Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Election verdict – Friday the 13th (May 2011)

I posted The Anna Hazare Project on the 6th of May, Fiona felt it was probably 3 weeks late and she was right. The fact remained that I did write the article 3 weeks ago on a train journey from Bangalore to Coimbatore but didn’t get to publish it, procrastination rules. The results of the elections from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal & Assam couldn’t have come at any other time. These results reinstated the fact about the power a voter has in electing or throwing out his government, a power the civil society aspires it had but can never have.

This time the voting percentage was higher across states with some most backward areas polling as high as 85%, the place was Jhargram, in West Bengal, till now reported in the media for it’s Maoist presence. Can South Mumbai or South Delhi bring in this kind of a voter turnout? They usually report voting percentages in the 40’s. For the elite going to vote is a massive photo op which they usually won’t miss. And for actors if there’s a movie release right before or after polling day then it’s good PR too. For the actual masses it’s genuine power the democracy bestows upon them to vote for or against someone who is responsible for sanitation, healthcare, subsidized grains, drinking water etc in his constituency.

For all the high voltage action that was played out by the Anna camp in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi by sporting caps which read “Mera neta chor hai”, borrowing cleverly from that supremely successful Amitabh Bachchan starrer Deewar, the results of the elections serve as a genuine reminder to the “civil society” on the power a democracy vests in the hands of the common man. Candle light vigils be damned. Heck, someone like Shri Anupam Kher, who is supremely talented as an actor, will go to the extent of suggesting we throw the constitution out of the window, what does he have to say about the election results?

Psephologists don’t used the phrase “exit polls” anymore, possibly to not infuriate the Supreme Court or the Election Commission. Instead the circus to predict the verdict had been labelled “post poll projections”. Every news channel and newspaper ended with an egg on it’s face with the failure to predict the mood of the Tamil Nadu voter. Nobody projected the fact that Selvi J Jayalalithaa will return to power with a resounding verdict in her favour. Nobody dared to write the DMK’s epitaph.

One chap accurately predicted this outcome. His name is Cho Ramaswamy, Editor of Thuglak. He came on a few channels after the polls closed and said the AIADMK was coming back to power with a big majority. But a bald old man with an ash smeared forehead speaking English that sounds Dravidian and not Stephaninan is hardly material to be taken seriously by the media brethren housed in their glass castles in New Delhi and Bombay (Mumbai).

Around 10 AM on verdict day, Mr Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-chief of Times NOW went one step further and announced the arrival of the Communists back to power, “LDF is winning Kerala” he thundered drawing a parallel to the “loss in West Bengal after 34 years in power”. Dr Prannoy Roy of NDTV wasn’t up to such stuff, he kept saying “Kerala is going down to the very end” to know who will come back to power. Dr Roy’s experience covering elections helping him with such measured judgements while Mr Goswami’s haste to “break it first on your channel” got him to resort to hyperbole.

Compare this to Monideepa Banerjee reporting live from West Bengal in the morning declaring that the Trinamool was sweeping elections, an indicator of a seasoned reporter’s reflection of the popular sentiment on the ground. We need more reporters like her in the media, people who are ready to work hard and get to the bottom of the news. Unfortunately we are seeing an increasing number of scribes relaying their news majorly from twitter, handouts and PR machinery’s machinations.

Finally I can’t but cheer a big hurrah to the voter in Tamil Nadu. This chap was supposed to be greedy, who could be bought with Mahatma Gandhi (not values of the father of the nation but the reference is to the 500 rupee note from where he smiles). Voters who can be influenced with biriyani packets, hooch and liquor. The national media did organize debates before the elections. It was either oversimplification of the characteristics of the voter in such demeaning terms, voters who can be bought with TV sets and free rice or making it look like the 2G scam was all that mattered. The voter has delivered his answer, and that’s in the form of a Bronx salute to everyone who wrote him off, to everyone who belittled his intelligence and insulted his dignity.

The voter is the victor, he has many pressing problems around him which the media isn’t ready to puts it’s ears to the ground and find out. His vote for change is to possibly find answers, will the government fulfil all those? Only time can tell.

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