ibnlive » Politics

Dec 24, 2007 at 09:43pm IST

IBNLive Chat: 'Authoritarian streak, but Modi delivers'

New Delhi: Gujarat has given its verdict — it's a resounding victory for Narendra Modi. With the stunning victory, Modi has overcome anti-incumbency factor, internal dissidence and, more importantly, ghosts of the past. How does one explain this Modi wave? What is it that gives Modi such an iconic image?

Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN, analysed these issues in a live chat on our chatroom on IBNlive.com on Monday. Here we reproduce the full transcript of the chat.

Vijay: English media is biased towards Modi and BJP. Many are pro-Congress. Easy way to increase the TRP is to rake up post-Godhra issue. Why you don't talk about Godhra or Nandigram?

DECODING MODI: The 'chappan ki chaati' remark exemplifies the success of Modi's personality cult.

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro- and anti-camps, especially in the context of Gujarat. Why can't we discuss issues honestly and dispassionately without attaching labels? At CNN-IBN, we speak on a range of issues from Godhra to post-Godhra to Nandigram.

Raju: Mr Rajdeep, can you accept it is a defeat of media, particularly CNN-IBN? Because media has been showing a wrong, maligned and insulting picture of Gujarat every time in the name of Modi!

Rajdeep Sardesai: A victory for Modi is not a defeat for the media, it is the defeat of the Congress party. Far from showing an insulting side of Gujarat, we have attempted to show all sides of the Gujarat story, the good, the bad and the ugly. I might add here that in every poll we did at CNN-IBN on Gujarat, we said Modi was winning.

Sarita: Why do you think media failed miserably to predict such overwhelming majority of BJP despite all odds? The English media was optimistic till the last minute that there would be a Congress swing and anti-establishment buzz throughout the state, but it didn't happen. Modi dislikes English media strongly for this biased and parochial attitude for the media's so-called pseudo-secular tilt. He has not yet given any interview to any news channel. Last time it was bad blood in the Karan Thapar show. How do you foresee: will the English media's relationship with Modi go from now? Will it be anti- or pro-Modi now when the Gujaratis have given their verdict in huge numbers?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think the media and pollsters got Saurashtra horribly wrong. We cannot escape responsibility for that. But let me be honest: at no stage, did I feel that the Congress had any chance in Gujarat. In fact, I've just won a single malt bet for predicting more than a 110 seats for the BJP! I think we need to look at Narendra Modi and Moditva without the ideological blinkers. I think the media tends to look at the Modi phenomenon in black and white terms. We either demonise him or lionise him. We should analyse and report on him in a more complex manner.

JM:Your Exit poll was not perfect this time. What happened?

Rajdeep Sardesai: No Exit poll can ever be 'perfect'. We did predict a Modi victory. We could not predict the scale of the triumph. We got Saurashtra badly wrong in the belief that local factors there were working against Modi. The raw data actually did show Modi doing well, but we never captured the magnitude of the Modi appeal in Saurashtra. Hence, our prediction of a 100 seats versus the 117 that he ended up with.

PP:Is there something more to Hindutva that Modi carries with this success. As Hindutva alone can't make you win four consecutive elections? There still remains a question that isn't it necessary to have a 'chhapan ki chaati' as Mr Modi says to win an election. None of the CMs till date dare to touch hard on sensitive issues like collecting outstanding electricity bills from farmers as Mr Modi has done?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think that's a good question. It's wrong to see Modi's success at the polls only in the context of communal polarisation or Hindutva politics. I think the 'chappan ki chaati' remark exemplifies the success of Modi's personality cult: tough, politically incorrect, and defiant of criticism, questioning political orthodoxy, promising good governance. There is an authoritarian streak in him, but also a demonstrated commitment to a strong administration. In contrast, the other leaders of Gujarat appear weak and effete.

Indranil: When the BJP wins, you say it's a victory of Modi. But at the same time why don't you portray the loss as Sonia's or Rahul's defeat?

Rajdeep Sardesai: That's also a good question. I think the Congress has an ostrich-like attitude to defeat. It is unwilling to introspect, or identify the real reasons for its defeat in states. I think the organisational crisis of the party is the real issue, not just the leadership of Sonia-Rahul. At the same time, don't be surprised if the Congress wins a series of state elections next year. Interestingly, a victory will be seen as a victory for Sonia-Rahul, while a defeat will be blamed on the state leadership of the party!!

Binu Thomas: Exit polls, including CNN-IBN's, was way off the mark. This has become a trend in recent elections, to get the final results quite wrong. What is CNN-IBN going to do to make sure it gets more accurate results in future?

