Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The politics of default

While Modi’s body language has a sense of the decisive and the imperial, Rahul looked like being chaperoned around. He came a few days before and waved hands at the crowd as if they were teenage fans

 TVprovidesacritiqueofpolitics by creating scenarios, where silence or indifference becomes obvious. TV broughtoutwithclaritythe larger than life scenarios of Narendra Modis’s push to victory. It tried to surround this simplistic picture with doubt, dissent, opposition, withcompetingreadingsofthesituation. It showed that in all this raucous noise of dissent, the silence of the Congress was deafening.
    The Congress virtually caught attention through Modi’s use of it as a dart board. One could sense that Modi was waiting for Sonia to make another historic mistake but she was too muted. Modi, of course, retorted that Sonia has brought along the speeches of 2007 to address the 2012 elections. One has to admit he was almost correct.
    The Congress heralded Rahul as the real protagonist for 2012. He came a few days before and waved hands at the crowd as if they were teenage fans. His body language was that of a young boy scout, someone being chaperoned around,ratherthanadecisiveleader. Modi’s body language has a sense of the decisive and the imperial, in fact, the imperious. His statements were definitive and Congress played into his hands by inviting Rehman Malik from Pakistan. The wiliness of Malik was met by Delhi’s namby-pambiness. Modi struck back quickly as if he had mastered the home portfolio with a no-nonsense statement on Sir Creek. The TV spectacles clearly showed that Congress had miscalculated in arranging Rehman Malik’svisittocoincidewiththeGujarat election.
    Many TV channels tried to summon dissenting and critical voices. Unfortunately, they were either pompous or repetitive. Some of the voices seem frozen in time and it makes you realise that atleastintermsofTVpresence,dissent is shrinking and not too convincing a spectacle, whether one listened to Darshini Mahadevia or Mallika Sarabhai, to cite the better ones. One sensed a déjà vu quality, as if they were reciting narratives from an old tape. Sudarshan Iyengar made normative points but correct as they are, they still sound likeoldeditorials.Thereisnofreshness to the charge, and one wishes there was more verve to the comments. In fact, wherever TV showed ordinary people, arguing pro-or-con,therewasafreshnessto the interventions.
    TV anchors tried desperately to create a sense of epic battle. They created a dual domain opposing Sonia and Modi, countering speech with counter speech. The attempt was a failure as Congress almost seems to be avoiding any confrontation. Sonia makes her speechesasifshewaspractisingfor aHindiclassandTVpresentsRahul as an adolescent. One asks what happened to his promise to learn Gujarati during the last election.
    Watching TV as opposed to the turnout, there is a sense that election is not a political space with a wide variety of dissent. What Modi’s strategy is leading to is the Romanideaofacclamation!Thereisa little sense of politics, of debate. Modi throws repeated challenges but the Congress, like the PM, seems to be practising m a u n v r a t. The silence and the indifference of theCongresstoGujaratisinexplicable. The ground level voices peak critically and openly yet Congress appears tone deaf to them. In fact, 2012,maynotbetheyearofModi’s victory, but the year the Congress lost its sense of politics and electoral struggle in Gujarat.