The 2012 Presidential election race between the incumbent President and Democratic Party nominee Barak Obama on one hand and Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney was a fight to finish. Barak Obama, in the final analysis polled approximately 50 per cent of popular votes while Romney ended up with 47 per cent. Yet both of them were not termed polarising personalities by the American media, much less, by Indian media.
That is not all. Romney in the run up to US Presidential elections was caught by a hidden camera commenting that 47 per cent of the country was so reliant on Government services that such people would never vote for him. In other words, his own tacit admission, a substantial section of voters were alienated from him. Yet, he was not termed as a polarising figure. According to reliable surveys carried in US, born again evangelicals and White Protestants have predominantly supported the Republican Party for time immemorial only to be counterbalanced by overwhelming support to the Democratic Party by Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants. Yet the word ‘P’ is missing within the American political discourse.
That is not all. It may be noted that California has invariably been voting Democrats since 1992 [just as Gujarat has been voting for BJP since the mid-1990s] so much so that it is now considered an impregnable Democrat fortress. But surely, California is not termed as a ‘laboratory’ for Democrats, a term repeatedly used in the context of Gujarat and BJP!
New York Times gets it wrong
While an average Indian is used since independence to this stereotyping ceaselessly within India by our media and ‘intellectuals, what is galling to note is that of late a substantial portion of this ‘idea’ has come to be exported to other parts of the world, notably the US. In short, contrary to the popular belief that Indian media gets influenced by global media; the question is whether international media is getting increasingly influenced by the endless rants of our media? Let me amplify.
The New York Times in its editorial on October 26, 2013 while conceding that Narendra Modi “is a leading candidate to become Prime Minister of India” opines, “His rise to power is deeply troubling to many Indians, especially the country’s 138 million Muslims and its many other minorities. They worry he would exacerbate sectarian tensions that have subsided somewhat in the last decade.”
Is the NY Times seriously suggesting that sections of Indian voters carry a veto on a PM candidate even before India goes to polls? Obviously, it fails to realise that democratic tradition is far too deep-rooted in India even to suggest that a Prime Ministerial aspirant should be rejected on a specious plea that his rise is ‘troubling’ a section of the population or that it ‘would’ exacerbate sectarian tensions.
Implicit in this argument is that Modi is anti-Muslim and by logic a good number of Muslims are threatened by his political rise. More to the point, such an idea to short-circuit democratic process is fascist – one that would do Hitler proud, not NY Times. The news daily should know, as would the average reader that Muslims are at war all over the world. That substantially if not wholly explains why flash points of global conflicts invariably involve Muslims on one hand and all other religions on the other.
Noted scholar author Samuel P Huntington in his work The Clash of Civilisations and the remaking of world order succinctly points out that for 1400 year Christianity has a problem with Islam. Is NY Times going to blame Modi for this too? Despite these historical facts and global phenomenon, NY Times portrays as if only Muslims in India are having a problem and Modi as villain.
Provocatively, the editorial adds, Modi’s strident Hindu nationalism has fuelled public outrage. Barring usual suspects one it yet to witness public outrage on Hindu nationalism in India, it is indeed intriguing for NY Times editorial team to selectively condemn Hindu nationalism. Surely, it has failed to realise that this era of globalisation has paradoxically given rise to nationalistic fervour including in communist China. Or is it worried about Hindu nationalism in the geo-political context?
Biased? Ignorant? Command performance?
Strangely, this editorial was a follow up of a piece in NY Times by Gardiner Harris on September 17, 2013 titled, Campaign for Prime Minister in India Gets Off to Violent Start implicitly linking to elevation of Modi as its PM candidate by the BJP and the Muzzafarnagar riots of September 2013.
For starters, the very title of the article is not only misleading but a concerted attempt in maligning Modi, BJP, and of course, the whole of India as it seeks to implicitly link the ascendency of Modi to these riots. Interestingly, in its unholy hurry to paint Modi black, the author seems to have glossed over certain fundamental facts. Muzaffarnagar riots, let us not forget began in the last week of August, 2013 while Modi was elevated as BJP’s PM candidate only on September 14, 2013! And this is what happens when an author first fixes his target and then scouts for facts.
Needless to emphasise, to blame Modi for these riots retrospectively is bad journalism at best, biased reporting at worst. What the author failed to clarify is that Muzzafarnagar is not in Gujarat but in UP – a State that has witnessed over 100 riots in 2013 alone. NY Times probably does not know that under the Indian Constitution, law and order is the sole responsibility of State Government which is headed by Samajwadi Party – an avowedly pro-Muslim outfit.
However, there is not even a whisper in the piece about the complete collapse of local administration in maintaining law and order in UP. And by the extended logic of NY Times if Modi sitting a thousand kms away in Gujarat can cause riots in UP, Modi must be blamed for killings in Middle East too where Muslims are themselves killing Muslims by the dozens on an hourly basis. The article goes on to add, “By choosing Modi, a fiery orator who once peppered his speeches with anti-Muslim slurs, the Bharatiya Janata Party has raised the prospect that this election could be the deadliest in decades.” Without a scintilla of evidence for such sweeping statement, in my considered view, this is mere speculation bordering on gossip.
The [mandatory?] reference to Gujarat riots was equally sinister, “In 2002, less than a year after he was appointed the State’s Chief Minister, riots swept Gujarat and killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims,” clearly forgetting for a moment that there was a carnage of innocent Hindus that triggered these unfortunate events in Gujarat. The article says that “…mass rioting broke out last week in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically important State, after a legislator from Modi’s party circulated a fake video of two Hindus being lynched by a Muslim mob.” Fake video? How did the author come to that conclusion as early as September 17 that it was fake when its authenticity is not questioned even by local administration even to this date?
Gardiner crosses the impartiality line yet again when he calls Modi an “unapologetic Hindu Chauvinist.” Is the author suggesting that Modi should apologise for being a Hindu? And what does he mean by chauvinist? Unnecessary hyperbole that demeans the stature of NY Times while conveying nothing! Importantly, does Gardiner Harris realise that one can be a Hindu or a chauvinist – not both? Does he realise that bigotry is anti-thesis to Hinduism? Has he done some research on Hinduism before using such strong language? Or has his thoughts been fashioned by sections of Indian ‘intellectuals’ who are not favourably disposed towards India?
Finally, bereft of any specific arguments, the author states Modi never apologised for the 2002 riots. Frankly, one is appalled by this idea of apology for the simple logic that either Modi is guilty or he is not. If he is guilty, an apology would not do under the law of the land. Either way, an apology can be tokenism at best not atonement. Politicians in India, let us not forget, revel in tokenism and atonement whether one is guilty or not and in the context of the unfortunate happenings in Gujarat, comes by preventing such unfortunate events in future. On this, the exemplary administrative track record of Modi speaks for its self.
After all, let us not forget that the Supreme Court of India has virtually absolved Modi of all charges against him in so far as being a willing party to the Pogrom – a fact lost on most including the author of this piece in NY Times. Given this paradigm, either NY Times is biased against Modi, BJP, Hindus or India. In the alternative, it is ignorant of facts. Or is it a command performance by the venerable NY Times. Whatever be it, NY Times has become a prisoner of vote-bank politics, perverted secularism and divisive democracy practiced by sections of Indian polity and media. What a fall for a media house that was considered as a global benchmark till not so long ago.