Narendra Modi is now India’s prime minister, with a mandate that is historic by running a campaign that will be the stuff of history. True to his pronouncements in various interviews during elections—that the bile of the campaign trail is just for the campaign—he has tried to look gracious in victory, even breaking down in the central hall of Parliament. For us, the mitron in the media, he has after the results not only called us his very own (“aap to mere apne hain”) but even avoided that exclusive coinage “newstraders”, which he so lavishly used in interview after interview, taking care—always—to absolve his interviewers of that charge. By now, it is safe to assume, all those who interviewed him are not “newstraders”. As for the rest, some of whom had “tough questions” ready but didn’t get the interview, he has kept them wondering.
There’s apprehension among a section of the media about Modi Raj and their own future and interests. The media of the Lutyens’ Zone is worried; the easy relationship with power and power brokers that they enjoyed for a long time is in danger of being terminated. The Outsider may break this most self-perpetuating of cabals, for Modi has no Doon School, St. Stephens, Oxbridge networks to feed and feed into. A bit of unsettling can only do good; politicians and journalists should inspire in each other a feeling of healthy unease, not the warmth that comes from cosy deal-making.
For the rest, wherever they stand on the ideological sphere, the “newstraders” part should be remembered. This was probably the first general election where a prime ministerial candidate repeatedly addressed the media as such, and frequently jibed at all those in journalism who have been critical of him. This was also the election where the message was packaged and controlled in a way unheard of before: even the feed of the rallies was produced by parties—we saw what they wanted us to see. Modi’s trolling of the media was a more sophisticated version of the “paid media” campaign that BJP supporters run on Twitter.
Now that Candidate Modi is Prime Minister Modi, it is time for the media to re-calibrate its focus. Already, the rumour mills of Delhi indicate several high-level editorial changes to follow in the days to come, and perhaps a new set of power brokers are sharpening their knives. In all this, the only thing journalists can resort to is journalism of the kind that is forever questioning, ever vigilant, and undeterred by these attacks. For we will be judged not by how the prime minister sees us but what the reader makes of us.
Saurav Kumar, Editor