People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 42

October 21, 2012




Corporate Media, the West and the Politics of Forgetting


Archana Prasad


ON the campaign trail, the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, dared the prime minister to compete with him on development. Speaking to another news channel, he said “that development was his sole agenda” and the entire Gujarat election was about “development.”




A few days later the British government asked its high commissioner to India to visit Gujarat and discuss the methods of “close cooperation with the Gujarat government.” It justified its decision by explaining that “following an internal review by the British government,” it was felt that the “country's judicial system had not indicted Modi” (in the 2002 riots cases). Therefore the British government was responding to the pressure of the Gujarati NRIs who were important investors in the Modi government.


This development has been widely reported by electronic media channels as the end of the “global isolation” of Modi. Coming in the wake of the Naroda Patiya judgement, such developments only highlight a common interest between Modi and the corporate media which seeks to create a positive public opinion on the ‘Gujarat model of development’ by erasing the memories of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Thus, Ashish Khetan, whose Tehelka tapes helped in the conviction of Babu Bajarangi stated in a seminar on “Justice, Media and Mass Crimes,” co-sponsored by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), that the electronic media had to take some responsibility for the failure of justice in Gujarat. Questioning the Gujarat model of development, he rightly asked the question: How Gujarat can be a developed state if was the home of a terrible genocide? These sentiments were an endorsement of the comments made by noted historian, Romila Thapar, two days before, when she asked: “If Gujarat was so developed then what was the need for the killings?” This important connection between “development” and the need to reconcile and forget runs contrary to the need to remember the genocide of 2002 if the victims of the Gujarat carnage are to get justice.




The need to forget the Gujarat riots is closely associated with the international marketing strategy of the “Gujarat story” as a representative of corporate capitalism in India. In this sense Modi is not only an icon of Hindutva but also of the success of authoritarian corporate capital that has made its way into the media as well.


Therefore it is not surprising that the editor of a leading electronic channel emphasised the need to find a “middle ground” and to recognise that Modi had done a remarkable job for development in Gujarat. Another prominent news channel has pronounced Narendra Modi as a clear winner in the elections of December 2012 and a serious contender for prime ministership. In all these cases the anchors and journalists choose to paper over the fascistic and authoritarian character of Gujarat regime as it is now being marketed as the prime investment destination. In the ‘vibrant Gujarat’ summit of 2011 Modi declared that Gujarat had signed 8000 MOUs which committed 460 billion dollars worth of investment in the state. At the same time he told the Wall Street Journal in August 2012 that after making Gujarat the centre of auto manufacturing he was now going to concentrate on “defence equipment.” He is now selling Gujarat to foreign defence contractors who will offer him multi-billion dollars contracts.


The British government’s willingness to forget Gujarat 2002 and to extend an olive branch to Modi in October 2012 has to be seen in this context. It may open the door for the Americans too to forget and forgive so that they can make their multi-million dollar deals.


The repeated exaltation of Gujarat as a model state for development and governance shows that Modi’s aggressive image building and marketing strategy has succeeded in normalising a discourse of reconciliation within the mainstream media. Gujarat Shining is a hegemonic campaign for the greater penetration of private capital and the empowerment of the industry, but is packaged in the ideological garb of ‘Gujarati Asmita’ (Gujarat Identity). In this way any opposition to investor friendly policies are considered as an anti-Gujarat campaign. It is obvious that a corporate funded media will hardly tarnish the image of a corporate supported chief minister. Hence even though there are occasional attempts to burst the bubble, these are mainly expressed in terms of the social inequities that are natural to any form of corporate capitalism. But it seldom ever challenges inherent authoritarianism and fascistic character of such a model of development.




Modi’s authoritarian and personalised style of governance is fully compatible with the policy of empowering corporate capitalists. The way in which Modi has been attempting to stifle all forms of dissent and resistance that can counter the politics of Hindutva and neo-liberalism has been largely ignored by the corporate media. In fact the farmers’ and fisher people’s movements have been as aberrations in the Gujarat story and never treated as a systematic challenge facing democratic politics.


This has resulted in a carefully designed political vacuum. Forbes India (September 24, 2012) reports that between 2002 and 2007 Modi created a back-up for his own parallel structure in the party organisation. Five local educated Modi loyalists were appointed as gramsewaks in each of Gujarat’s 18,000 villages. They were empowered to have influence over local decision-making such as those about allocating funds, forming self-help groups and grading them for loan eligibility, and they became Modi’s contacts in the local power structure. Thus they act as local informants who are even more important than appointed cabinet ministers whose performance is evaluated by them. As a former colleague of Modi stated, “Ministers hardly have a role in this government. It is run by bureaucrats.”


This complete centralisation of power is engineered through technology where high-speed internet and video conferencing equipment help senior officials sitting at the headquarters to monitor the progress of government projects. As per the Forbes India report (September 24, 2012), it also doubles up as the backbone of Modi’s public relations machinery, says an official. “We’ve been singled out,” Sarpanch Shobhaji Jumaji says, “because the village votes for the Congress.” In the last election, only 18 voted for the BJP. He claims Patel has been openly saying that things would get better only for those villages that vote for Modi.




In this way, Modi has been instrumental in killing democracy and political discourse within his state. The corporate media’s conspiracy of silence on these issues is directly related to its support for the agenda of authoritarian corporate capital. But the truth has uncanny ways of emerging from the sustained struggles of riot victims and the activists and journalists who have been supporting them. Tehelka journalist Ashish Khetan’s testimony and sting operation of the accused in Naroda Patiya has been crucial in the conviction of Babu Bajrangi as pointed out by Judge Jyotsna Yagnik. In this context the politics of forgetting is the instrument of the Hindutva brand of corporate capitalism. By the same measure, keeping alive the memory of Gujarat 2002 and the sustained fight for justice can be the building blocks of the fight against Narendra Modi, the brand ambassador of authoritarian corporate capitalism.