The 18-month parallelhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-18-month-parallel/

The 18-month parallel

The UPA was all about corruption, the NDA is all about communalism.

If it’s not verbal diarrhoea, it’s got to be foot in mouth disease. How else do you explain why leaders, spokespersons of rightwing persuasions cannot switch off their “motor mouths” long enough to let themselves — and the nation — cool down? Or is it that the opportunity to share their views with the public, like never before, has loosened their tongues to such a degree that they cannot stop them wagging?

Perhaps, it’s simpler: Perhaps they simply enjoy the “photo-op”, especially on national TV? Rahul Gandhi lost his temper and almost his shirt — while visiting the bereaved Dalit family in Haryana after two children were burnt alive — at suggestions that he was there for, would you believe it, a “photo-op” (India Today). That is precisely what politicians do: Speak or wish to be seen by the public and what better way to achieve those ambitions than to appear on TV news?

So Dr Chandrashekhar (think that is correct) of the Hindu Mahasabha said that if Nathuram Godse had not killed Gandhi, this country would be in the hands of the IS (IBN-7) — this, during a discussion on “What’s this happening to India?” on Monday (you may well ask). The same day, India TV showed us lengthy footage of the ugly faces of the Shiv Sena activists barging into the BCCI office. The very evening MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid had ink thrown on his face and appeared in TV studios still wearing it a la Sudheendra Kulkarni — like a badge of honour. What’s this with ink, by the way? When did it become a weapon of protest?

On ABP’s “What has happened to the country?” debate, Rakesh Sinha of the RSS shot out of his seat every few seconds to yell, red-faced, at other guests who criticised the current atmosphere in the country: “This is the ideology of the Sangh, it is the ruling ideology and it will continue to be so.” The BJP’s Sambit Patra ineffectually asked him to calm down — “Shaant ho jaye”.

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Two examples of what sound suspiciously like motor mouths at work — a day after BJP president Amit Shah had called for restraint by his partymen. Is anybody listening?

On Times Now, Arnab Goswami spoke and nobody listened: He called MLA Rashid “anti-national” — Rashid got up and left; Goswami asked Mumbai’s artistes to speak up on Ghulam Ali — silence; on air, he gave his telephone number to Sachin Tendulkar and invited India’s greatest cricket player to call him — did Sachin have the courage to speak out (against the Shiv Sena attack on the BCCI)? Sachin did not accept the invitation.

Meanwhile, on India Today and NDTV India, BJP spokespersons had a “law and order” problem. Wherever Shaina N.C. and G.V.L. Narasimha Rao looked, they saw law and order problems: The Dadri lynching, the inking of Kulkarni, the Shiv Sena invasion of the BCCI, Ghulam Ali (well, it could have been you-know-what).

Another verbal tick: Ignore the question, say what you have come to say. Thus TV debates go like this: Rajdeep Sardesai (India Today): Is the Shiva Sena free to do what it wants? Shaina N.C.: It’s a law and order issue. The people believe in us. we are delivering…

They don’t even speak the same language.

A crucial election in Bihar is, thus, being sidelined. You have to watch channels like Kashish and ETV Bihar to see campaign speeches by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the RJD’s Lalu Prasad or the BJP’s Sushil Modi — mainstream news ignores them.

Eighteen months into UPA2, the government was under attack for the CWG and 2G scams — “corruption” became the defining word on TV. Eighteen months since the NDA government took over, it’s all about “ideology” and “communalism” — ink those in on the calendar.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com