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Boycott Bluster

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The decision by the INDI Alliance to boycott the ‘talk shows’ of 14 journalist-anchors indicates that, after the first flush of the ‘coming together’, matters have reverted to the self-defeating politics of the past. Is this the democracy and freedom of expression they have been advocating? How much noise would there have been if a similar sanction had been declared by the ruling NDA? Does it not reveal that the Alliance spokespersons are getting licked during public debates and don’t have the guts to keep up the fight? And how can they argue their case when, almost on a daily basis, the constituents are scoring self-goals by declaring their intent to destroy Hinduism, and denigrating the religious texts of others? These are positions impossible to defend or even explain.

It is obvious that there is nothing in common, ideologically, among these parties and the only glue is the hope that the arithmetic of coming together would help them defeat the Modi-led NDA. Rahul Gandhi has been attempting to project some kind of a high philosophy that represents the ‘idea of India’, but the only takers, apart from Congress acolytes, have been captive audiences on distant shores. It is difficult for spokespersons to reconcile these different approaches.

This is a consistent trend with the Opposition, the Congress, in particular. Even in Parliament, where debate is the norm, it has become the pattern to walkout after saying their piece. It doesn’t matter if the debate has been held at their request in the first place, as happened during the recent ‘no-confidence motion’. It shows how a privileged background and the ability to speak foreign accented English no longer provides an advantage, as was the case in the past. This frustration can oft be seen on the faces of their spokespersons on TV debates.

So, INDI Alliance representatives will now appear only in the ‘safe space’ provided by ‘objective’ and friendly anchors. Even with such help, they will not be able to prevent the presence of their articulate adversaries. The expectation is that viewers will shift to these preferred talk shows just to hear both points of view, giving a boost to their ratings, thereby causing financial damage to TV News Channels considered pro-BJP. It might even be an implied threat of repercussions should the alliance come to power. What they are actually doing is giving free rein to the boycotted channels to present unchallenged their points of view. If only manipulating public opinion was that easy in the present age of grassroots driven media.