First, a little more about the media and Lal Krishna Advani. His being anointed as the BJP'sprime ministerial candidate at the next general elections has been by and large?and not surprisingly?hailed by the English media. The Free Press Journal (December 13) said that the choice of Advani has set at rest speculation about where the rumoured Vajpayee-Advani tussle would lead the party. The paper thought that it is too premature to talk of Narendra Modi as a serious prime ministerial candidate in the foreseeable future and with Pramod Mahajan having met a tragic end the paper said that ?Advani, therefore, has virtually no challenger in the party?. The paper noted that the BJP is no longer the disciplined party it used to be and knitting it together would be no less a challenge.
Significantly the paper said that the RSS and Advani now ?have buried the hatchet in the larger interests of the party? and what is even more significant ?allies of the BJP like the Biju Janata Dal and Janata Dal(U) have pledged their support to him. However the paper also said that ?the days ahead will be far from easy for Advani and the BJP?. Hindustan Times (December 12) no great friend of the BJP thought that the appointment of Advani as the party'snext Prime Ministerial candidate has ?hopefully ended the factional tussle? within it. The party, said the paper, has been for some years now been unable to project a credible second generation leadership and for that reason, it said, Advani will hopefully look into this. What his choice signified, according to the paper was the coming to a close of the Vajpayee era. It said: ?If there is any leader who can hold the party together today, it is Shri Advani?. After a long time, the BJP appeared back in the reckoning as a credible Opposition, Indeed the paper said, ?the developments in the BJP suggest that we can look forward to a far more interesting fight in the next election?. Hindustan Times meanwhile can justly take credit for locating a key-witness in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which a former Union Minister, Jagdish Tytler, was accused of inciting a mob. In its issue of December 7, the paper said: ?The investigative agency'ssubmission to a city court in Delhi comes a month after Hindustan Times traced Jasbir Singh to the US?the first media organisation to do so?. In October, the CBI had sought from the Court closure of the case against Tytler saying Jasbir was untraceable. Hindustan traced Jasbir who was hiding in California. That is some good journalists work, much better and more to be admired than Tehelka'ssting operations. Even if it is strongly, and painfully, against the Gujarat Chief Minister, Hindustan Times (December 5) carried an interesting story from Gujarat that said that ?if Narendra Modi was to run for elections from this portside town in Gujarat (Sikka) where more than 80 per cent residents are Muslims ?he would probably win hands down?. As the paper'sreporter saw it, ?for many Muslims, good governance has blunted the sharp edges of their hostility towards Modi?. The reporter quoted an architect in Jamnagar, Ali Asghar Attarwala as saying: ?If pockets are empty, there will be violence. If people are jobless, there will be violence. Now that everyone is getting jobs, why should there be riots?? Good question. And sound reportage as well. It has been fashionable all these months since Godhra to run Gujarat'sChief Minister down on any pretext, especially by quoting Muslims negatively. The reporter quoted yet another Muslim, a defence contractor as saying: ?Many Muslims are realising that the only truth is development. We have been used by others. We won'tever forget the riots?but the reality is about development.? Yet another Muslim, quoted by the reporter seemed to have still more praise for Modi. He is reported as saying: ?How long can we hang on to the past? This country has to go forward, not backward. Everyone has their view but no other Chief Minister has done as much as Modi. He is not just the Chief Minister of Hindus?. According to the reporter, ?Sikka is swearing by Modi for now?. Miracles can happen. But fancy a Hindustan Times reporter being so positive? Is the paper that has spread so much hatred against the Gujarat Chief Minister seeing light after all these turbulent months? Is there some inward-looking taking place in the editorial office?
Significantly, the media recently came in for some harsh criticism by one of its own kind, Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief of Outlook. On December 19, Mehta received the International Press Institute-India Award for Excellence in Journalism at a function held in Delhi. In receiving the Award, Mehta said somethings that surely would be unpalatable to media bosses. He said that the challenges faced by the Fourth Estate were manifold?from political masters trying to impose a code on the Press to the decidedly blurring demarcation between journalism and entertainment, from the pressure of brand manager dictated sales tactics to determining what the reader wanted in his morning paper. The tendency of publications to follow guidelines set down by free market capitalists dominated newspaper content to the extent that the end product was often something that was widely read and yet criticised by readers as non- serious and trivial. ?The reader? said the acertbic Vinod Mehta, ?is not king, he is a nice hypocrite?. Vice President Hamid Ansari, who made the Award presentation, seemed to agree with Vinod Mehta, in his own speech. Shri Ansari said that the historical role of the press as a provider of information was now battling for survival under a barrage of conflicting demands. He said: ?Market pressures, readership wants and editorial policy all influence content. Often news articles are outnumbered by advertisements and there has been an erosion of news values with the focus shifting to personalities from the news-crux?. Hardly any English daily carried this news item. The exception is The Hindu (December 20), for which, thank God. Sometimes it is not the news reporter but a columnist who focuses attention on the positive. Thus, writing in The Times of India(December 16) Gurcharan Das, columnist, drew special attention to the work done by an IAS officer, Vivek Aggarwal, barely 34-year old, working wonders in the bus transport segment in Indore. Tracing the success story. Gurcharan Das said: ?The average IAS officer spends a life-time pushing files and still get promoted. Vivek Aggarwal, I fear, may actually be punished by a system that puts down achievers?. That'snot cynicism, but grim reality. But why can'tour newspapers follow up on Gurcharan Das? column? Here'sa story that should gladden all hearts.