Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks at television screens during a meeting in New Delhi. (Photograph: PIB)

Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

BloombergQuintOpinion

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t coined a political acronym for a while now. Instead, his style is becoming more alliterative. There is a play on ‘M’ with the battle between a Mazboot (strong, action-oriented, his own) versus Majboor (weak, constrained, Congress-led) government. Or the play on ‘daar’ (identity marker) with Kaamdaar (son of the soil, workaholic, himself) versus Naamdaar (privileged, To The Manor Born, Rahul Gandhi).

But there is a third, unspoken ‘M’—i.e., Magroor (arrogant, condescending)—that's on display every evening on Modi’s handpicked television channels where news anchors and BJP spokesmen compete with each other to shout, scream, smear and sneer (You see, two guys can play the alliteration game!).

Why, just the other day, two of the ‘mightiest’ news channels proudly put out that “scared by Smriti Irani in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi is planning to fight from three Lok Sabha constituencies”.

Of course, minor things like editorial rigour do not matter to these ‘market leaders’, since nobody bothered to check that Section 33(7) of The Representation of The People Act, 1951 allows a candidate to stand for a maximum of two seats in a poll.

And an even more minor issue of human conscience does not matter to these worthies at all, since they glossed over their massive error without offering any apology to the viewers. Leaders, yeah?

Now last week, a young lady called Priyanka Gandhi stormed into this cozy world of ‘The 3Ms’, leaving them muddled and muddied (heck, what’s it with my ‘M’s today? I better shake off my creeping ‘M’odi-isms … aarrgghh).

Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

Now The Mazboot Congress

Suddenly, the Majboor Congress was on the front foot. It wanted to reclaim its 2009 electoral success (just one general election prior to the black swan poll of 2014), when it got 20 percent of the vote and 21 seats (the second highest at that time) in Uttar Pradesh, 15 of which were won in East UP. The Congress party was looking aggressive, sounding confident.

After all, opinion polls are already showing a six percentage points’ swing in Congress’s favour in UP, up to 12 percent; with a little more gumption, Priyanka Gandhi could get the extra eight points required to hit the 2009 threshold. Here’s another cheeky thought—what if Priyanka were to open her first rally speech in Lucknow with “How’s the josh (spirit)?”, stealing Modi’s Uri (the film)-inspired punch line? Imagine if thousands of young voices were to respond with “High, ma’am”. Wouldn’t Congress then be on Mazboot ground, dispelling BJP’s showpiece nationalism?
Congress workers celebrate the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as AICC General Secretary, in Jammu, on Jan 24, 2019. (Photograph: PTI)
Congress workers celebrate the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as AICC General Secretary, in Jammu, on Jan 24, 2019. (Photograph: PTI)

Now The Majboor BJP

Sumitra Mahajan, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, became the epitome of BJP’s panic. By virtue of her office, she is supposed to be non-partisan. Like Caesar’s wife, she has to be seen to be neutral. Therefore, she shouldn’t have—actually, cannot—indulge in open and blatant politics. So, it was remarkably improper for her to say:

Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry
Mahajan’s was an astonishing political indiscretion. And as per form, Yogi Adityanath jumped in with the KO punch, saying “Rahul+Priyanka is equal to zero+zero”. I think he forgot his elementary lesson in Vedic mathematics, since ‘zero’ is claimed to be India’s ingenious contribution to the sciences. What’s more, he mistakenly used the ‘+/plus’ sign; actually, Priyanka Gandhi has come in to ‘divide’ the BJP’s strength. Now you know what happens when you divide with zero, right, Yogiji? The answer is infinity, i.e. inestimable strength!
Add some of the other nervous voices emanating from the ruling party, and you get very eloquent testimony of the bedlam that has gripped the BJP ever since Priyanka Gandhi was announced as an active campaigner for the Congress. Now, who is sounding Majboor?
Yogi Adityanath addresses the BJP National Convention  in New Delhi, on Jan. 12, 2019. (Photograph: PTI)
Yogi Adityanath addresses the BJP National Convention in New Delhi, on Jan. 12, 2019. (Photograph: PTI)

Also read: Hidden Subtext In Priyanka Gandhi’s Entry: A Purvanchal State

When In Doubt, Abuse On TV

Trapped in confusion, consternation, and chaos (oh no, one more alliteration), BJP spokesmen amped up their vitriol, trying to pass off jittery abuse as counter-aggression.

