Monday, May 8, 2017
Purushottam Agrawal on the mysteries of AAP: Error In The Machine?
AAP was not just another party. It came not as a regional force or a lobby, it deigned to be a universal alternative to everything. If the promise is fading, it must examine the mirror, not just the EVM.
the Indian media has most certainly entered a ‘new’, ‘never-before’ phase of its existence. Most of it has willingly turned into a less-than-docile mouthpiece of the government and ruling party, but more dangerously, into an instrument for distorting the very nature of social and political discourse. Real issues are almost totally barred from TV news; debates are spun around artificially manufactured issues in a quarrelsome, even rowdy fashion—a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Municipal elections are usually dull city-page affairs, scarcely known to generate the kind of excitement we witnessed this week over the one in Delhi. The results are intriguing, yet on expected lines. Why intriguing? Because, really, no objective assessment can ignore the good work done by the AAP government in education and health. On the other hand, not even the most diehard BJP supporter can defend its dismal performance over the last ten years in the civic bodies. Moreover, the BJP itself implicitly accepted the validity of non-performance and corruption charges by not repeating its sitting members. So, what lies behind this perplexing situation of non-performance being richly rewarded?
In the characteristically simplistic, in fact motivated discourse so dominant in the media, it’s just Modi magic all the way. The fact, however, is that this magic is not based on any performance miracles, but is a joint venture of the BJP and large sections of the media. Many TV channels are openly working as BJP channels, some of them going to the extent of ‘analysing’ the new UP CM’s papaya and drinking water, while completely blacking out initiatives and decisions taken by, say, the Amarinder Singh government in Punjab. The Congress returning with three-fourths majority in Punjab and AAP coming second (even if with only 20 seats) might as well have never happened. Nor was there any probing of the ways through which the BJP retained power in Goa. In all fairness, the BJP must never forget to thank these sections of the media, which have left L.K. Advani’s old quip about bending and crawling far behind and have been enthusiastically contributing to the making of cult Modi, and now lately also cult Yogi.
We are now often told about ‘New India’; the Indian media has most certainly entered a ‘new’, ‘never-before’ phase of its existence. Most of it has willingly turned into a less-than-docile mouthpiece of the government and ruling party, but more dangerously, into an instrument for distorting the very nature of social and political discourse. Real issues are almost totally barred from TV news; debates are spun around artificially manufactured issues in a quarrelsome, even rowdy fashion - a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. AAP or other blocs might have failed to offer an alternative style of politics, but sections of the media have certainly evolved an alternative concept of their role. Whoever deserves the credit for inventing this ‘never-before’ avatar, it is important to remember this disturbing ‘turn’ in any political analysis—not only in the context of AAP or the current political establishment, but for retaining the very possibility of a critical-analytical stance vis-à-vis any regime.
At its core, the ‘Modi magic’ consists in coupling the seductive fantasies of ‘development’ with a holistic narrative of ‘nationalism’. One might agree or disagree with the RSS version of Hindutva-based nationalism, but the fact is that it has successfully blended the popular obsession with ‘development’ with emotions evoked by the idea of ‘nation’ under external and, more importantly, internal threats. The curious story of demonetisation is indication enough of people being coaxed into ‘temporary’ sufferings in the ‘larger interest of nation’, for a better future. Actively supported by the media, and with the PM’s effective communication strategies, coupled with super-efficient social media and troll management, the RSS/BJP has really been able to conjure a spell with Modi in the role of pied piper. Other parties have failed on this crucial front. In fact, AAP generated a lot of hope precisely because of the implicit promise of articulating an alternative narrative that defined nation in terms of justice, dialogue and fairness.… read more: