Media is defined by the dictionary merely as a “means of communication”. In India the way the common citizens received this communication has been changing slowly and steadily since we got Independence.
When we got Independence in 1947, we had great newspapers and great editors. However, by and large, the common citizen believed the government. The Congress party had great credibility and the people believed in their Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
You could say that the Grand Old Party had a stranglehold over information and opinion in India. This situation continued till 1967 when for the first time many regional parties came up in the States.
Then in 1977, the Congress party was toppled for the first time ever at the Centre. Opinions finally started getting divided among the people of India.
BJP leader LK Advani said that during Emergency, journalists crawled when they were told to bend. 1977 was a triumph of the Opposition rather than the media. However, in the 1980s, the newspapers came into their elements.
The Indian Express exposed the cement scam and that led to the resignation of Maharashtra Congress Chief Minister AR Antulay. Fingers were also pointed at Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Then The Hindu exposed the Bofors scam that sullied the Rajiv Gandhi government.
The media ganged up against Rajiv and he tried to silence them with the Anti-defamation Bill which got such resistance that it had to be shelved. Rajiv’s loss in 1989 was as much a victory of VP Singh & Co. as it was for the newspapers.
The 1990s also saw the rise of the Right and the BJP and opinion in India continued to get diversified.
2000s—TV news channels
This decade clearly belonged to the TV news channels. One of the main reasons for the BJP’s defeat in 2004 was TV. The Operation West End sting was played non-stop and so were images of the Godhra riots.
In contrast, the TV channels treated both Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with kid gloves in UPA1. A lot of scams had taken place, but the media by and large refused to do big investigative stories against the Congress.
The TV channels went after the BJP and they lost in 2004.
The TV channels refused to go after the Congress and they won in 2009.
Such was the power of the TV channels in that decade.
In the 2010s, the mainstream media continued to attack the RSS, BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
They continued to treat Sonia with kid gloves. They presented Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi as a knight in shining armour. When AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal burst into the scene, the MSM backed him blindly in a bid to counter Modi.
Who brought Modi to the limelight? Who attacked Sonia? Who made great fun of Pappu? Who called Kejri’s bluff?
The answers to all these questions are social media.
Social media powered the anti-corruption movement. It became big offline. The TV channels had no choice but to cover it.
Social media powered the anti-rape movement. It became big offline. The TV channels had no choice but to cover it.
Even something like the Tarun Tejpal affair was buried for more than 10 days. Somebody leaked the mails in social media and after that the issue just exploded.
People wrongly focus on the fact that a huge chunk of India is not on social media. In the history of the world, it is always a small group of influencers who call the shots.
SM is dictating terms for the politicians and MSM and that in turn is setting the agenda for India.
People who call SM pro-BJP pro-Modi pro-Right have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.
Had SM exploded in 2002, then it would have been the BJP that would have been nuked. At that time Modi would have been surely forced to retire and the BJP would have got less than 100 seats. The SM, MSM and Civil Society would have joined hands to finish off the BJP.
SM is nothing but a true picture of the times we live in.
While the Congress name was mud and Modi’s gold, the MSM tried to turn it the other way around.
Such trickery is not possible any more as social media continues to get stronger and may dictate terms for the whole decade.
In 1947, the government communicated to the citizens.
In 2014, the citizens communicate to the government.
More from the author:
Seven reasons why Nehru was a bad first PM
Beware! The Fascist dictator riseth!
Five reasons why Pappu will be a disastrous PM
Six reasons for Nitish's sudden collapse
Misogynist politicians: Roll of dishonour
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.