Please do not think the above title is written sarcastically, or that what follows is some kind of satire. No, rather quite to the contrary, I write the following in earnest.
I have for quite some time been skeptical of motives and methods of those who work for the Indian media, especially the national media, which includes English dailies, magazines and English and Hindi news channels, and the web sites managed by them (to whose works I get exposed; my exposure of the regional media is very little). I have highlighted the reason for this utter lack of trust in many posts of mine (click on the individual links to view them; they will open in a new window/tab):
In last 3 to 4 months, the national media has come down heavily in its criticism of the Commonwealth Games, 2010 (click) to be held in Delhi. The media has been able to convince vast majority of people that the games are going to be a dud, that many things are going to fall at the games venue, people will get injured and that large-scale mismanagement would become manifest. In fact, many have enthusiastically declared the event as “national shame” quite in advance. I have gathered that the impression among most Indians I get to interact with is that after the games get over, India would become a laughing stock in the world owing to its inability to organize events at such large scale. Of course, all that is apart from the many allegations and a some circumstantial evidence of corruption. But I am contending that except for the allegations of corruption, rest all will be proved untrue, meaning, in all likelihood, after the games are over, lot of Indians would be left with a feeling of wonder as they would be awe-struck by the grandeur and meticulousness of planning.
So, this begs the question, why the media had chosen to pursue the Games the way they did? Allegations had been flowing thick and fast, especially that of corruption with random figures thrown around as the “estimate” of the scale of corruption – from Rs. 20,000 crore to Rs. 70,000 crore. Of course, just like all other figures that media throws up, these must be attributed to some “sources”, who would be well, “noted” or “eminent” or “well-placed” or “inside”, etc.
Now, assuming my contention that games would not be a grand failure as anticipated by, and projected by the media, then what was the motive behind media’s projecting things thus? What all purposes did it serve?
Of course, one might contend that the media acting in good faith, was only bringing to light all the corruption involved (“waterproof” umbrella, exotic tissue, etc). But good faith would have involved merely highlighting the issues related to corruption, not the other things which would convince people that the games’ execution is going to be pathetic. Moreover, good faith would have also entailed providing some reasonable support for their estimate of the scale of corruption involved.
My following analysis largely draws from a comment I had posted on Atanu Dey’s blog post – The Games Built on a Cesspool (click). My premise (outlined in the blog post – ‘Why the Indian National Media appears Anti-Hindu’ liked above) is that the national media works in a fashion that largely benefits the Nehru-Gandhi family (and not necessarily the Congress Party as some might believe; the difference is subtle, but not something very difficult to appreciate). Though we all are reacting violently in public fora at this sort of alleged corruption, Indians are actually subconsciously quite alright with corruption. We have come to terms with corruption in every walk of our life, and we also know that the larger the scale of an event, greater would be the corruption. What hardly matters to common people is the scale of corruption as very few can actually appreciate the impact a certain amount of money siphoned off could have on the nation’s economy or infrastructure. To give an example very few people actually work out in their minds, that with certain amount of money alleged to be involved in corruption, how many hospitals, schools, bridges, etc. could have been built. But what matters more is the area in which corruption is alleged – so corruption in ‘games’ is quite alright, but not in defense deals [Bangaru Laxman and Jaya Jaitley had received much flak, despite virtually zero-evidence and for a much paltry sum, perhaps because it was associated with ‘defense’ – on which lives of so many people depend], education schemes, medical care, religious organizations, etc. But what amuses me is that figures of corruption in organization of CWG of various kinds are being floated around, with almost no evidence, and that nobody is asking for any evidence! It has become a fair game to make a guess of scale of corruption and throw around numbers, just like the number of dead Muslims in Gujarat riots of 2002. Any random figure supported with right kind of rhetoric to support it would be bought as ‘true’!
a. So how does this help the Nehru-Gandhi family?
1. It appears that Kalmadi might have not been the first choice of the family for CWG organization but they could not prevent his heading the body, or perhaps he must have not been paying his haftaa – protection money, on which I had done a song parody (click). The mounting media pressure is a way to make him pay up. They (Nehru-Gandhi family) are using similar tactic against A. Raja [someone had pointed out that despite some of the most important ministries that Congress has, the most profiting ones like the Railways and Telecommunications are not with them, so they desperately want them, and this media pressure is again an attempt towards that].
