By Quamar Ashraf
Most of the publications this week limit their coverage on coronavirus leaving little space for other issues to figure in. However, some good pieces on Ramzan’s piety and US exit from Afghanistan were also carried out significantly.
Modi-Shah rout: Media, Money, Compromised Institutions vs Mamata Banerjee
Urdu newspapers covered the Mamata Banerjee victory on predictable lines with most of the editorials and articles giving credit to her “uncompressing stand on secularism” for the spectacular show. The BJP’s attempt to ‘frighten Mamata’ with ‘majoritarian onslaught’ didn’t work, says a Rashtriya Sahara edit, praising the ‘iron lady’ for standing firm on her ground. Echoing the view, Munsif edit said that the saffron party failed to do a Congress of Mamata even as it took a swipe at her for “unnecessary show of temple visit”. Shakil Hassan Shamsi in Inquilab lauded the West Bengal CM for her “relentless, untiring campaign”. He wrote, “She was backstabbed by her trusted lieutenants who ‘were poached’ by the BJP, but she remained undeterred and kept campaigning all alone across the state. And it paid her.” However, the victory joy was short-lived as rioters went on rampage across the state. The BJP and the TMC traded charges at each other, even as parties lost their workers. A Sahafat edit wrote that the saffron party could not digest its debacle as it was a severe blow to the Modi-Shah duo who had “pressed into service all dirty tricks departments, media professionals, foot soldiers of Hindutva groups” in the polls. In fact the whole cabinet along with RSS and BJP workers camped in the state for months, applying their all means – money, muscle and mischief – to somehow win the elections. The Assam results, many papers wrote, was a blow to the “robust Congress-AIUDF alliance”. “It was unlikely, but several other factors worked, ” said Etemaad edit. The Kerala and Tamil Nadu results were covered on expected lines.
On the other hand, some papers carried good pieces on panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh where the Samajwadi Party outperformed the ruling BJP as it had done in 2016. Mostly, the edits and articles gave credit to farmers’ unrest for the rout, besides highlighting the state government failures to ensure women safety also led to the crisis. In panchayat elections, women votes matter more and localised issues determine the results, said Sahafat edit, observing that the Yogi Adityanath’s influence in local level is diminishing. Here again violence broke out after the announcement of the panchayat poll results, killing at least half a dozen people.
‘Coronavirus no longer a natural calamity, but a Modi-made disaster’
Broadly, the coronavirus issues were covered with three angles: Modi government’s incompetence, medical aid from Muslim nations and foreign media treatment of the nightmarish situation.
Foreign press Urdu papers skipped the analysis of Indian columnists and editorials relying much on courts’ observations and directions and foreign publications. Shakil Hassan Shamsi’s piece in Inquilab, “Can Indian govt silence the international media?” gave references of several foreign publications which directly held Modi’s demagoguery and incompetence responsible for the “uncontrolled situation”. The Siasat edit in this regard held Indian media equally responsible for the disastrous situation. Other smaller papers, however, observed the ‘servile Indian media’ started reporting facts as they simply cannot “afford to hide such a gross failure.”
Poor governance: Complacence and incompetence of the Modi government have widely come under attack across all publications with many directly holding Modi’s responsible for the mess since he “commands” all the power. Munsif ran an edit on Modi’s obsession with poll rallies writing that the innocuous PM ignored the experts’ warning of the second wave and went on to address large gatherings. In the same vein, Rashiduddin in Siasat wrote that Modi didn’t stop large religious gatherings at Haridwar fearing a dent on his “Hindu Samrat” image.
Medical aid from Muslim countries: While US, UK and other countries extended medical assistance to India, what perturbed the Hindutva brigades the support from the Arab world, wrote Mumbai’s Urdu Times edit. No column and write-up singled out the Muslim countries’ aid support, but smaller papers obliquely took a swipe at the BJP and RSS supporters “whose discomfort grew manifold to learn Muslim world helping India” as such ‘gestures demolish the anti-Muslimism narrative they have been trying to set for over several decades”. “Medial aid for the Covid victims from countries like UAE and Saudi Arabia couple with Pakistan’s offer of support make Hindutva groups sick,” wrote Azam Shahab in Inquilab, adding they don’t care much for the Covid victims, but for the “imagined narrative of hate and bigotry”.
The writer, a media analyst, can be reached at quamar.ashraf@gmail.