Narendra Modi's biggest opponents operate not on the election turf but from air-conditioned rooms of electronic media. The modern TV news anchors and 'know-all' journalists continue to treat Modi with a sense of ambiguity. The media is finding it increasingly difficult to bridge the gap between 2002 and 2012 while evaluating the high-profile BJP Chief Minister. In 2002, it thought the post-riots scenario will end the run of Modi but was fooled.
In 2007 again, it tried to project some issues as probable challenges to Modi but the Gujarati electorate brought him to power again. The 'Maut ka Saudagar' slogan of the Congress and its sympathisers backfired miserably. In 2012, the media was seen bringing out issues like statistical comparison with years before, with other states, political under-representation of Muslims and overlooking poll candidates from their ranks and above all, the autocratic style of functioning of Modi.
Why do we need a Muslim candidate for a Muslim constituency?
I get a feeling that the self-proclaimed liberal media has betrayed its own liberal credentials while trying to demonise the Gujarat CM. The media, like the Congress, is donning the mantle of a pseudo-secularist while trying to play the Muslim card and several other parties, too, have been joining the rally. What is the media trying to portray by saying Muslims are under-represented because they don't have a Muslim candidate to vote for? Are we still in favour of separate or communal electorate? In the 21st century India, it sounds bizarre.
The problem is that in India, we are so accustomed to community mobilisation in the name of democratic functioning that invariably we fragment our polity on diverse lines. A Yadav should lead the Yadavs, a Brahmin should get all Brahmin voters, Dalits should rally behind a Dalit leader and so on. But does an empowered Dalit leader really care for the downtrodden Dalit? Even those leaders and parties not ideologically tilted flirt with minority sentiments for they are electoral capitals.
Narendra Modi's election strategy is not based on minority appeasement
If Narendra Modi's leadership wants to break free from that formula, even if because of strategic reasons, what is wrong in that move? Why the media consciously refers to Muslim ghettos in Ahmedabad as a sign of the community's backwardness? How can ghettos be symbolic with development or no development? There are also Hindu ghettos in Ahmedabad but yet they are not projected as prominently by the media.
The BJP did not field a Muslim candidate and one of the prime reasons for that the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) did not field a Muslim candidate, either. Modi, quite naturally, could not risk his Hindu votebank by trying to project a secular image. That sort of secularism has left the Congress in a mess today and Modi, even his critics will concede, is a no-nonsense person.
The question of shrinking political space of the Muslims is fair. But has the media raised the same question for several other marginal groups in the society?
Is Narendra Modi the only autocratic leader in India?
The media is crying foul over Modi's autocratic style of functioning. This is another thoughtless attack on part of the 'liberal' media. How many of Indian leaders, whether national or regional, are democratic in their style of functioning in true sense? There are several leaders who practise politics just as running a family business and indulge in minority appeasement to stay in power years after years and yet do nothing to pay their loyalists back. Modi, an elected leader, has continued in office for over a decade now and unlike many long-entrenched regimes, has not indulged in minority appeasement and populism to reach his aim. And yet, he has a strong following.
The likes of Mamata Banerjee, J Jayalalithaa and Mayawati are also known to be autocratic rulers. Autocracy is no issue till it serves the people best. Have the autocratic leaders like Mamata, Mayawati or Jayalalithaa served their people as true representatives? If not, then what is the point in targetting Modi as an autocratic alone? How many of these media personalities act democratically in their own set-up of things? Is the spirit of democracy truly appreciated by one of its strongest pillars?
Being fooled again and again, will the media learn?
Narendra Modi is perhaps the most prolific politician who has evolved with a bang in 21st century India. He understands the mindset of an ambitious middle-class, one of the mainstays of contemporary India, and has never failed his constituency. What is the big fuss about that? The Indian media expresses its irritation over the Modi factor before the Gujarat polls every year and is forced to eat its own words at the end. When should it understand that politics is all about looking ahead. And if indeed, it wants to look back, it should remember that the history of India did not begin in 2002.