2. The apparently incidental, but perhaps, the true target of this attack is Sheila Dikshit (click). I had the opportunity to live in Delhi for around 10 months, and I thought her governance is good [in that how much Delhi had improved over last decade – both in terms of infrastructure and one vital area, viz., crime control]. Of course I am not taking into consideration the amount of inflow of funds. But whatever be the case, she is one of the very few leaders in the Congress stable who does not live in the shadows of the family. Meaning, whether it be her criticism or praise, she has been seen as independent by many. I had heard of some instance of ‘rebellion’ by few Congress politicians against her a few years back, and someone had pointed out that it was engineered by the Gandhi family to weaken her position within the party. Of course that was also a conjecture, but I could see that pattern in many of the family’s and media’s actions [I am also aware of the flaw of this manner of thinking – I can go on citing incidents that seem to support my speculation, with disregard for other incidents that contradict it, but let me proceed with that technique]. And of course, the Gandhi family’s larger challenge, if one sees carefully, is not so much to keep the BJP and other parties out of power, but to keep others in the Congress itself from usurping their position! It would be naive to believe that all other Congress politicians are taken in by the fair skin of the Gandhis, and that they are bereft of any political ambition. But the fact that the supremacy of the family in the party is still unchallenged to this unimaginable degree only points to the possibility that something in working of the Congress party must make it excessively unyielding to show any ambition, or perhaps in some way, even perilous [three young and (electorally) ‘promising’ Congress leaders had died in the last decade in freak accidents]. Sheila Dikshit’s son is also a member of Parliament – another reason to be sure to keep her position weak.
b. Apart from the above factors, the ways in which this coverage is helping the media and the family is:
1. Distracting people from other events of greater gravity – hoisting of Pakistani flag in Kashmir, riots in Deganga in West Bengal (in which the ‘Pioneer’ reports that one or more persons had died), an unconfirmed burning of Shiva Temple in Kashmir (and the usual – rising food prices, farmer suicides, etc.). The treachery of Man Mohan Singh in the Nuclear Liability Bill is again something the CWG coverage had helped push largely under the carpet. Has anyone wondered, what degree of cheapness it was to have inserted “and” and “intent” as caveats in the bill? I am not going into the practical aspects of the deal (e.g., if having stringent criteria would make the deal so scary for the suppliers that they will decline to do business). Here was an incident, where despite the high amount of scrutiny, and possibly very grave eventual consequences, the Congress Party tried to hoodwink the entire nation! And what is interesting is that in response to the accusation of our prime minister being a puppet of the family, one of the shining examples of his independence that is advanced is his personal involvement in the Indian nuclear deal program!!! Compared to him, Shashi Tharoor surely got a very raw deal, whereas Dr. Singh escaped unscathed as a ‘clean’ politician despite much larger stakes. Neat, no? Why? Simply because, all along the prime example of corruption and deception that people will think of for quite some time to come will be Kalmaidi of the CWG infamy!
2. Using this as an instance, the media can always claim – “See, we critique the Congress also”! But what works here is the apparent lack of proximity of Kalmadi with the Gandhis, and also the fact that majority are going to think in terms of “games toh aakhir games hi hote hain” [Games are after all just that – games!]. So despite its extremely vicious coverage, the impression formed about the CWG does not make the family at all look bad as compared to say Babri demolition and the death of Muslims in Gujarat riots [Look carefully, on TV news, besides every allegation of corruption or broken tile or fallen bridge, the portrait would be of Kalmadi, and not someone from the family].
c. But, what will the media say after the games are over and (if) they are proved wrong with regard to grand failure of the games that they had been predicting for quite some time?
Nothing much! They will still continue to point out minor flaws of the games for a few days to come, or even start praising the game as if nothing had happened! Moreover, very few people will wonder why the CWG’s success would have proved them and the media wrong! Of course, few people might go into denial as to how come their confidence that the CWG would fail miserably could have been misplaced. But in the entire occurrence, almost no one would pause to wonder as to how come they were misled so convincingly by the media about the CWG’s imminent failure, simply because, “games toh aakhir games hi hote hain” and the media would anyway start distracting their patrons with other such trivialities!
Of course, my entire analysis depends on CWG’s moderate to spectacular success, so unlike, Mani Shankar Ayyer, I am praying desperately for their success! 😉 To hell with nation’s welfare and atheism! 😛
The reason I decided to put up a prediction instead of doing a post-games analysis is to serve my narcissism. If my prediction proves correct, I could gloat – “see, I understand the media so well, all my conspiracy theories with regard to how media works are correct, etc, etc”, but of course my theories also stand a chance of being proved wrong, in which I would have to eat a humble pie and throw a shoe at…