May 31, 2015

Propaganda Can Never Fill Stomachs

THE official celebrations of this BJP-led NDA government’s completion of one year have begun, Prime Minister Modi launched the celebrations amidst a flurry of media blitz from Mathura. The BJP has announced the holding of 200 public meetings across the country. All union ministers, we are told, are to hold at least three public meetings and three press conferences each, ie, over 200 public meetings and 200 press conferences across the country. This may be in addition to the 200 public meetings other RSS/BJP leaders may hold. The prime minister has perfected the art of feeding the NRIs with rhetoric on his unprecedented number of foreign tours. Now the RSS/BJP will be totally engaged in a similar feeding of the Indian people with demagogy. The choice of the prime minister launching the campaign from Mathura is not innocent. It is loaded with serious dangers of escalating communal passions across the country. Remember that the RSS/BJP have all along highlighted that they shall `liberate’ the Ram Janmasthan (Ayodhya), Krishna Janmasthan (Mathura) and Kashi Vishwanath temple (Benaras). Appropriately, PM Modi was presented with a Krishna idol by the local BJP MP Hema Malini. The campaign for building the Ram temple at Ayodhya led to the destruction of the centuries old Babri Masjid and unleashed a vicious communal poison that claimed the lives of thousands of people across the country and continues to breed a deep sense of insecurity amongst the religious minorities in the country. PM Modi has retained his seat in Benaras resigning from his home state Gujarat, having contested in two parliamentary constituencies. Now the launch of this programme celebrating the end of one year from Mathura. Ominous signals, indeed. The spate of multi-coloured advertisements in all streams of the media has risen to such an extent that it is doling out monetary patronage breeding servile conformism and media sycophancy. Little wonder that media surveys have declared that this BJP-led NDA government has passed its first year with distinction! (The Times of India) Only when one sits for an exam can be marks given. Here, marks are liberally being given by the media even when this government has not taken any examination. Given the impact of media fed and media bred, `popularity’ it is little wonder that major corporates are making a scramble to own media companies. Corporate takeover of media is an attempt to earn credibility. But when the corporates run their control over media to serve their ends of sycophancy, then it is the media’s credibility that is at stake. May be this is what explains the dichotomy between the blazing front page banner headlines lauding the first anniversary of this government and the lead editorials in the same print media. Let us look at a sample. The same Times of India editorially comments, “….it’s difficult to tell, one year into the NDA government, whether the Indian economy has really turned the corner. Exports and industrial output are flat, the sensex which soared in 2014 has plummeted again, not enough jobs are being created. The last is critical to hopes for achche din as ten million new workers enter the job market every year” and so on. The Indian Express says, “The government doesn’t seem to be working to any systematic or long term plan”. Further it says that the government must use statecraft to bring a consensus in parliament, “instead of seeking to vault over critics and opponents by making direct appeals to the people through one way communication campaign”. The Asian Age says, “…after high sounding promises raised expectations sky high in every section of society, delivery has been lacklustre and the government has come under critical scrutiny even from some key supporters who accuse it of lacking in direction.” Further it says, “The farm sector is in acute distress across India. The corporate sector, especially big business that the government is desperately seeking to please has begun to grumble.” Even The Economic Times says, “Dissent has acquired shades of treason, instead of being treated as inputs to broadbased decision making. The opposition needs to be engaged, not merely confronted. These should figure in the agenda for the next four years. Voters don’t care about anniversary tallies.” The Business Standard editorial echoing similar sentiments ends its editorial saying that this government’s ministers “will be better served learning from the past year, so as to ensure that no publicity blitzes will be necessary on May 26, 2016.” The Hindu says: “On the first anniversary, some of the promises remain as proposals and many others appear too remote with little and no chance of coming to fruition in the next four years”. It ends by saying, “All told and added up on the political ledger, the debit column has certainly ended up being longer than the credit column”. These venerable editors have tried to salvage some credibility. This, however, appears too little with the credibility of `fourth estate’ heavily suffering under the barrage of handsomely paid advertisements. This BJP-led NDA government must be told forcefully by the strength of popular people’s mobilisations that propaganda does not and has never filled stomachs. Since the current reality is not filling the stomachs either, this government must be forced to reverse its anti-people policies and refrain from patronising the sharpening of communal polarisation, negating the very secular democratic foundations of our republic. (May 27, 2015)