Telescope: The final build-up

News channels will regale you with numerical figures, confuse you with psephologists figuring out their data and try to figure out how to best rile the politicians.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: March 9, 2017 12:11 am

This evening, you may experience a “brain fade” a la Steve Smith, when the exit polls for five state assembly elections take over a screen near you.  News channels will regale you with numerical figures, confuse you with psephologists figuring out their data and try to figure out how to best rile the politicians. It will be fun: The politicians from contesting parties will either welcome the “verdicts” or rubbish them; each will claim that no matter what the aggregated “poll of polls” say, their party will win a majority, handily.

They have to, it’s all part of the “game of thrones”, as TV news calls it, in which there are no losers, only victors. For viewers to derive maximum pleasure from the “poll khol” (the name of ABP’s satirical show) they must play along. It would be political suicide for any politician to admit defeat, that too on national TV and they don’t expect you to believe them. So don’t. Treat it like fake views making news in a democratic contest.

And then on Saturday morning, finally, it will be time. After a month-long build-up and a week-long countdown — “6 days to go”, “5 days to go”, as if all 29 states and seven UTs had voted in a general election — news anchors, reporters and analysts will rush to the studios at unreasonably early hours — haul yourself out also — to calculate the results from the early voting leads.

The game will now shift to the news channels: Who will be “fast & furious”, sorry, “fast & first” with “accurate numbers” (CNN News 18)? Who will have the “the sharpest insights” (Times Now)? Who will have the “Best Election Team” (India Today)? Which will be “your election destination” (India Today): Will it be “the channel for elections” (NDTV 24×7)? Who will have the biggest team — CNN News claims “250 reporters, 690 constituencies” — a mathematical puzzle! And above all, who will be the “first” to “call” a result, correctly? Ay, there’s the rub, there’s the crown they’re vying for. Advise you to sit back, lie back (it’s Saturday) and enjoy.

Meanwhile, political parties have been blowing their own bugles. In TV commercials across the last six weeks, we’ve noticed how they’re offering themselves up to the public: The BJP with the highest number of ads offers them Narendra Modi (who else?). The last advertisement came from Varanasi where adoring women waved enthusiastically as he road-showed by them. It’s also selling “change” and “development”, something for all. Demonetisation? Didn’t see that one.

The Samajwadi Party cycles down the highways Akhilesh has constructed, promoting progress in UP. The BSP celebrates Mayawati: First for her cast iron grip on law and order, and then her past achievements as a former chief minister. And the Congress? Haven’t seen a single advertisement.

Seen frequent commercials, though, for Arvind Kejriwal as Delhi’s municipal elections draw close. In one, a rather prosperous-looking Mr K in a turquoise sweater praises his government’s good deeds in education and health; in the other, he changes into a dark pullover to praise AAP’s “bijli half, paani maaf”.

And can Mamata Banerjee be ever out of the reckoning? No ji. On Tuesday and Wednesday, she was in ads by the Bengal government celebrating Women’s Day — “Women” she said, “make us proud”. Virat Kohli may have “redeemed himself” (CNN News 18) as India secured “a stunning win” (India TV) and served “Sly Smith” (Times Now) a few “verbal volleys” (India Today) while extolling us not to “drink and drive”, but the reigning king of commercial pitches remains the Big B. He promotes the “gadhas” of Gujarat Tourism, polio vaccines, Swachh Bharat, Atal Pension Yojana, Firstcry.com, Just Dial and probably much more.

The worthiest TV channel campaign has to be NDTV’s fight against fairness creams. And the funniest? CricBuzz’s ads for “cricket ka keeda”. Father of the bride to prospective groom: What do you like best about my daughter? Long leg. Wife: How do I look in the slim fit (dress)? Wide. “Wide ball tha na”.

Now, let’s see who is laughing all the way to the vote bank.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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