead of throwing a real political challenge. Our neighbourhood, and the world beyond our immediate borders, listen to the diatribes, which say nothing at all of import and mock us for having reduced ourselves to rather simplistic and wretched beings.
Till recently, we were seen as a strong emergent power in the region as well as in the world. And with the largest human resource anchored in the sub-continent, we are also a market of consequence. Why do we blow it all to smithereens with ridiculous political narratives devoid of any new idea and intelligent formulation? Television has given average politicians a 24x7 platform for free from where sound-bites such as the ‘great development model’ and other such slogans are trotted out. No ‘great’ development model can be based on giving unimaginable subsidies to rich corporate giants in the garb of land and cheap power. What is required is a rewriting of the laws and regulations that govern free enterprise to make growth inclusive and spread all over the entire landmass that is India.
An intellectually lazy press corps that controls and operates the electronic media in India, drowning us all in its short bites and screams, virtually taking on the garb of the politician on the soap box, has dumbed down the discourse. It has no idea of how to divide reporting from analysis as it allows the two to merge seamlessly into a stream of confusion and one-sided chatter. The other example of that laziness can be found in the guests who appear on all the channels — about the same 40 people who are tossed about as in a caesar salad. No fresh views, no new voices.
Television was meant to be a tool that would access far-flung views and voices in an effort to expand the real news from the ground as well as the dialogue. Instead, each channel is predictable in its reactions to political happenings and one can clearly ascertain the personal political preferences of the owners and the anchors in the construct of their programmes. Indian television is like a nautanki, a soap opera, watched for the ‘live’ entertainment it provides as it shows real life leaders of India prancing about abusing one another, thereby demeaning themselves in full public view.
For the viewer it has become apparent that the ‘leaders’ on television have no time or energy to ‘lead’ the country. They are mukhautas of their respective parties, sent to the studio each evening to batter one another with some silly innuendoes and often frontal abuse. The teenagers who are compelled to witness this visual and verbal horror, day in and day out, can only be driven away from everything that has to do with politics and public life. All dignity and integrity have dissolved into nothingness and no one will take any of this seriously. It is mere comic relief after a day of hard work.
The Indian people are looking for some kind of sensible change in the political narrative. Silence is far better than the ‘heckling’ that has suffocated us via the small screen. Committed leaders refrain from appearing on the box since it dumbs down everything, disallows argument and takes inflexible positions rather than ask for real responses. Television needs to grow up.