The Congress party’s recent decision to boycott prime-time shows featuring 14 television anchors is a questionable move, to say the least. This decision, driven by concerns about the “Hindu-Muslim” narrative presented by these anchors, reflects a hasty and poor choice. It essentially amounts to boycotting the media without a clear understanding of when such engagement might be vital, especially with upcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan. In today’s age of television and smartphones, information dissemination is crucial for electoral success, and it extends beyond mere word of mouth. However, the 14 blacklisted anchors, known for their affiliations and ideologies, are unlikely to lose sleep over this decision. Furthermore, the assumption that boycotting these anchors will deter their narrative is flawed. Change in behaviour among such professionals often requires more than mere censure. Real change often comes when financial stakes are on the line, as demonstrated during the anti-farm laws agitation when one prominent television anchor adjusted their approach in response to the threat of losing their paycheck.
The INDIA alliance’s complaint about the “Hindu-Muslim” narrative seems somewhat misplaced, given that politics, in general, is not free from such divisions. The blacklisting and “naming and shaming” of these 14 anchors appear to be a form of censorship. Paradoxically, this move has backfired, as within 45 minutes, some of the blacklisted anchors were discussing “Sanatan dharma” with INDIA spokespersons invited to their shows. Additionally, this decision has led to a revival of comparisons with “Indira’s Emergency,” which is not a favourable association for the Congress. While the Congress tweeted the names of the “blacklisted 14,” other parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party did not join the ban and had their spokespersons present. Ultimately, this action by the INDIA alliance is unprecedented and raises concerns about press freedom and democratic principles. It may hinder their ability to criticize future curbs on press freedom and freedom of expression. Rahul Gandhi, in particular, loses the moral high ground to question Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to press freedom. The accusation that the “14” favoured the Modi government and suppressed opposition voices has been overshadowed by the perception that the alliance is avoiding engagement and debate. This decision may have inadvertently galvanized the very anchors it sought to silence. The blacklisted “14” includes prominent figures in prime-time television, and their contentious debates continue unabated even after this action.
Notably, not all INDIA alliance parties are in agreement with this decision, highlighting internal discord. In an era where information flows freely, actions like these can have broader implications. Critics link this move to fears of the erosion of Sanatana Dharma and a return to the dark days of Emergency if INDIA comes to power. It raises questions about what measures the alliance might take if they were in power. The decision to blacklist these television anchors has ignited a debate on democratic values, press freedom, and the potential consequences for the INDIA alliance. It remains to be seen whether this move will help or hinder their political objectives. The fallout from the Congress party’s decision to boycott these television anchors continues to reverberate in political circles. While the alliance’s intention was to challenge the narrative, it seems they inadvertently amplified the voices they sought to suppress.