Debate or driving a wedge?


Aug 09, 2011, 02:17 AM | Updated Apr 29, 2016, 02:57 PM IST

That our TV and newspaper debates have become didactic is increasingly apparent. But are they without any purpose? Without any motive? Why do opinion makers feel compelled to lead people in a certain direction? And does this direction lead people to a certain political choice while steering them away from others? The answer can be found in what transpires in these debates.

Baba Ramdev started a campaign against corruption. This campaign gathered so much momentum that the government sent four union ministers to meet the Baba. Things did not go as the government had hoped. The Baba’s campaign acquired a deeply Saffron character. Soon after that we heard TV studios sing in chorus disparaging the Baba and his campaign. We saw TV studio invitees echoing exactly the same thoughts as that of the anchors who themselves echoed thoughts of the government. Switch to a debate in another TV studio and one could not help but think one was hearing an echo of the debate in the other TV studio. This was in sharp contrast with the almost approving nod Anna Hazare’s campaign received. The difference between the two was that Anna’s campaign was strictly “apolitical” while Baba’s was “political” and not just “political” but “Saffron” too.

Take a more recent example. The Karnataka Lokayukta came out with a report on mining scams. Yeddyurappa of BJP was the Chief Minister heading a majority government. Congress and JDS are the political opposition. Yeddyurappa and his family find mention in the report and every TV studio asked for his ouster. Yeddyurappa resigned. A similar thing happened in Delhi. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress party has a more serious involvement in the Commonwealth Games corruption. The Shunglu Committee and CAG reports have listed the scam in detail and questioned her role in the same. An equivalent level of campaign for her ouster is nowhere to be seen in TV studios or newspaper columns. The reaction has been disproportionately muted. It was said that the BJP would strengthen its moral standing against corruption by making Yeddyurappa resign. Now we hear the CAG had exceeded its mandate in indicting Sheila Dikshit and that its findings are not final but must be put under scrutiny.

These are but two recent and more popular examples. Scores such examples can be witnessed if one go through most of our debates. The resulting narrative of such debates disadvantages a certain political formation and by default this benefits the grand old political formation. The political formation at advantage has been given the highly desirable character of being secular. With secularism being spoken of favourably and rewarded in TV studios and columns, parties associating themselves with secularism enjoy good word of mouth.

With such debates it becomes difficult for anyone to put the favourable political formation under scrutiny and not attract criticism. The result of such debates is to drive a wedge between the fence sitters and political formations not identified with secularism. Such debates consolidate the committed and make it difficult, almost impossible for the uncommitted to choose anything but the secular choice.


(Image from here.)

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