An edited version of this piece was first published on National Herald.
Certain ‘eminent’ personalities from print and TV media have taken to Twitter to call the opposition “inept and lazy”. Certain ‘eminent’ news channel held a program called ‘100 days 100 disasters of Congress’ which is bound to confuse anybody into thinking that Congress is the ruling party in India. After all, why else would anybody care about the blunders of the party which is apparently decimated and on the verge of being obliterated?
This is not the first time that members of the media are condemning opposition for not being as combative and aggressive as the ruling regime is. They are often seen praising the ruling regime as a 24×7 election machinery with an insatiable thirst for power and other such dramatic description of the Bhartiya Janta Party’s ways of working (which by the way includes engineering of mass defection and horse trading of MLAs).
There is a need for members of the media to self-introspect, whey do they have so much expectations and demands from the opposition? Is it because they don’t like the ruling regime and want Congress to quickly come back to power? Or is it because they want to lend the opposition a voice which is the legitimate job of the media. Or is it actually because they want to find excuses to keep the public busy with opposition related narratives so that the ruling regime remains insulated from questioning?
The last scenario would seem to be the most apt if we go by the number of times it has been noticed that most of the TV news channels pick and chose the opposition activities they give coverage to. During the 2019 election campaign, several times media had blacked out press conferences and other statements issued by both the Congress party and other opposition parties. In January this year, Rahul Gandhi hit out at Union Minister Ananth Hegde for his deplorable personal remarks against Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao.
Usually, media is quick to pick up a Tweet by Mr. Gandhi. With his remarkably direct and scathing attack, this tweet was expected to be a major topic for prime time debates on TV channels, where BJP leaders were expected to hit back at Mr. Gandhi with whataboutery followed by some Nehru blame. But none of this happened, the matter just suddenly disappeared. Instead, TV channels debated the Karnataka Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s misbehaviour story which also emerged around the same time.
This week, the media completely blacked out Congress spokesperson Dr. Ragini Nayak’s press briefing on September 10, 2019 on the issue of women’s empowerment. “Is it not legitimate to ask, why BJP leader Chinmayanand is not yet arrested? Why is he not being questioned? Why are women BJP leaders who used to send bangles to Manmohan Singh silent now? Although we believe bangles are no symbol of weakness but strength,” Dr. Nayak said raising concerns about the way UP police had been handling the complaint filed by a law student alleging rape and harassment against BJP leader Chinmayanad. Ragini Nayak briefed the press for about 15-20 minutes during which she also mentioned Unnao rape case, and reports of journalists’ arrest. The members of the media then followed it up with questions on Kashmir, Pakistan, Delhi elections, and Rahul Gandhi making their agenda perfectly clear. In the end neither the women’s empowerment issue nor any of the answer Dr. Nayak gave to media’s question found any mention in mainstream dailies or TV news.
Even when media seemingly gives coverage to opposition activities, if one reads between the lines, it becomes clear that the coverage is somehow feeding BJP’s narrative about the opposition or trying to distract people from some pertinent issue for which the government should be held responsible.
It would therefore be wise for the Congress party to not fall into this trap of a constant demand to do something. The party should do what it has to as per its own wisdom and not make any move just to fulfil media’s demands.
As for playing the role of the opposition, first let the people of India fully experience and understand the choice they have made. As and when they feel dissatisfied with their choice, let them hit the street in a people’s movement not led by any political party. Let them give a sign that they need a change.