And quickly on cue, their hand-picked TV channels and anchors joined in the shameless chorus. Just see the quotes and graphic headlines they put out at prime time on that fateful evening:

“Congress panics months before the polls, will Vadra angle have an impact?”
Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

(Felled by Modi, the Congress is turning to Priyanka for survival)

“Priyanka enters politics, is Rahul struck by pre-poll panic?”
Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

(Rahul had no other option but Priyanka)

Rahul Gandhi in every index has been an absolute failure. Rahul may want to restrict her role to eastern UP but across the Congress, she is already being seen as a better bet than her brother. The proposal to bring Ms Vadra into a prominent role had been rejected by Rahul himself a couple of years ago, and so obviously there is pressure as well as desperation to bring her in now. The Congress knows it’s not working out as nobody wants to be with the Congress.
Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

(Congress had no other option except for Priyanka)

She cannot play martyr about something as fundamentally nepotistic, i.e. the corrupt activities of her husband. Why did Congress wait for 20 years to unleash the power of Priyanka? Is the Congress now inducting her because it has realised that Rahul alone may not be able to deliver a victory in 2019?
Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

(Is inducting Priyanka an admission of Rahul’s failure by the Congress?)

“Why did Congress downplay Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics. The announcement was made at a time when Priyanka is outside the country.”
Modi Sir, Your TV Pals Messed Up Priyanka Gandhi’s Political Entry

(Has the once mighty Congress just shrunk to Priyanka now?)

It Was Hysterical, Hyperbolic, Horrible. (Oh no, another alliteration, stop it now!)

All of the above nonsense was uttered—no, not by forever prickly BJP spokesmen/women—but by so-called ‘star journalists’. Facts didn’t matter. Neither did journalistic ethics. There was no attempt to analyse this politically significant event. It was just an orgy of unrestrained calumny and diatribe.

Rahul Gandhi had just delivered a crushing 3-0 blow to Modi in the Hindi Heartland, yet he was repeatedly called a loser. Every opinion poll is showing a near double-digit swing in favour of the Congress, but the party is still “desperate” to save itself. Even after five years of Modi rule, not a single First Information Report has been filed against Priyanka’s husband, yet he was called corrupt.

Even by the pathetic standards of my fellow television anchors, we had plumbed exceptionally sordid depths.

Also read: From Indira Gandhi To Modi, Lutyens’ Delhi Has Made And Unmade Prime Ministers

Beware Sir, Knock Some Intelligence Into Them…

The Janata government’s Shah Commission resurrected Indira Gandhi in 1980. The Vajpayee government’s India Shining campaign rejuvenated Sonia Gandhi’s Congress in 2004. Now, the Modi government’s uncouth television henchmen will bring Rahul Gandhi’s Congress roaring back to life. Mark my words.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with Rahul Gandhi during a road show in Amethi, on May 4, 2014. (Photograph: PTI)
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with Rahul Gandhi during a road show in Amethi, on May 4, 2014. (Photograph: PTI)

Dear Prime Minister Modi, the least you can do is choose intelligent propagandists!

PS: As I’ve finished writing this on Republic Day, I'm bracing for this evening’s prime time shows. Modi’s hand-picked anchors are bound to go ra-ra over the “fifth edition of this spectacular parade which started on January 26, 2015”; because, after all, India was a sub-Saharan village (the Republic Day Parade consisted of bullock carts on a dirt track called Rajpath) until Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge and created all these fabulous soldiers, guns, tanks and aircraft.

Raghav Bahl is the co-founder and chairman of Quintillion Media, including BloombergQuint. He is the author of two books, viz ‘Superpower?: The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise’, and ‘Super Economies: America, India, China & The Future Of The World’.