After having danced to Narendra Modi’s tune for over five years, the media is doing much the same during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections—only now, it is doing so without coercion. Much of the media is reporting, as it should, the violations of the electoral code, the divisive rhetoric, the bigotry and the sheer uncouthness of language that Modi brings to the campaign. But it is doing so with a misplaced sense of outrage. This language is exactly what is expected of Modi—he is not doing anything that is out of character. He has been elected and endorsed by a good many voters for doing exactly this.
We can but hope that at some point, some institution will show the necessary sense and courage to act, but it seems Modi’s actions are guided by careful deliberation. He appears sure that no one will act, and that the media will report events in just the fashion he wants, to provoke the outrage he seeks.
The latest such episode has involved some rather uncharitable remarks about the former Congress prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. This attack was perplexing only given that Rajiv is Modi’s true spiritual forebearer. Rajiv handed Modi the template of using a single violent incident—the assassination of Indira Gandhi or the deaths in the train in Gujarat’s Godhra—as the pretext for allowing one’s political party to target a minority while ensuring that the police refuses to act, and even collaborates with the violence. And then, of using this orchestrated violence as the basis for a bigoted election campaign, driven by a professional corporate advertising agency.