UP Elections: Rajdeep Sardesai Attracts Flak for Unethical Journalism!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sarigika Ghose had been for long been the target of right wing abuse, including physical attack. So much they hate the duo; they once even circulated a photo of Rajdeep as a terrorist and planted it in an Oriya newspaper. Last year Rajdeep defiantly penned an article where he proclaimed:

“When I was first accused of being ‘anti-national’ on social media, I was angry. Now, a few years later, the current coarse political discourse, where desh bhakti certificates are being liberally distributed, tempts me to scream: garv se kaho hum desh-drohi hai (proud to be ‘anti-national’).

Given such a background, eyebrows were raised when both he and his wife, began to call UP election for the BJP even when the poll process was mid-way. While the Left wing ostensibly shocked did not overtly react, it was fellow journalists who took up the gauntlet on challenging Rajdeep Sardesai. In a hard hitting article in The Quint, Mayank Mishra & Chandan Nandy virtually blows into smithereens all Sardesai’s arguments for calling UP for BJP, though they did not mention him by name, the extracts of which could be found below.

It has been quite an experience, for more than one reason, to read reports and columns by veteran journalists, calling the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). One such column appeared in the Hindustan Times on Friday.

The arguments are mostly the same – the BJP has stitched together a broad, and seemingly invincible, coalition of upper castes, extreme backward classes and non-Jatav Dalits. These journalists argue that sheer numbers have placed the BJP at pole position.

The argument is that even if the BJP’s vote share drops by a staggering 10 percent, compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it will still have enough votes to get an absolute majority in the 403-member UP assembly. 

Different Voting Patterns for Assembly and General Elections

Do we need to remind seasoned opinion makers that people vote differently, and for different issues, in the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections?

In 2012, the BJP managed to win only 15 percent of the popular vote, with the Samajwadi Party (SP) bagging 29.13 percent – which was sufficient to propel it to power on the basis of the first-past-the-post principle. Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won 25.91 percent.

The data suggests that in 2012, the polity was fragmented. Travels across western UP (where elections have already been held) and eastern UP (where polling is scheduled for 4 and 8 March) indicate that voters were, and remain, unsure about which party to vote for – some of the responses may be attributed to hedging, or even a polite refusal to disclose preference.

Are there no state-level issues that will play on voters’ minds before they cast their ballots?

UP’s voters have much to think about: the baby steps that Akhilesh Yadav’s government has taken on the development (vikas) front; the SP’s patronage politics, that makes a difference in the lives of people living on the margins; a young CM candidate, who appears to have successfully weathered the storm within his own party, to emerge a “powerful” leader, and his promise to rid the state of gunda raj; not to mention the ubiquitous caste (read Yadav) politics, in which the SP is a champion player. 

While much has been said and written about the SP-Congress alliance and its fortunes, the BSP is no bit player. It enjoys substantial support among the Dalit community, especially the Jatavs, across all districts of UP.

The Mayawati-led party has certainly been hit by demonetisation, but in western UP, it could well end up with the bulk of the seats in its kitty.

Do sweeping generalisations take these differences into consideration?

Predictions make for interesting reading when backed by some numbers and empirical evidence – the number of people spoken to from such broad caste groups, for instance. What has been predicted may well turn out to be true.

But by making such sweeping statements, with a view to create a “favourable” perception for a party to the detriment of others, has an attempt been made to set a new precedent in journalism?

Post script: 

One newspaper column used wrong data on the BJP’s vote in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections. In Bihar, the BJP’s vote share was not 34 percent, but merely 24.42 percent. Social science research methods tell us that data, especially quantitative data, must not only be reliable but also valid.

Read the full article: HERE

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