Rajdeep Sardesai: If you look at our record over the last two years, we have got seven out of eight elections right in terms of trends. The one that we got wrong was Punjab. In Gujarat, we failed to predict the scale of the Modi triumph, but we said from day one that he was winning. I think we need to take a harder look at our polling systems. Led by Yogendra Yadav, we have the best team in the business and the in house post-mortems have begun to improve our polling systems.

Prabhu:Who is best of all MGR or Indira or NTR or Modi?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Interesting, you referred to MGR, Indira and NTR in the context of Modi. Like these three leaders, Modi's too is a triumph of personality cult politics at one level. I guess Indira managed to do it on a national scale. The challenge for Modi now is whether he can really rise above being a regional Gujarat-specific satrap.

Rao:Rajdeep, don't you feel that Moditva is a creation of media, now a most used word in elitist English media, and trying to draw a line between Modi and BJP?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think there is a new strand of Hindutva politics that Modi is injecting. It combines an aggressive, muscular commitment to religious identity, but also a strong commitment to governance and developmental issues. The politics of Moditva revolves around the personality of an individual, hence the use of the term.

R Raj:The verdict in Gujarat will not wipe the slate clean for a self-confessed killer. How long will it take for the crawling wheel of justice to find a guilty verdict. I see this man being found guilty sooner if not later. Do you feel that the land of Gandhi is turned into a land of Godse?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think there are Constitutional processes in the country which will judge Modi. The electorate of Gujarat has judged him positively. How the courts will judge him will be based on evidence and the rule of law. Whether he is guilty or not is for the judicial system to decide. I don't think it would be fair to say the land of Gandhi has turned into the land of Godse. Gujarat has much to be proud of: I haven't seen a more enterprising, hard-working people who seem truly committed to economic progress.

Whizkid_No 1: Why is Rajdeep Sardesai being seen as someone who has become biased?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Because, as I said earlier, we are dividing people into 'them' versus 'us' based on our own ideological blinkers. I dream of an India that allows greater space for debate and dissent without accusing people of bias simply if we don't agree with everything they say. As a journalist, my aim is to report what I see.

Mihir Desai:Rajdeep don't you think as he is a lot better, in fact the best, among all the chief ministers, we have now or we had in past?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think Modi is a very hard-working, dynamic Chief Minister who has evolved his own model of development. Like all individuals, he too has a darker side, which he must confront a little more honestly.

Suyash:Modi's positive aspects and what he did for Gujarat was not illustrated by the media. Don't you think so, Rajdeepji? Because it's quite obvious without this he must have not won the hearts of Gujarat.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Modi has definitely won the minds of a large section of people living in Gujarat. I agree his positive aspects need to be looked at more honestly. The media can't see Gujarat as an ideological battleground only; it must be also seen as a state on the move.

Amit: You say: "I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro- and anti- camps." Then how would describe the concerted and chartered media propaganda against Modi, which we have been seeing on channels like CNN-IBN?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Only last week, a Hindustan Times media critic accused us of being unabashedly pro-Modi!! I guess we must be doing something right at CNN-IBN to attract such diverse opinions. We have never run any campaign against Modi, we have, as i said, attempted to present every shade of opinion in and outside the state.

Sayee Prasannaa: What influence would Modi have in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections if he opts for a nationwide campaign?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I am looking forward to seeing how Modi campaigns outside Gujarat. He will undoubtedly be a crowd puller, but crowds don't always bring in votes. Indian elections are now an aggregation of state elections and each election has a distinctive character. Mayawati won UP, but couldn't make any dent in Gujarat.

Suraj:Since Rahul's charm has failed against Modi in Gujarat, like in the UP elections, do you think it's time the Congress looks outside the Gandhi dynasty to find a suitable leader to take on an invincible force like Modi?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think the Congress needs to empower state leaders in the manner the BJP leadership — whether unwittingly or deliberately — empowered Modi in Gujarat. State elections increasingly require strong regional personalities to be projected.


Sai Ramesh:What is your darker side, Rajdeep? Can you confront now honestly?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Wrestling with it every day!!

Dinesh:Mr Rajdeeep, all the media was crediting this as Modi's victory but think without the help of cadre, no single man can achieve this scale of victory? What is your comment?

Rajdeep Sardesai:I think Modi has attempted to evolve a new kind of electoral politics which directly appeals to the voters by marginalising the party's traditional vote-gathering systems — a bit like what Mrs Gandhi did with the Congress in the early '70s. It worked in Gujarat, not sure if it can work across the country yet.

Gurudatt:Rajdeep, personally are you happy with Modi's victory?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I won a bottle of single malt, so I guess I should be happy!! On a more serious note, I enjoy the process of elections as a journalist, more than individual victories and defeats. Remember what was said about success and failure being imposters!!

