What makes Yogi Adityanath the role model for other BJP CMs? That was my column, Politically Correct, on Monday, which stirred some outrage as any hard facts seem to do these days. Of the hundreds of angry reactions — “eulogy to a ruthless Fascist”, “normalising bigots”, “fake news”, “paid job” and so on and so forth — my favourite was “Thuuuuuu (without reading)”.
Consider some facts.
1. Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa sends his animal husbandry minister to Lucknow to learn about UP’s anti-cow slaughter law.
2. MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan sends an emissary, assembly protem speaker, to learn about UP’s law against inter-faith marriage.
3. A day after UP CM declares his intention to bring the so-called ‘anti-love jihad’ law, his Haryana counterpart, Manohar Lal Khattar, takes a cue and declares the same.
4. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani instructs police officials to follow the UP model of recovering compensation for damages to properties by anti-CAA protesters.
The conclusion in my #PoliticallyCorrect column, therefore, was absolutely correct on facts. I can understand some people didn’t like these. They can’t challenge or change the facts. So they would rather intimidate me not to speak the truth. It won’t work. Because people more vicious and powerful have tried this with me before. I keep my essential learning as a political journalist — that my voting preferences do not determine my facts or my analysis. It’s worked for me brilliantly. As also for the wonderful institutions I have worked for over these 24 newsy years.
Social media hectoring as a tactic and pastime has been in vogue for some time now. What was, however, noteworthy in this particular case was the explosion of anger ostensibly by a section of PM Narendra Modi’s critics. It is perfectly legitimate for people to be Modi critics. But, for some reason, as a JNU alumnus, one could almost hear “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh” — what once used to be the war cry on Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in New Delhi — resonating in the Twitter universe. I am, however, cautious not to paint my critics with any ideological brush. Critics have to be heard and respected. Not to be terrified of.
In the old days, such cries would invariably drown the faint slogans of ‘mandir wahin banayenge’. Times have changed. Mandir is coming up, sanctified by the Supreme Court. Can any slogan or anger change that fact? Does it matter whether you and I like it or not?
Realities of life outside the campus have forced even many of those warriors to make peace or collaborate with once sworn enemies — ‘capitalists’ and ‘neo-imperialist forces.’ Many, of course, are helping the Modi government as IAS/IPS/IFS officers.
What to expect from BJP CMs
So, what was it in the column that sent some people over the edge? It wasn’t obviously out of a sense of betrayal by BJP chief ministers who are making Yogi Adityanath their role model. It’s their party, ideology and politics. Was it because the Uttar Pradesh CM has become the BJP’s second most sought-after campaigner despite a history of police encounters, this terrible ‘love jihad’ law and the use of UAPA and National Security Act in the state? All of that is an issue. But the BJP and its candidates still get to choose who should be their star campaigner after Modi.
I guess that may not be the reason for them to be upset about. Not so, because I doubt their wisdom or comprehension. Just that it would apply if only they had read the article. But now, some of the intellectual discourse in these fraught times is a case of shoot first, ask questions later. Just like Yogi’s police often do, no?
Many figured it and we can see the wasted exhortations of a few who sought to reason with somebody who has risen to particular eminence on Twitterverse: “Aunty pehle pdh toh lo article.” But that’s a huge ask.
Blame Twitter for influencing our reading habits. It increased the tweet limit from 140 to 280 characters but not many have taken kindly to this. By the way, that is what inspired our much talked about innovation of the #50WordEdit.
But the attention span is still limited to 140 characters, or even less. Headline is, therefore, the key. But that too, you can choose to read from right to left or left to right and miss whatever you find inconvenient in the middle.
This underlines the challenge of political reporters and analysts today: How to explain facts and nuances in a headline, and then idiot-proof it. The previous column (again without being read) might have drawn a contrary response if I had only added one word in the headline: ‘only’. So, if it was like: What makes Yogi Adityanath a role model ONLY for other BJP CMs. This is like reminding people to laugh after you tell them a joke that they were too distracted to pay attention to.
That is how it seems from the reactions of a section of these Modi-Yogi critics. Remember Cameron Diaz asking Tom Cruise in Knight and Day: With Me, Without Me? Cruise knew the answer in the movie. A political reporter or analyst may not, and must not.
Outrage, why be confused by facts
As it is, there is an increasing tendency on the part of politicians from all sides, to paint us journalists as ‘Godi media’ or ‘fake news factory’ or part of ‘tukde tukde gang’.
Journalism trains us to provide facts, and perspectives based on them. And facts are clinical, not infected by ideology or politics. Facts also won’t change to make themselves less inconvenient to us. The fact is that, today, Yogi Adityanath is the most sought-after campaigner for the BJP, after Modi. Go ahead, fight with me over this — with facts.
For me, it would be intellectually dishonest and cowardly to deliberately not acknowledge that fact. But, those sticking to these principles of classical journalism have a tough time today as questions keep flying from all interested corners: With Me, Without Me?
Views are personal.