It is not as if it’s a big secret that NDTV has been the mouthpiece of Congress for a long time. Still, with the brazen manipulation of debates and excessive media coverage of one family they have now out-done even the erstwhile Russian mouthpiece Pravda. In modern days NDTV could even come close to the national media of North Korea. Of course, in all this all their journalistic principles have been ground to dust long back. The latest attempt to promote Rahul Gandhi comes in the form of a discussion moderated by Barkha Dutt (who else could it have been?) in a programme titled “The Evolution of Rahul Gandhi”. Hmmm! If the number of times the coming of age and evolution of RG has been talked about he would have far exceeded Darwin’s theories and expectations. Barkha herself could claim to be a Rahul-specific Darwin!
The participants in the debate by Barkha were R.P.N. Singh (Congress), Sudheendra Kulkarni (BJP), Neeraj Chaudary (SP) and Meghnad Desai, the floating alien who seems to be more on Indian TV than back home in UK.
First let us state a fact. After the thrashing the Congress received in many other states, especially Bihar, Rahul Gandhi took the Mamata route to agitate at farmer hotspots and land related fights in UP. He has spent a good deal of time campaigning in UP right from November 14, 2011. Has he put in strong efforts? Sure, in terms of rallies, road-shows and meetings RG has committed himself to the campaign whole-heartedly. What about Priyanka? She has done her hit and run appearances. But did RG say anything substantial or outline any real singular plan of any consequence? Other than muslim reservations (which was dramatized more by Salman Khurshid rather than RG) and elephants eating money RG’s utterances, as in the past, have been simply nonsensical and not one statement or act of his have suggested that he has indeed come of age or evolved. He has only provided more evidence in all the media coverage that Congress still considers UP voters to be idiots. He’s not alone, he finds company in Barkha Dutt who equally hopes TV viewers to be idiots who can be dazzled with BS. So the agenda of NDTV is to somehow make RG look like the “Great white hope” for UP and the nation. So let’s analyse the debate on some mere statistics which will make interesting reading:
1. The Barkha show is for 51.16 minutes. Okay! Now, it starts with a tribute to RG and the Gandhis and a monologue from her which lasts all of 16.40 minutes. Yes 16.40 minutes of monologue by the supposed moderator in a programme of 51.16 minutes (and includes about a minute of sound-bites from Akhilesh Yadav, Digvijay Singh and Swapan Dasgupta). Prelude to a great debate, isn’t it?
2. Now what about timeshare to others in the discussion? Here’s what each one got in total:
R.P.N.Singh (Congress) – 9.40 Mins.
Sudheendra Kulkarni (BJP) – 5.20 Mins.
Neeraj Chaudhary (SP) – 2.30 Mins.
Meghnad Desai (Nobody) – 3.00 Mins.
Audience (Questions) – 3.30 Mins.
3. So the panelists and the audience put together got 24 minutes out of a total of 51.16 minutes (with interruptions from Barkha). So who got the remaining 27.16 minutes? Yeah, the supposed moderator herself! That’s how you manipulate a debate when the moderator hogs 53% of timeshare for discussions.
Never mind the discussion itself. It was a regular RG promo. Consider this: Kulkarni makes a minor point of RG tearing up a piece of paper and that being poor behaviour and who responds? It is not the Congressman or another panelist but Barkha herself who springs to RG’s defence. She counters it with all the chairs and mics thrown in assemblies or porn being watched by MLAs. Haha! So why does she need panelists at all? She doubles up as both the moderator and Congress spokesperson that even gets the most time in the supposed debate.
Anyway, the most important question in the programme came from Neeraj Chaudhury of SP. To the nonsense of Singh, and the Congress in general, who kept claiming they will do substantially better in UP, Chaudhury asked what exactly is “substantial”. To that Singh claimed they will get 200 seats and once again Barkha interrupts that even 70 could be substantial. Really? So the moderator here gives us an idea of what the Congress mind is more than the Congress spokesman himself. Once again, why does NDTV need a Congress spokesperson at all? The awful truth of the matter is that the party currently has 22 seats (5%) in a 403-member assembly. Can any party of a national standing really sink any further? Even without the evolution or coming of age of RG or his entire family a party has to be absolutely pathetic to be doing worse than 22 seats. (RG did manage to do that in Bihar earlier though). However, the sheer number of seats being much higher than Bihar and given the unhappiness over the current UP govt it wouldn’t take much to get past 22 or even get past 50.
The final question the likes of Barkha never ask is: if not Gandhi, who? In a party that has become the private estate of the Gandhi family who else can really campaign for them? Digvijay? Chidambaram? Pranab? Manmohan? Pilot? Scindia? Bansal? Ambika? Manu Singhvi? Manish Tiwari? Anyone else? At best, all of them put together can only be sidekicks to Rahul Gandhi. Even RG himself without the Gandhi name would be a sidekick to himself. All this talk of coming of age or evolution of RG is merely clever propaganda by Barkha Dutt, NDTV and some more media channels. Unfortunately for NDTV it’s not a hot-shot channel among a huge majority of UP voters. Their manipulation of evolution may just please those that have a mini-bar in their drawing room.
Update - February 19: Although the statistics in the post make the skullduggery of Barkha's show pretty obvious an Anonymous commenter (Feb 18) enlarges upon it. I quote the comment:
1. Even after the initial lecture by Barkha the Congress guy gets the highest individual time 9.40 mins.
2. The opponents of RahulG, the BJP and SP, collectively get only 7.50 mins which is almost 2 mins less than RPN.
3. The nobody, Meghnad, with no stake in the campaign gets even more time than a serious contender like SP.
4. Apart from 16.40 mins in the beginning, even during open discussions Barkha still gets over 10mins, higher than anyone else.
I think in future all debates on TV should have an indicator showing time consumed by each panellist that would show if the debate is fair.