Sunday, February 17, 2013

When "achievement" is not "substance"

This article was written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here. 

Gujarat CM, Mr. Narendra Modi gave a nearly one hour speech at the Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi on Wednesday. Formerly national bureau chief of CNN-IBN and currently with DNA, expert analyst Mr. Diptosh Majumdar analysed the speech in a few tweets. The analysis included the following:

Modi’s speech did not have much substance but it was politically influential – the young people lapped it up

Modi's speech at #SRCC was without much substance because except for Vivekananda's vision, he had not much to offer.

The wretched trolls on twitter started bombarding him primarily one query - how come he didn't find any substance in the speech? To which, he bombarded them back with the same query: 

The wretched trolls went on to give him examples of "substance" in the speech, to which he replies to one

never once referred to 2002. U haven't yet told me what outside Gujarat achievements is substance in that #SRCC speech?

And despite such prodding, Diptosh has not bothered to enlighten us with what "substance" he was looking for. Instead he set a new barometer of judging a speech – discussing achievements don’t count towards “substance” in speech!

So was there any substance in the speech then? To answer this question, let’s not rely on the wretched trolls. CNN-IBN’s deputy editor Sagarika Ghose said this:

At SRCC, we have heard Modi speak about cotton, salt,, bananas, ayurveda, teachers: but his big ideas on challenges facing India?

Cotton, salt : He spoke about agriculture revival in Gujarat (from 12th minute here), in which he detailed many innovations – from soil health cards to water management to integrated approach. In the course of this speech, he mentioned how cotton production increased in his state and how a value addition to this prodcution that will benefit the cotton farmer, was developed through a new textile policy – Farm to Fibre; Fibre to Fabric: Fabric to Fashion; Fashion to Foreign!

Bananas: He gave a very interesting anectode of farmers from a tribal belt approaching him for a much higher quality of roads so that their bananas that get exported to Finland don’t get smashed! Modi pointed out (from 19:20 onwards) that such aspirations of the tribal farmers to do better business in the global market is what drives the country ahead.

Ayurveda: While speaking of service sector and industrial development, he mentioned about the need for better branding and packagaing. And he cited many examples to make his point – one of which a report by Hathi commission on Ayurveda. (from 38:20 onwards)

Teachers: From the 28th minute, he spoke about the role and importance of teachers in shaping the society and how he recognized the need for better teachers and therefore set up the first teaching University in India.

Just by merely looking at the four points that Sagarika Ghose mentioned, it turns out that there is indeed a lot of “substance “ in the speech. He made many additional points, even talked about “India’s development through Gujarat’s development” - but then Sagarika Ghose is not impressed for these don’t’ count towards “big ideas on challenges facing India”.

Agriculture, law and order (he describes some of his attempts towards police reforms), better teachers, better infrastructure, better ideas, better implementation, better growth, better hope - in his speech, Modi described the challenge and then went on to tell how they either overcame or are trying to overcome those challenges, by not relying on mere rhetoric, but by citing specific examples. But hey – these are not “big ideas” nor do they count for “substance”!

Not to be left far behind, Bhupendra Chaube of CNN-IBN does a 2 minute report on this speech in which he says Modi made political references to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi! Perhaps he is the only person who thinks a reference was made to Sonia Gandhi in the speech! This video report is all the more surprising because on twitter he said this:

U gotta give it to @narendramodi . Orator par excellence. Very very convincing arguments. Always speaks logically and rationally

None of Modi’s “convincing”, “rational” and “logical” arguments made it to his report though!

No discussion on Modi and media is complete without mentioning Mr. Nikhil Wagle. He has a single point agenda – “Modi should apologise for 2002”. Whatever the context – that’s his only demand. It was pointed out to him many times that if he believes Modi is guilty of murder, he should demand punishment according to the law but not a mere apology but that’s beside the point. This speech bothered him so much that he went a step further and said this:

Most of middle class is hypocritical. They voted for BT after riots n probably will vote for modi. They want dev even if its on dead bodies!

It’s one thing for you to have strong anti-Modi feelings, but to blame “most of the middle class” who struggle to make ends meet of being hypocritical speaks volumes about the sanity of a person making such rile statements. It is no wonder that a speech filled with substance and big ideas has disturbed Mr. Nikhil Wagle so much!

So there was nothing in this event that satisfied this ilk? Turns out that there was one thing indeed:

Nikhil Wagle: I appreciate left student unions who protested against @narendramodi in delhi yesterday.They proved a point of dissent. All r not with modi!

Diptosh: And can you seriously root for a Prime Minister who is shown black flags wherever he goes outside Gujarat #SRCC #Modi

The Hindu had a full report that concentrated on the travails of the protestors here. A very casual reference to the speech and a very elaborate report on the protests outside! Rajdeep Sardesai wondered why The Hindu didn’t front page this report when other newspapers did. The Hindu’s editor, Siddarth Varadarajan replied thus:

We refuse to be part of the herd. Every story on our p1 was far more newsworthy than a speech by a CM to a Delhi college.

It is the newspaper’s prerogative to decide what item is “newsworthy” and that prerogative must be respected, but that tweet also said “we refuse to be part of the herd”. A natural question arises – was the decision not to carry it on page 1 (or anywhere in paper) based on the desire not to be “part of the herd” or was it based on “newsworthiness”? In the answer to this question lies the key to thinking of the media on Modi.

All said and done, no image captures the media bias as superbly as the one below that compares some reactions to Rahul's rant in Jaipur to Modi's speech in Delhi (put together by ShivSBharat). Like they say – a picture is worth 1000 words!

PS: News channels, as always, have had noisy “debates” on the speech – the outcome of which is nothing!


Deepak said...

Diptosh Majumdar, you genius. How does one become like you?

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