How India’s Television News Bought into Modi’s Spectacle during the Obama Visit

01 February 2015

If there is one thing Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves to be duly credited for, it should be his uncanny ability to spin the spectacular out of the mundane. This ability was on display at the pageant that he manufactured, aided and abetted by India’s media, for US President Barack Obama’s recently concluded visit to India.

For better or for worse, Modi has dragged conventionally ritualised and stuffy foreign policy engagements out of the elite corridors of the Raisina Road–Hyderabad House complex in New Delhi and into the public sphere. But, has this exhibition of power truly redefined the rules of high-table engagements and resulted in tangible achievements on the ground? Or is it just an extension of our Prime Minister’s continuing efforts to feed into his larger-than-life persona? On all of these, I am afraid the jury is out.

What is, however, incontestable is the relevance of this extravaganza in analysing Modi’s complex equation with the media—a clever albeit contradictory mix of cultivated insouciance and an overwhelming desire to both control and manipulate the message.

Sandeep Bhushan was a television journalist for twenty years. He is currently an independent media researcher.