File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph:( ANI )
Despite being in power for more than four years now, Modi still enjoys an unparalleled support from media. It is even far better than the media’s patronage, enjoyed by the Vajpayee government during 1999-2004.
In a vibrant democracy like India, the role of media is unquestionably very prominent. Media, in a democracy like India, can freely express its views and can bring facts at the fore. For ruling class, media still is a strong watchdog it can make or break things.
Remember Watergate scandal during the early seventies in the USA? The US media (The Washington Post, Time, and The New York Times) played a major role in triggering public repercussion. Ultimately, President Nixon had to resign.
During British rule in India, Indian nationalist used print media as a very potent and effective tool to build pressure on Britishers. Renowned freedom fighter Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi became an unequivocal mouthpiece of all observed classes under British rule in the then Northern Provinces through his newspaper 'Pratap'. During his initial days in India during 1919-1931, Mahatma Gandhi used his weekly newspaper 'Young India’ to spread his views on national movements as nonviolence at its core
At times media leaves an impact, which is everlasting. As an ultimate mark of expressing resentment and atrocities post declaration of Emergency on June 25, 1975, Indian Express came out with a blank editorial on 28 June 1975 an act which has almost become immortal.
Coming to contemporary times, having seen Indian politics for close to three and half decades, it is quite apparent to me that media is a severe and no-holds-barred critic of the ruling class. The reasons have been simple and straight.
First, unethical ruling and political class always gives ammunition to media to build a tale around it and secondly people (readers) are more receptive towards anti-establishment stories, as being anti-establishment is a sign of audacity and trait of being rebellious is admired by a common man.
But the most amazing and unique thing is that despite being in power for more than four years now, Modi still enjoys an unparalleled support from media. It is even far better than the media’s patronage, enjoyed by the Vajpayee government during 1999-2004.
As history suggests us that media has the power to build the decisive narrative. It was Indian Express group of legendary Ramnath Goenka, which played a key role in flooring Rajiv Gandhi and Congress in 1989, in spite of the fact that Rajiv came in power with the historic mandate in 1984. If political forces were coalescing behind VP Singh, it was Goenka who cornered Rajiv and Congress through his publications Indian Express and his Hindi daily Jansatta. Goenka led newspapers convinced people aboubt scandals like Bofors and Fairfax.
Years later, during the UPA-2 regime during 2009-2014, electronic media exposed the flurry of scams, which initiated serious repercussions from the people. Congress was left clueless and beleaguered. This, when coupled with Modi waves, resulted in the most humiliating defeat for Congress in 2014.
But Modi has been exceptional. Though it has been a mixed bag, overall Modi’s media approval rating must be highest among all previous governments (after completing four years at the helm). The reasons are palpable. Modi stands firmly in the reign and so far he has not given a single loose ball to build a story around it.
The weak and fragmented Opposition is also one reason that Modi enjoys such high approval rating for media. In the race of virtuousness, Modi almost always marches ahead of leaders sitting in Opposition and trying to pull him down.
BJP’s media cell is doing an excellent job and there is a legion of erudite and forceful orators, who defend Modi and BJP with perfection at media forums. They normally outclass their counterparts in opposition parties.
Opposition parties have been picking some issue or other (like demonetisation, GST, Jay Shah, Una, JNU, Rohit Vemulla etc.) over the past four years in a hope that they can build a nationwide resentment against Modi but they have been failing consistently and the stand of media has played a key role behind this.
This media rating of Modi would play a decisive role in 2019. Opposition parties are exploring their chance to usurp power in 2019 like united opposition did in 1977 and 1989 but in the process, they are ignoring media’s position. In 1977 and 1989, media was on the platform with them but surely it won’t be the case in 2019.
Media in any civilised society is the reflection of mood of the nation and people, and this very fact sums up that how Modi is well pitched against all odds and against all Opposition parties.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)