In his defence

| | in Oped
In his defence

The same media which projected a demi-god image of Modi and portrayed him as the panacea for our ills, is now looking for opportunities to denigrate him. This is creating a palpable sense of delusion

It is disheartening to watch heavily charged television debates these days. Overwhelming and tangible emotions against the current dispensation are evident in some circles. Media outlets appear to have honed their skills of selective reporting and lambasting the Narendra Modi Government.

A profound sense of anxiety seems to have enveloped a number of people who enthusiastically voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014. However alarming this may sound, one has every reason to dispel biases and forcefully argue that the doomsday scenario, which is unfolding so vividly in the media, is a myth and a marvelous creation; let us give them that at least.

In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker strenuously argues that violence has declined rapidly in the world. This is true for the short-run and the long-run. The crux of his argument is that human beings are vital assets for commerce, and without them, monopolies would not thrive. So it is in everyone’s (nation states) best interest to promote peace and not propagate violence.

Ironically, our perception and impression of violence seems to have risen exponentially due to unmitigated rise in media and communication. Think about it. New mediums we choose to make our platforms communicate are a source of information which can be circulated widely in a matter of minutes.  This is what seems to happening in India today. Reports of lynching are getting frequent, aren’t they? And if an outsider were to follow the Indian media for a week, he would conclude that we come second after the IS. But this is definitely not the case and we are a peaceful and tolerant country.

It is certainly not hard for a well- funded media channel to engage in selective reporting. Unfortunately, the debate in India is focusing around personalities and not on issues that need attention.  The case of the couple who furnished wrong information for their passports and then played the victim card was astonishing. But the media was quick to reprimand the BJP for it. One can argue that we are a more receptive society today and the entire brouhaha is the product of misaligned interests.

After the skyrocketing inflation which marked the United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA-II) era, people were desperately seeking an alternative. Expectations were high, and the BJP has performed spectacularly in many domains.

Unfortunately, and much to the benefit of the Opposition, the media is quick to create an uproar by reporting stories which portray the Government in poor light. The same media which projected a demi-god image of Modi and portrayed him as the panacea for our ills, is now looking for opportunities to denigrate him. This is translating into a palpable sense of delusion at a certain level. No Government has ever or will ever be perfect for everyone. That is simply democracy.

Recent debates about how we live in times of an ‘Emergency’ are simply ludicrous.  Do many people in this country suffer from selective amnesia? Have we forgotten the Congress era and its policies which brought India to the precipice? It would be foolish to ignore the benefits of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, National Health Scheme and rural electrification.

The pace of construction of roads has increased rapidly under the current Government.  Even the road from Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun, which passes through the forest got built when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went there for the International Yoga Day.

Debates today must focus on the efficacy of specific policies and not on the acute failure of some. At times, well-crafted policies fail to achieve desired objectives.

One of the most banal arguments one can hear is the image of Modi as someone who is adept at marketing himself and the Government. Well, is it wrong for a leader to disseminate the work done by his party? Is it a failure to market India? People can misrepresent facts but the truth is that in today’s world every country is like a commodity, and therefore, a wise statesman must be able to market his country well to convince multi-nationals to invest. Let this not be considered a case of policy mismanagement.

His critics also spearhead the argument that by marketing Yoga Day, Modi emboldened the saffron brigade and revived Hindutva. This is again a laughable attempt at undermining his image. There have been repeated attempts to patent some yoga asanas by the so-called gurus in America and Europe.

So, as the Prime Minister of India, if he is reviving an ancient Indian practice, what really is the harm done? The public discourse reached a nadir recently when prominent networks began to question the validity of the story concerning a ‘Rajiv Gandhi’ type incident. The security of the Prime Minister is sacrosanct and it is certainly not an issue which should be dealt with in such a loose manner.

Media channels began to question the veracity of the letter recovered by the Pune police from the house of Rona Wilson. The Congress was quick to call it an ‘old tactic’ that Modi employs. Perhaps many people who engaged in this mudslinging are not familiar with the level of planning, intelligence gathering and execution which the Special Protection Group (SPG) uses to protect the Prime Minister. In his book, India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing RAW, Major General VK Singh enlightens the reader as to how a global tender to procure a frequency-division multiple access (FDMA) 800 MHz Digital System by the SPG had to be cancelled because the company in question — Motorola — used algorithms which were used for other devices in other countries. The Prime Minister’s security could not be compromised and the deal was cancelled in November 2003.

Intelligence agencies rely on human intelligence (HUMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGNIT) to gather threats and information. For most agencies, including the Research and Analysis Wing of India (RAW), 80 per cent of the gathering is done by employing electronic means.

So, when the SPG says that there is a perceptible threat to the Prime Minister’s life, let us not make a mockery out of it like every other issue. They are not relying on the sole letter to issue such a notice.

Domestic politics apart, the man has made India and its diaspora proud on the world stage. Sure, the intricacies of international relations require further deliberation. But he is trying to create a mark for India in the world.

India’s foreign policy bureaucracy was initially reluctant to adhere to policy changes being announced by Modi, but slowly and steadily a visible change is apparent in the power corridors of Delhi. Surely, there are limits to the power we can project due to financial constraints but with the Indian economy registering a robust growth rate, all that will change in the future.

So what is our duty as well-read citizens? It is important to navigate the prevalent discourse which is laced with biases and vested interests. I think we all need to be mindful of that.

When someone gets trolled on twitter — like Sushma Swaraj did recently in the passport case — do some background research before arriving at a conclusion. The state of television debates is only going to nosedive as the General Election approaches. So in all this chaos, one has to make the right choice so that the best candidate wins.

(The writer is a commentator on contemporary affairs)

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