When the India Today magazine declared Rahul Gandhi as its ‘Person of the Year’ at the end of 2018, social media quickly embarrassed the news organization. They revealed how, every year for nearly a decade, the English magazine has been coming out with at least one edition heralding the rise of Rahul Gandhi and having him on its cover.
The fact that just a few months later the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to power with 303 seats in Lok Sabha, proving the complete failure of the Congress leader’s poll strategy, must have caused great embarrassment in the editorial department of the publication.
But, it seems India Today hasn’t learnt from its past mistake. One of the recent editions of the magazine had the title ‘Failed State’ on its cover and, without any qualifications, blamed the entire COVID-19 carnage in the country on Narendra Modi and his government.
One can argue that this is not a sign of any bias since the country is genuinely suffering a calamity and blaming the government is not exceptional in such a situation. But what completely exposes the biased and skewed nature of the publication’s editorial policy is one particular article published in that edition.
Written by Romita Dutta who is Associate Editor of the publication, this article is about the Bengal election results. But far from seeming like an insightful analysis of the elections, the piece reads like a rabid anti-BJP activist’s polemical rant. There is a smattering of stats but the article couldn’t have been much different if it was written for a Trinamool Congress (TMC) mouthpiece.
The title of the article is ‘From Didi to Durga’, and yes, the writer actually compares Mamata Banerjee to Ma Durga!
The author states: ‘The enduring image of this election will be of the wheelchair-bound Mamata, a wounded tigress who fought alone against the entire might of the BJP, including the Prime Minister. Anti-incumbency, allegations of corruption and minority appeasement, sexist taunts, Mamata braved them all.’
Now, the ‘wounded tigress’ epithet seems ridiculous in the view of how the West Bengal CM seemed miraculously cured as soon as the results were out. Videos showing her shaking her leg and moving it in a way that would be impossible for a genuinely injured person would prove, even to the slightly partial onlooker that Banerjee was anything but wounded.
The acceptance of ‘sexism’ in BJP’s campaign can be only seen as an acceptance of the Bengal CM’s claim that ‘Didi, o didi’ refrain of PM Narendra Modi was a misogynistic jibe. The perversity of mind required to interpret the word ‘didi’ as a ‘catcall’ is ignored by the India Today editor.
But if you still think that Romita Dutta is merely a gullible soul taken in by the claims of TMC, check out what else she writes in her article.
‘Even as she (Mamata) stoked provincial sentiment, she didn’t lose sight of the larger picture—putting the brakes on the BJP’s unrestricted expansionism and attempts to concentrate all power at the Centre in defiance of the country’s federal character, be it the call for one-party-one-nation or the CAA and NRC, which betrayed its wider project of setting up a Hindu rashtra.’
This particular passage is author’s own, not a paraphrased enunciation of a particular party or ideological group’s position. Such a statement usually merits a disclaimer from the publisher that the ‘views expressed are a writer’s own’, but nothing of the sort is written here. Not to forget, this is an associate editor of the magazine and not a columnist.
The attack on BJP is complemented by an unquestioning glorification of the TMC’s campaign. Dutta cites the attacks by the ruling party’s leaders deriding hindi-belt BJP politicians as ‘paan and gutkha-chewing’ – a viciously xenophobic if not racist rhetoric – as an acceptable political tactic.
But it’s not just what Dutta writes but the whole structure of the article that turns it into a paean for TMC and a vitriolic diatribe against BJP. Most quotes are taken from pro-TMC and anti-BJP people who merely repeat the same, old platitudes about the BJP being an alien force out to destroy the syncretic culture of Bengal.
There is almost not one quote taken from anyone from the BJP’s side, or someone non-partisan, to present the view from the other side. It’s as if there is only one side to the story, an idea every young journalist is told never to believe.
Lastly, the associate editor of India Today uses the standard leftist narrative of deeming ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and other aspects of Hinduism as opposed to SC and tribal communities. Here again, instead of an unbiased analysis, she only quotes TMC politicians to suggest that the tribals of Bengal did not welcome the introduction of Ram and Hanuman into their region’s politics.
Considering how the India Today’s English news channel has become a platform for Rajdeep Sardesai to regularly target the BJP in the guise of being a neutral newscaster, this kind of a one-sided piece, almost a devotional endorsement of the supposed greatness of TMC, has ended up on India Today’s pages.