The changing political discourse in India and its implications on the 2014 election is something that’s hotly debated among certain section of the intelligentsia.
The new discourse came into limelight with the Anna Hazare movement to bring in effective Lokpal Bill to check the menace of corruption that has seeped into the body politics of the country.
Buoyed by the social media and the electronic media, particularly the 24×7 news, the new political discourse took a flying start. Many compared Anna Hazare with the pied-piper of Hamilton, who will banish corruption from the country. The sheer number of people, who came out on the streets to support Anna Hazare, demonstrated that a new freedom struggle has begun in the country.
While there was a general consensus on controlling corruption in high places, the demand for an extra constitutional authority to adjudicate the governance was unacceptable to the people. It’s this realization that dampened the initial euphoria for Anna Hazare movement.
The movement further lost its sheen when it started dictating terms from the streets, attacking the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues leveling charges of corruption.
The people, who had firm faith in the system of governance started cold shouldering those trying to bring systemic correction to the political apparatus of the country.
Eventually, the fledgling Anna Hazare movement fizzled out. The Gandhian unsure whether his vision and mission could ever be achieved disassociated with his team and withdrew from the centre stage. It seemed he was more bothered to salvage his personal integrity rather than changing the political discourse in the country.
However, from the debris of Anna movement emerged, Arvind Kejrewal, another harbinger of social change, who is currently holding the center stage in the country. He is trying to hold aloft the flag that Anna unfurled to start a new political discourse in the country.
Kejrewal, armed with documents, that he has acquired through RTI, shot his first salvo at Robert Vadra, the son in law of AICC president Sonia Gandhi. His next hunt was Union Law Minister Salman Khrshid. He then trained his guns at the BJP president Nitin Gadkari, accusing all of them being corrupt.
It is with such strident campaign Kejrewal, announced his entry into the politics. He now aspires to win majority and change the political discourse of the country. Will he do all this? The verdict 2014 can only be its testimony.
In changing the political discourse of the country, the media, particularly the 24×7 news channels are supposedly playing a big role. However, the question remains how far they are positively inclined?
Even as Assam burned with human exodus reaching unimaginable numbers; the 24×7 media focused on Anna’s fast in Delhi. The fast of Ramdev and Anna Hazare was much more important to the media then the fast by Sami Nigmmananda, who died trying to save river Ganga from pollution.
In order to change the political discourse in the country, the trial by media has become the order of the day. The media is performing the role of the courts, where people like Kejrewal rush in front of the cameras and level charges against public figures. His coverage assures huge eyeballs but at what cost needs to be assessed.
Instant, charges, instant prosecution, instance justice, have all become the trade mark of the electronic media reportage these days. The functioning of the electronic media is equated with the Khap Panchayats because the similarities between them.
If Kejrewal is so convinced about his allegations, why he is not going to the courts to seek justice, why he is rushing to the media. Speculations are rife that there is some quid pro quo arrangement between Kejrewal and the media, that’s giving him undue coverage.
Markandey Katju, former Supreme Court judge and currently Chairman of the Press Council of India has commented on this phenomenon. He writes; “This incident (Salman Khurshid) is not just an isolated one, because often complaints are made that in their hurry to give breaking news, the media, specially the broadcast media, does not do proper investigation before attacking someone’s reputation. For a self respecting man, death is preferable to dishonor.”
In this context, two important developments have taken place. The first is the defamation suit filed by Salman Khurshid against the media outlet for damaging his reputation. The outcome of this case is eagerly awaited because it will decide whether the free run that the 24×7 media is enjoying now would continue or will it be made accountable, as demanded by Markandey Katju.
The second is the defamation suite filed by Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit, against Arvind Kejrewal, for tarring her reputation as a public figure.
The verdict of both the cases is eagerly awaited as they may have a far reaching impact that may give direction to the future political discourse in the country.
Syed Ali Muijtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org