Gajendra, BJP and the Propaganda Machine
The tragic death of a farmer from Rajasthan occurs at a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party on 22 April 2015. The farmer, Gajendra Singh, hangs himself from a tree in full public view of the demonstrators, the media, the police. The electronic media had till then been barely covering the event, generally holding forth instead, in studio ‘debates’ among the opponents of AAP. Once this happened, the media spin doctors swung into action, and as Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted later, they seemed to work on an already decided script. Sardesai’s tweet said that there were clear instructions from the BJP to the media to focus only on the hung/ dying (or dead) man, and forget the rally. It seems, on a closer look, that the the second part of the instructions had perhaps already been given in advance – not to cover the rally and if at all, to attack it in sponsored studio debates. And of course, the BJP, which is the architect of the new Land Acquisition Ordinance, is an interested party in this game.
It is not entirely irrelevant to the overall politics of the media-BJP spin doctoring of ‘reports’ that the AAP government in Delhi was perhaps the first in the country to announce what is without doubt the highest compensation to farmers suffering crop losses – Rs 50, 000/- per hectare for all farmers who have suffered damage. Nor is it entirely irrelevant that the Delhi government had lent full support to the anti-land acquisition struggles and Kejriwal had himself joined in the rally held by Anna Hazare and had now taken up the land issue in all seriousness.
Thus it happens that between the BJP and the big media propaganda machine, which has on at least two previous occasions completely blacked out AAP, the stage was set. Also at work in the media-AAP relationship over a longer term now, is the role of Mukesh Ambani’s media empire, given that on a range of issues AAP has directly challenged the latter. As an aside, let me add that a very senior journalist told a friend at the height of the Delhi election campaign, that in CNN-IBN/ IBN7, clear instructions had been issued to the staff not to give more than 20 seconds exposure to Arvind Kejriwal under any circumstances. If AAP swept the Delhi elections despite that, it must say something about the limits of the media game, at least as far as the majority of the population is concerned.
This time round, there was another constituency that was waiting to move into action – the Delhi elite, especially the radical elite whose hatred of Kejriwal is simply visceral, but which had been just about tempered by the presence in his team of People Like Themselves, darlings of the media. The latter had, to use an old Maoist expression, ‘wormed its way into the party’ and was intent on fighting an ‘ethical battle for inner party democracy’ against the ‘fascist Kejriwal’, a battle in which they were fully backed by the Ambani dominated media.