Photo: HT
Photo: HT

What Narendra Modi’s critics say and who is hogging the airtime

Election Round-up brings to you daily commentary on what the world is saying about the Lok Sabha polls

Even as parties and their candidates gear up for the next phase of the election, sections of the news are dominated by several recently published tell-all books. Sanjaya Baru’s The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, P.C. Parakh’s Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths, and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism And The Ambanis have all released within days of each other. The books are well-timed to tap into a period of political curiosity and pliant media thanks to the polls.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Guardian newspaper continues to maintain a hawkish posture on Narendra Modi’s candidature. In the latest piece highlighting Modi’s unsuitability for the job, Priyamvada Gopal writes, “In reality, the country is India, the extremists are Hindus, the 2002 Gujarat pogroms targeted Muslims, and the leader in question is Narendra Modi. As the candidate of the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in current elections he does not dispute his or its links to the extremist Hindu network known as the Sangh Parivar."

Critics of Modi spoke up not just in London but also in Guwahati. At a press conference, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi took a sarcastic swing at Modi, reports NDTV. He said, referring to Modi’s estranged wife, “In the next 10 days, I am going to write recommending Jashodaben for the ‘Bharat Ratna’. I must salute her hundred times. She is a symbol of great Indian womanhood and a great lady."

Meanwhile, Modi spoke at a high-tech rally in Gandhinagar, reports The Economic Times, that was broadcast in 3D to a 100 locations in 15 states. At the rally Modi promised to “set up special courts to try the tainted MPs and MLAs and send the guilty behind bars within one year. He also said that he would free the system from criminals within five years."

Remember the Left parties? The Communists? Surely you recall the famous political standoffs during UPA-1? No? Little wonder. The Hindu writes that “The Left parties have seemingly lost the battle of perceptions in a political discourse led by the media which has no patience for their dogmatism." Also, the paper says, morale within the Left parties has dried up.

Sure, we’ve all heard of the mountain of black money that fuels poll campaigns. But how is this cash transferred, handed out and operationalized. Former election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi told the DNA newspaper that there were at least 40 ways in which parties achieved this: “Paying electricity and water bills of voters, giving currency notes to buy liquor, transporting money in ambulances and even tying up with local shops to provide free liquor to voters are among the methods adopted by parties." Quraishi talks about all this and more in, what else, his forthcoming book The Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election. (Thereby instantly making the title of his book irrelevant.)

But how is all this cash translating into media coverage. Are the hundreds of crores spent by the BJP and the Congress yielding airtime dividends? Not at all, suggests a study conducted by CMS Media Lab, as reported here at Livemint.com. “Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal got 429 minutes (28%) of total coverage time of the 1,521 minutes spent on political leaders between 1-15 March," revealed the study.

At Scroll.in, we hear about the candidate in Jaipur who will not tell you his last name: “As Jaipur City candidate for the India People’s Green Party, which he co-founded in 2011, Tanmay doesn’t just refuse tell you his last name—he actively turns away any voters who ask about his caste. “Tum jati dekh kar vote karna chahtey ho, to please mujhe vote mat karna bhai" reads a line on one of his many fliers. If you’re the kind who votes by caste, please don’t vote for me."

Best of luck with that.

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