Special Reports

Media became Modi’s cheer-leader: Sardesai

Aligarh, May 9: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi intelligently used media as he understood the importance of  prime time to penetrate the psyche of masses,” said noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Consultant Editor of TV Today, while delivering the University Extension Lecture at the Aligarh Muslim University Polytechnic auditorium here on 9 May. He spoke on “Have the 2014 elections really changed India?”.

Mr. Sardesai pointed out that “media became Modi’s cheerleaders instead of analysing his politics”.  He said that BJP’s biggest success was in making the 2014 election truly presidential, allowing Modi to set the pace and the agenda. “What is also true is that the media, especially TV, lost its capacity to seriously interrogate the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’s leadership credentials. Modi’s fabled Gujarat-Model was never tested on the ground,” said Mr Sardesai who added that earlier voters in India used to elect Members of Parliament and Legislative Assembly, it was only this time that we voted for the prime ministerial candidate. He confessed that by believing in what Modi was saying, media became a part of Modi propaganda machine.

Jamia Millia students taking relief to Nepal on 7 May

Mr Sardesai said, “The 2014 Indian General Elections have been regarded as the most important elections in Indian history since the elections of 1952 and 1977. It saw the decimation of the ruling Congress party, a spectacular victory for the BJP and a new style of campaigning that broke every rule in the political game.”

Stating 2014 General Election as political story-telling at its absolute best, Mr Sardesai tracked the story of these pivotal elections through all the key players and the big news stories. He talked about the beginning of 2012, when Narendra Modi won the state elections in Gujarat for a third time with eyes set on a bigger prize, to the scandals that crippled former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA II, the extraordinary missteps of Rahul Gandhi and moving to the back-room strategies of Team Modi.

Mr Sardesai drew a panoramic picture of the year that changed India by giving the reasons of Modi’s triumph. “One of the biggest reasons which helped Modi achieve this success was that for the first time the elections were fought on Television screens.” However, Mr Sardesai argued that the media did not create the Modi wave as many tend to believe but the media merely rode the Modi wave.

“But a major reason on why India voted Modi to power is the promise of bringing ‘Achhe Din’ (good days). However, I believe this is where Modi will actually have to walk the talk and prove his words,” said Mr Sardesai.

Mr Sardesai said that in the hindsight he believes that the result of 2014 election was decided in 2011 when ‘India against Corruption’ movement started and the media went overboard in its coverage of Anna Hazare’s movement. “I remember Pranab Mukherjee, the then Union Finance Minister, had to abandon a meeting with the media to receive Baba Ramdev at the airport. Congress at the time knew that the anti-corruption movement will finally bring UPA down. He stated that Pranab Mukherjee confessed to him that meeting Baba Ramdev to ask him to stop a proposed anti-graft fast was a ‘big blunder’.

“Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh went into a silent mode and this brought about a political vaccum,” said Mr Sardesai.

He said that a political vacuum was also there in the BJP - “The question was, who will take over after Lal Krishan Advani?” He said that Modi probably saw the vacuum in 2007 and decided to someday becoming BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

Mr Sardesai said that Modi also benefited from Rahul Gandhi’s incompetence. “Rahul failed to give any overarching vision and his series of missteps leading to the elections brought about the ultimate disaster,” he said. Giving a sneak-peak into Rahul Gandhi’s failure, Mr Sardesai said Rahul Gandhi and his team was cut off from the leaders working at the grassroots.

“Moreover, to prove his worth, Rahul Gandhi should have become a minister in the UPA II tenure and may be during the Anna Hazare agitation, he could have reached people sitting on protest and promised them to bring Lokpal. What is shocking is that Rahul was not even there when the whole nation was in grief after Nirbhaya case,” said Mr Sardesai.

He also said that Modi won because of young voters as he received 37 percent of vote from the age group of 18-33.
 “It is not difficult to figure out that Modi understood the ‘changing demographics’ of India-a ‘younger, aspiring and upwardly mobile society’. He also ran an energetic, focused and expensive campaign amply helped by an unquestioning media, a listless rival and a discredited ruling government,” said Mr Sardesai, adding that every year around 1.2 million youth are entering the job market and they want an economy which provides them jobs.

Mr Sardesai advised Muslim voters not to become vote banks and question political parties trying to mislead them. He pointed out that it is a privilege to be invited to AMU. “I will always look for opportunities to visit this university again”.  
Presiding over the lecture, AMU Vice Chancellor, Zameer Uddin Shah said that reading Mr Sardesai’s book ‘2014: The Election that Changed India’ has helped me understand the details of 2014 general elections. “It made me understand how BJP’s market-friendly campaign went well with the young voters,” said Shah.     

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2015 on page no. 13

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