The chosen onehttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-chosen-one-6/

The chosen one

If elections were decided by TV,Modi would have won by a landslide already.

If elections were decided by TV,Modi would have won by a landslide already.

A wonderful characteristic of television news is that it is in black and white — even when it is in colour. All issues,conflicts,personalities are presented in an “either-or” format — please note,NOTA (none of the above) is not an option on the tube — and many hours are happily whiled away by news channels in pitting one against the other.

And so TV news was delighted on Sunday (before and after the bomb blasts in Patna) when both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi decided to hold election rallies in Patna and Delhi,respectively. This allowed them to play up their favourite sport: in the boxing ring,Narendra Modi was placed in the right-hand corner which,given his politics,should suit him fine. In the left-hand corner,was young India’s scion,Rahul G — let the fisticuffs begin. We would go from one telling (literally) blow by Modi to a verbal barrage from Rahul and the reverse while TV anchors played ineffectual referees.

On Tuesday,Modi faced a new opponent: Nitish Kumar. The chief minister of Bihar occupied the left-hand corner and hit out at the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate left,right and centre (just like the NDTV 24×7 show).

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The bouts will continue till the title fight next summer,when general elections are held. Perhaps it is the nature of TV,but a casual consumer of television news may find it odd that in an election that all TV opinion polls thus far (Times Now,Aaj Tak/ Headlines Today,ABP,to mention a few) have predicted will see a strong showing by non-Congress and non-BJP parties,the political discourse on TV is always presented in binary opposites,in a presidential election format that doesn’t exist: Modi versus Rahul,Modi versus Nitish,Modi versus Advani.

The constant is Modi. The chief minister of Gujarat is seen and heard more often on television than he is in Gujarat. In fact,since he won a third consecutive victory in the assembly elections last December,he has been the poster boy of TV news,appearing on it every single day. Now,that reads like an exaggeration,but you know what? It is more than likely to be true. Ask yourself this: when was the last time,day,you did not catch a glimpse of him on TV? All other politicians from all the other parties,together,are no match for him on TV. If the election results were to be decided solely by TV coverage,Modi would have won a landslide already.

Countries such as the US try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate,as Modi has been. Recently,the Republicans threatened that TV channels,NBC and CNN,would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton. Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man,to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.

Still on politics,Desh ki Beti Nandini (Sony) and 24 (Colors) have chosen portraits of a politician as a young woman — or man: Nandini,Rajveer Raghuvanshi in the first,Aditya Singhania in the second. They’re idealistic,incorruptible,even naïve as they come up against a much older and venal political class. Also,noticed that in Nandini at least,there are repeated references to “aam aadmi”. Wonder whether the Congress and Rahul are watching.

Bigg Boss (Colors) belongs to the league of extraordinary programmes that defies all rational judgement. It is a law unto itself. People behave in ways that beggar belief: last week,Kushal Tandon and Gauhar Khan were evicted from the premises of the show,after a scuffle with VJ Andy. Kushal was violent and abusive and Gauhar so highly charged,she could have lit up the entire house. Out of control,they had crossed the line of control and were unceremoniously dumped by a livid Salman Khan. But you wonder: is this for real,or simply actors playing their parts to keep viewer interest from flagging?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com