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Mind your media manners

From Rahul Gandhi’s outburst to Narendra Modi’s village moment,our three leading politicians could do better with the press.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: October 3, 2013 4:48 am

Here is some unsolicited advice on media manners,sorry media matters,offered with “humble feeling” (thank you,prime minister) to the three leading politicians of the moment: Rahul Gandhi,Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi,please don’t barge into other people’s press conferences — it’s downright rude — hold your own.

Narendra Modi,please remember that at your election rallies (broadcast live to the entire nation via TV news) there are many “dehaati aurats” who will be insulted because you felt we should all be outraged by the alleged insulting reference by Pakistan’s PM to India’s PM as a village woman. Such remarks may cost you a few (million) dehaati votes. Also,it might be wise to avoid throwaway rhetorical lines such as,“This nation of 1.2 billion will not tolerate its prime minister’s insult” (or words to that effect),because you sound like an imitation of Arnab Goswami — and you might find that comparison insulting.

Manmohan Singh,please don’t expect us to read your mind,we would need to read your lips,hear you speak as you did to the media on your journey back to India from the US on Tuesday. More than Rahul Gandhi,you need to hold press briefings; and much more than Narendra Modi,you need to address the public,address all the scams,the cans of worms that almost daily tumble out of the government’s kitchen cabinet and corridors of power.

If you can talk to the people in the same composed and collected way you did to the media on the flight home,you will do yourself and the Congress a big favour. Modi is fiery and his passion is being fanned across the nation by live TV coverage of every breath he takes. You are a cool customer who needs to lower the temperature in what is already a high-voltage election campaign.

Even as Modi’s every move is faithfully followed by TV news,we see little of speeches by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi,even on the few occasions that she makes them — her speech in Mandya,Karnataka (remote as it is) didn’t receive much coverage,despite its defence of a beleaguered PM.

It’s been a humdinger of a week. It began with Rahul G’s nonsensical outburst and will end with better sense prevailing in the government (or so TV news reported on Wednesday afternoon) on the ordinance on convicted lawmakers. Then came Modi’s Delhi rally and the spectre of the “dehaati aurat”,who did or did not make an appearance in Nawaz Sharif’s off the record meeting with a few journalists. Everyone was confused in the TV studios (so what else is new or news?).

Next,Lalu Prasad made a guest appearance on TV — lately,we’ve seen very little of him — making his way into jail. “Lalu ka the end?” asked IBN-7. Headlines Today had a delightful spoof on the RJD supremo waving a red rag at a buffalo who butted him behind bars. Meanwhile,The Week That Wasn’t (CNN-IBN) had a priceless episode on a parliamentary session where MPs wanted a bill/ ordinance to ensure parliamentarians would never be disqualified — the Meira Kumar impersonation was spot on.

Once Laluji went into jail,the Hindi news channels lost interest in him. Instead,they continued their pursuit of Asaram Bapu as his jail stay was extended to October 11. On Tuesday night,while other news channels telecast the PM’s press briefing,India TV,India News,Zee News chose to discuss Asaram Bapu,offering us footage of the self-styled godman prancing around in a trance dance. Why this magnificent obsession with old white beard?

Zee News seems to like jail-breaking news: Tuesday,it had Sanjay Dutt’s furlough and how much it meant for him and his wife Manyata: what are his plans for the next 14 days,the channel asked nobody in particular.

One host at Miss World 2013 (Zee Café) asked the newly crowned Miss World questions she hardly knew how to answer. No sooner had Miss Philippines-Miss World been crowned and seated upon the throne that the lady began with standard TV questions addressed to victims of bomb attacks,earthquakes and successful people,alike: what does it feel like,how do you feel? As Miss World stuttered and stumbled in her replies,her tormentor went one sadistic step further: what is your message to the boys and girls out there? I mean,really.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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