Some Thoughts on Campaign 2014
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Campaign 2014 was like no other in India’s election history in its scale, intensity, deployment of technology, human resource and staggering amount of money. This is particularly true of BJP, as no other party came up to five percent of it.
The BJP campaign showed the clear hand of some corporate houses behind it, flushing it with money and providing unstinted, almost shameless, one-sided support through the media controlled by them. They had thrown all pretence of neutrality and even-handedness in the bid to win victory for Narendra Modi and his party.
The media tried to make us believe that a Modi wave had hit the country, while the fact remained that there was no such wave visible or palpable anywhere, except in the corporate media. Aam aadmi (not the party, but common people) often asked if there was a wave why was Modi contesting elections from two places. In a wave, a prime ministerial candidate is more than sure about his/her victory. That person need not hedge by contesting from another constituency, just in case...
If money and media can together browbeat the masses and wrest electoral victory for a certain individual or party, Modi has already won the election. Right from the day the election began, one of the English dailies began to behave as if Modi had already won and was the prime minister of the country. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper had a long talk with a former editor of the newspaper and BJP leader Arun Shourie. They talked about what kind of a cabinet and PMO Modi should have and what should be his policy priorities. All this was done in a way to suggest that Modi’s premiership was a fait accompli. Needless to say that such talk was always likely to influence voting over the next five weeks or so.
Certainly, it was not as innocent as it looked. Manipulation of voting behaviour by media in a partisan, clandestine way has legal and moral dimensions. Editors, for the sake of their own credibility and that of their organisations, must be seen to be fair and impartial. Suggesting that somebody had already become a PM, even before the elections are concluded, is dishonesty of the most obvious kind.
Another example of media activism in favour of Modi was a prominent English newspaper’s explanation that because the Ram Mandir construction was only briefly mentioned in the BJP manifesto, the party had a basically secular vision. However, the fact remains that if you put poison of the size of a single grain of sugar in a glass of the finest drink, it will turn the entire drink into a lethal concoction. Deadly poison is lethal even in even the smallest measure.
The vicious and aggressive campaign of BJP stood in stark contrast to the Congress campaign, which was barely audible, or visible. There was no energy or killer instinct in the Congress campaign. Congress well-wishers wondered loudly whether the Congress party had conceded defeat in advance. There was no explanation for the half-hearted Congress campaign. Even on the day of voting in Delhi, Congress workers were absent from the booth areas as BJP and Aap volunteers were busy making their voters comfortable.
The stunning contrast between BJP’s overenthusiastic campaign and Congress campaign’s half-hearted approach is the most memorable aspect of Election 2104. g