The Gab Of Hindsight


Media coverage and analysis of the election results included both — the ridiculous and the sublime

AFTER WEEKS of cacophonous cluelessness emerged the clarity that can only come from retrospective wisdom. Within hours, the media went from a state of babbling incoherence to one of informed lucidity. It was very clear why the results turned out this way — it is a vote for stability; the youth have spoken; the BJP erred by attacking Manmohan Singh; Rahul Gandhi is a political genius; national parties are back in the reckoning — are some of the explanations being bandied about, each with an air of unerring precision. Gone is the confusion and the successive anointment of various leaders as PMs-in-waiting. Now that we all know what happened, the experts know more loudly.

The election coverage climaxed last week with a host of panels descending on us and deciding not to leave. Lord Meghnad Desai did not go home and Arnab Goswami did not go off air. NDTV’s panel chatted with an air of collegiate conviviality that was quite watchable. The combination of Vir Sanghvi, Shekhar Gupta, Chandan Mitra and Mukul Kesavan, among others, worked out quite well as conversation never flagged and humour leavened the proceedings. From NDTV’s side, Prannoy Roy knit together the dialogue with seamless ease and Barkha Dutt was in unusually good humour, which served to keep things moving without too much apparent effort. Times Now needs to add some new faces, for the cumulative effect of seeing so much of Arnab in the last weeks can take a toll, however watchable the channel is in short bursts. CNN IBN’s biggest asset in the elections has been Yogendra Yadav, whose clinical pursuit of the truth shines through even when faced with the gravest provocation. Which brings me to Sagarika Ghose, who, it must be said, has developed a distinctive style. Watching her is like seeing an oil tanker run amok as it crashes into poles, overturns cars, crunches over bones and flips a couple of times, only to magically return to the road and continue as if nothing had happened. In an otherwise riveting discussion with a panel that included the likes of Ramchandra Guha, P Sainath and Yogendra Yadav, Sagarika combined occasional insight with sweeping generalisations, expansive speculations and cheerful misrepresentation of the panel’s views without a break in stride. The Hindi channels were a tad vapid this time and my repeated forays into Aaj Tak were uniformly disappointing. NDTV India put up a better show and one caught glimpses of the old Vinod Dua when he admonished a BJP spokesperson for his platitudinous bombast.

Now that we know what happened, the experts know more loudly. Editorials praised the Indian electorate’s maturity, a bromide we never tire of

The print medium too has not been shy with explanations, analyses and prescriptions. Outlook devoted its issue to ideas for the new government. Business channels and newspapers played their role as the unappointed advisors to the prime minister. Editorials were full of odes to the maturity of the Indian electorate, a bromide we never tire of. Now that we have the vote share data, we can expect some real analysis. Mint did an eye-opening piece using this information. Sanjaya Baru’s piece on a website arguing that this marks a return to centrism for the Congress was intelligently argued. Kumar Ketkar’s brief lecture on the ideological dilemma faced by the BJP on NDTV was rich in historical context and full of insight. It clearly came as news to Chandan Mitra (a much improved version, one must say), who said as much.

So, finally, life can continue. India TV can go back to the Taliban and other exotic creatures. And while the IPL is winding down, Rakhi Sawant is going to get married on TV. Don’t switch off those television sets just yet!

Desai is CEO, Future Brands