For those of us whose interest in Indian politics is as fleeting as a second, there was only one Yogi in our lives. That is, until Saturday afternoon. If you had asked us, “Yogi who?”, we’d have smartly and promptly replied, “Yogi Bear”.
As of last weekend, that’s the incorrect answer: The lovable cartoon character has been unceremoniously displaced by Yogi Adityanath, the newly appointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. And trust television to make a song and dance of him; throughout Sunday, we were shown people in Gorakhpur, and in his Uttarakhand village, contort their bodies to the beat of a dholak, while news channels like News State and Samay broke into happy song: “Yogi, Yogi, Yogi, ek naya armaan hai, Yogi, Yogi Yogi”. Or, “UP ke dhadkan mein Yogi, Yogi.” (NDTV India) This, to the same beat as “Modi, Modi, Modi” that rang out at Adityanath’s swearing-in on Sunday afternoon, when the PM took to the stage.
TV news red-carpeted Yogi Adityanath and carpet-bombed us with coverage of him, about him and his oath of office with such enthusiasm, in such detail, at such great length, you’d have thought Narendra Modi was being anointed. At the very least.
TV celebrated the “firebrand’s” elevation with pomp and show on “Coronation Sunday” (Times Now). News X grandiosely called it “Vijay Diwas” which, for those of us who can think back that far, referred to the victory in Bangladesh in 1971. And others acted like an airport loudspeaker announcement system: “BJP CMs reach LK” (India Today), “Advani, Manohar Joshi at Lucknow airport” (News X), “Amit Shah reaches Lucknow” (Zee News). “PM Modi has just arrived” (India Today) — for many minutes, we stared at the open door of an aircraft, waiting for the PM to emerge.
Sure, this was a state visit, but TV was treating it like Donald Trump was about to land in India.
News channels interviewed ecstatic supporters who said that UP was celebrating the happy occasion (NDTV India); they interviewed happy new ministers. Swati Singh was asked what her children thought of her appointment: “My daughter is happy” (what else could she be?). They stood at Smriti Irani, sorry, Smriti Upvan, and laughingly showed us BJP-wallahs or supporters fighting to get a pass into the ceremony like it was the premiere of the latest Salman Khan blockbuster — “One hour to go” (ABP).
It was quite a moment for the “Saffron mascot” (Times Now) when the entire nation watched him take the oath. As the national anthem played, the energy out there for “Modi, Modi, Modi”, “Yogi, Yogi, Yogi”, was enough to light up all of UP’s powerless villages.
And did you see the official residence of “#NewIndiaYogi” being “cleansed” and blessed, as if the previous occupant had left behind contagious diseases (India TV)?
TV left nothing unsaid, unseen or to the imagination as it dogged Yogi’s every step.
It also questioned his appointment: “Is this choosing Hindutva or development?”. Or, “Is this Hindutva with development?”, asked Gaurav Sawant, who instantly took a commercial break after the question to figure out the answer (India Today). Since nobody on any channel really knew the answer, they went fishing, raising every issue they could think of: Ram Mandir, polarisation, the end of appeasement, election 2019, Yogi as a future PM, triple talaq, slaughterhouse politics, blah, blah, blah — everything flew around like hot-air balloons, needlessly raising the pitch in the TV studios when “YogiGetsUP” had still to get down to business.
By Tuesday evening, we’d had enough of “#YogiUPKaNath” puns and it was a relief to switch to CNN and BBC to catch the FBI Director and National Security Advisor being questioned by the House Intelligence Committee on Donald, Obama, Clinton about “those Russians”.
On an entirely different note, I watched Chitrahaar (DD National, Sunday) and was delighted to discover it still existed. It seems to have changed: It profiled Shashi Kapoor and featured songs from his films. Lovely. Also, watch out for Feud (Star Premiere HD), starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as the famous actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, warring during the shooting of the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Deliciously vile.