Dr Pranav: Hi Rajdeep, have you analysed where the educated have voted and why? Modi would be the answer, and you should make an honest effort to find the reason.

Rajdeep Sardesai: The interesting aspect of this Gujarat election is that Modi and the BJP actually did even better in rural than urban Gujarat. It wasn't as if the educated voted for Modi only, his appeal went beyond regional, class and caste in this election. In that sense, it's a remarkable victory.

Srivivasan R: Do you think BJP will carry the Moditva strategy into the Lok Sabha Polls? Won't it be a grave mistake if they do so? How long do you think it would be before Congress gets articulate spokesman like Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad? I think it is Arun who made the difference - What do you think?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think Arun Jaitley is one of the most articulate persons I have ever met; but then so is Kapil Sibal. I guess the legal profession's loss is our gain!!

Chaitanya Dabir: How do you rate CNN-IBN's coverage of Gujarat elections versus other channels?

Rajdeep Sardesai:I didn't see the other channels so I can't comment. I can claim that our coverage was honest and credible.

Ganesh:Rajdeep, can we say that the Congress party has now been wiped out from Gujarat?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think Gujarat will continue to see two-party politics. I think the Congress needs to do a lot of soul searching in Gujarat before it can hope to make a comeback. I hate to write off anyone in politics.

Anant Jain:How much is CNN-IBN TRP-driven?

Rajdeep Sardesai: We are news-driven my friend. TRPs are only one barometer to measure success. I believe quality journalism will always work.

Kaunain: Modi is good leader or good actor?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think he is an astute politician who has branded himself very well.

Nilangjoshi:What do you think the main reason behind Modi's victory in Gujarat?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I see the triumph at two levels. a) BJP is now a saffron bastion and is deeply entrenched in the state. b) Modi has been successful in creating a personality cult, which the Opposition cannot match at the moment.

Sreehari: Sir, do you miss analysing elections with Prannoy Roy?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I enjoyed analysing elections with Dr Roy. It was an honour.

Aishik:Hi Rajdeep, you were wearing a bright blue kurta yesterday in your analysis. Does it give any hint about your political aspirations? Why such a colour in such a crucial night?

Rajdeep Sardesai: No political aspirations, not now, not ever.

Simha: What will happen to Keshubhai now? Will he join the Congress? Will it not strengthen the Congress hands?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I guess Keshubhai should play with his grandkids!! More seriously, one feels a little saddened to see a senior politician looking so forlorn and isolated.

Arvind Dhar: Rajdeepji, tell me why media remain silent when 6 lakh Kashmiri Pandits are ethnically cleansed and they do not have voting rights forget govt jobs etc. In Gujarat you all do a negative campaign against Modiji now. He has proven his position. Will the media be more realistic and talk more on reality. Since 2002, in how many programmes have you highlighted the riots of Gujarat? Did you ever ran a single programme on the plight of the Pandits? Why were Javed Akhtar and Teesta absent when we talk of Kashmirir terrorists killing pandits and their plight.

Rajdeep Sardesai: That's not true. The media has also highlighted the Kashmiri Pandits. We identify with victims, be they in J&K or Gujarat.

Manish Trivedi: Rajdeepji, I and hundreds others have tried to tell you and your colleagues in IBN through comments. And I am disappointed to say you don't care about our view and have done nothing to address our concerns relating to the kind of journalism we the viewers are getting from you IBN. Do you care what we think?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Of course Manish, we do. We are the channels that have attempted to do inclusive journalism where you the viewer can play Citizen Journalist.

Janardhan: Dear Rajdeep sir, I am your biggest fan. I watch you day and night. In case your opinion polls for Indian of the Year goes in favour of Narendra Modi, will you give him the prize. I eagerly wait for your response?

Rajdeep Sardesai: We have an honest, transparent system to decide the Indian of the Year. Our jury will take the final call. If in their wisdom they feel Modi should be Indian of the Year, he will be.

Sureshh: Will the Muslim population of Gujarat be threatened by this poll verdict?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I fear a boundary wall exists today between Hindus and Muslims in several parts of Gujarat. It's now for the state administration to restore trust and mutual confidence between communities. This is not about poll verdicts, but about creating a more humane, compassionate society and leaders from both communities need to take the lead.

Abhi: Rajdeep, why do development-based elections caused a miserable failure for Chandrababu Naidu in his state or even the BJP when it came to national elections, whereas the same put Modi forward with such a thumping majority? Is it more about his persona or are the people of the state more business driven?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think it's a combination of reasons. I think Gujarat as a state was more ready to accept the Modi brand of politics than an Andhra might be. As I said earlier, each state now has unique characteristics. There is no one successful formula.

