Sunday, July 14, 2013

The BJP Press Statement That Could Have Been - 1

@techrsr brought up an interesting point the other day about the BJP not having the locus of control of the Indian media with them. Now, I'm not sure how much of an electoral impact having the locus of control of Indian media will have, but it is a well-established fact that BJP is simply clueless (after all these days, yes) in handling the barrage of anti-BJP media outlets that dot the (sorry) Indian media landscape. In a sense, this is both funny & intriguing, considering one of their top-most leaders (supposedly?) has excellent contacts with most top media outlets. But that's a discussion for another day. Coming back, given this well-entrenched hostility, it becomes absolutely imperative for the BJP to tackle them strategically, *consistently*. As laymen-supporters of the BJP, apart from the occasional display of savvy, we are mostly left licking our self-inflicted wounds.
In light of the recent "Clarification" (an obvious euphemism for "Sorry [Hehe] for peddling lies" [Yes, I can almost see the sardonic grin on the editors' faces while printing out this joke of a clarification, which, by the way, is neither sincere nor well-intentioned nor truly apologetic]) issued by the Times of India group with respect to the "Modi rescues 15000" controversy, the handling of the issue by the BJP left a lot to be desired. Consider this - the clarification itself is neatly tucked into a corner of one of the deepest parts of the printed edition (Page 9 in the Mumbai & Chennai editions, Page 10 in the Bangalore edition, to name a few), so it is quite unlikely that this is going to be read by as many people as those who would've bought into the "self-orchestrated propaganda by the BJP" story, which, anyway, was the main aim of the ToI piece in the first place.
And dear BJP supporters, for how long can we keep taking cover under the "No publicity is bad publicity" logic? There is a point at which the actual "publicity" part of the publicity (good or bad) plateaus and in Modi's case, this point has long since been reached. Again, I don't know about the net impact (electoral or otherwise, but basically, to me, it is only the "electoral" bit that least for the next one year) of the "15000" ToI scandal, but here's what the BJP could have done immediately after the issue blew up which, I am sure, would have garnered them much more sympathy than what they will most likely receive now. A simple press release on the lines of -
"This in reference to the article "Modi lands in Uttarakhand, flies out with 15,000 Gujaratis" published in the Times of India. The BJP would like to categorically state that this is a totally baseless number that is being quoted and no BJP representative has been contacted in this regard. We would further like to add that Shri Narendra Modi was indeed instrumental in part of the relief work that is being carried out in Uttarakhand, however his relief efforts were not restricted to people of any particular community, region or language. Furthermore, at a time of grave crisis like this, what matters is that all effort possible be rendered to the needy across political and ideological differences and not one-upmanship based on numbers. Publishing such an article with unsubstantiated data amounts to rumour-mongering. Instead of helping focus on the relief work being carried out by all parties, this is a grossly irresponsible act of journalism by one of the country's oldest journalistic institutions. We strongly condemn this rather mischievous attempt to insinuate controversy and demand an apology by Times of India in the front page of ALL their editions, with all the clarifications stated above, failing which, we will be forced to take legal action against them."
Alas, that was not to be. With such an insincere and delayed "Clarification" by ToI, when the whole issue is more or less out of public memory, has the damage been done?
Your guess is as good as mine.

Prologue: Going by recent happenings, one can't help but begin to wonder if Shekhar Gupta was indeed right when he said that instead of setting the agenda, the BJP is walking right into Congress' trap. One of the impressive aspects about Narendra Modi so far has been his ability to set the terms of the discourse and decide the agenda. If recent events are any indication, this ability appears to be waning. It is too early to conclude, but a course correction is definitely in order.