Srikanth Venkatesan: Your coverage was very good and the best among the channels all discussions were to the point.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Hey thanks. Appreciate a compliment always.

Venkat: Would Modi look to opt for politics of inclusion in his third term as CM? Or do you think his victory justifies the BJP's faith in its core Hindutva ideology? How do you think the Modi factor will play up in terms of national politics? Is this mandate a worm's eye view of what we could see in 2009? Or are we thinking too far ahead?



Rajdeep Sardesai: 2009 could again be a General Election fought in the era of coalition politics. In Gujarat, Modi's chemistry with the voter worked. In a General election, arithmetic often matters more than chemistry. I think we will see yet another alliance government. As for Modi, I think he does have a challenge to gain greater national acceptability. Inclusive politics will have to be an important element of his Raj dharma.

Raj Sekhar:Rajdeep, what is your take on the 'rebel factor'? Don't you think that they underestimated Narendra Modi?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think the Gujarat rebels were no match for the Modi charisma. Political rebels often confuse personal frustrations with voter anger.

Rajendra Nanda: Hi Rajdeep, my question would Modiji move to Central politics very soon? If yes, then is it ok for the Gujarat voters who voted the BJP only considering that Modi would lead Gujarat for the next 5 years?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think Modi would like to move to national politics in the next five years, but I am not sure how much space his own party will give him just yet. He will be a star campaigner in some states, but he still needs to get national acceptability in the era of coalition politics.

Rahul Verma: Bush should give visa to Modi now ?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I don't believe in political untouchability and Modi is a democratically elected leader of an Indian state. I think Bush should give Modi a visa. At the same time, I do believe Modi must show greater visible empathy for the victims of 2002, Godhra and post-Godhra.

Ami: Rajdeep, I have been following your coverage on Gujarat and the Modi-led government there since 2002. Has there been any change in your perception of Modi over the years? Do you personally believe he has done a lot in terms of development and anti-corruption ideology? Or do you continue to believe he is hate-worthy for his religious ideologies?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I don't believe in hate politics. There is much to admire in Modi as a chief minister, but I still would like to see him do much more in reaching out to minorities.

Ram Kumar: Hi Rajdeep, when is your book about 'NEWS' coming out?

Rajdeep Sardesai: One day!! I hope!!

Ganesh Chattanath: Rajdeep, I am from Karnataka now in USA, the media has provided extensive coverage for the Gujarat elections, is there a reason for this? Will you be providing the same coverage for elections in Karnataka also?

Rajdeep Sardesai: We will try to provide the same scale and depth of coverage to Karnataka, promise!! Gujarat captured the national imagination because there was a personality at the centre of the campaign, who had created ripples far beyond his state.

Prabhu: Did you congratulate Mr Modi for his win?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I did send his office an SMS. Hope they got it!!

Sreehari: Sir, what positive can a Muslim look for in this victory for Modi?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think we have to hope that Modi in his new avatar will reach out to the Indian Muslim more positively. That's one of the challenges he faces.

Pulak Kumar Singh: Sir, it's Modi's victory or BJP's?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Both. It's Modi's victory because in politics, it is jo jeeta wohi sikandar. But at another level, it's also a BJP triumph.

Bijo: Saw you commenting on the elections all the while from 7 am to 3 pm. Where do you get all the energy man?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I love election days. It gives me a high.

Dhananjay: Who is bad for a developing India — Modi or Lalu?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think both Modi and Lalu need to re-invent themselves. Lalu as vikas purush who looks beyond caste, Modi as a good administrator who reaches out to minorities in a more compassionate manner.

Ranjit20: Congrats for the achievements that CNN-IBN has made this year and the Battle for Gujarat was one of best coverage. Is this victory gives some confidence for the CMs to go for elections on development basis?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Good question. Making development a core election agenda when asking for votes is not easy. Modi succeeded because he was able to deliver in key areas and also because he laced his development appeal with the right dose of emotionalism.

Saqlain Ahmed from Pakistan: Hi Rajdeep, I am Saqlain from Pakistan. We in Pakistan were also curious about Gujarat election. Your media in India is much more independent and courageous than ours. Congratulations!!!

Rajdeep Sardesai: I hope we see a free and fair election in Pakistan next month.

Balaji: Nuclear deal, can we say now is a thing of history? Especially, when both the Congress and the Left seem disinterested in a early parliamentary elections?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I can't see the Left and the Congress coming to an agreement on the N-deal.

Vispi Jokhi: How would Gandhi have dealt with the Modi phenomenon? Do you think Modi would have tolerated Gandhian satyagraha?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think Gandhi was the greatest Indian of the last century. I think it's his moral courage that gives him that stature.

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