Monday, January 26, 2015

Distorting the truth

The mainstream media and political parties are all in a tizzy after yesterday's wonderful Republic Day parade over the accusation that non-BJP ruled states were hardly represented at the parade. In fact, the term used is 'unrepresented.' Here are the facts.

The Congress or its alliance controls nine states of the Union, most of them in the Northeast:

  • Manipur
  • Meghalaya
  • Arunachal Pradesh (represented)
  • Assam  (represented)
  • Mizoram
  • Uttarakhand (represented)
  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Karnataka (represented)
  • Kerala
That's 4 of 9 states that were represented at the parade. 

The non-Congress, non-BJP ruled states are:
  • Bihar (although the Congress supports the ruling alliance)
  • Sikkim (represented)
  • Uttar Pradesh (represented)
  • Jammu and Kashmir (represented; it is under President's rule)
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Telangana (represented)
  • Odisha
  • Tripura
  • West Bengal
So, of these 9 states, again 4 were represented at the parade. 

The BJP/NDA-ruled states are:
  • Jharkhand (represented)
  • Nagaland (the NPF and BJP rule in an official alliance there)
  • Andhra Pradesh (represented; TDP-BJP alliance)
  • Maharashtra (represented; BJP-Shiv Sena alliance)
  • Punjab
  • Rajasthan
  • Haryana (represented)
  • Goa (represented)
  • Madhya Pradesh (represented)
  • Chattisgarh (represented)
  • Gujarat (represented)
Of these 11 states, 8 were represented. Therefore, 73% of BJP/NDA-ruled states were represented and 50% of non-NDA ruled states were represented. Overall, 55% of states and no Union Territories were represented. Of the states represented, 50% were BJP/NDA-ruled and 50% were not. It would take quite a feat of logic to say that 50% means 'unrepresented' or even 'under-represented'. 

Furthermore, if we consider major political formations, these are the number and percentage of states that they rule:
  • Congress/UPA: 9 (31%)
  • BJP/NDA: 11 (38%)
  • TMC: 1 (3.5%)
  • SDF: 1 (3.5%)
  • BJD: 1 (3.5%)
  • So-called Janata Parivar (SP/JD(U)/JD(S)/RJD/INLD): 2 (7%)
  • Communists: 1 (3.5%)
  • AIADMK: 1 (3.5%)
  • President's rule: 1 (3.5%)
  • Anything else/round-off error: 3%
Therefore, the BJP/NDA rule the most states of all political alliances. Statistically, they should have the maximum representation at the parade, which they do, but it should not be overwhelming enough to say that the others are unrepresented (which they aren't). Let me not even get into percentages in terms of population of states, for that would paint a very poor picture of the Congress and I do not wish to sink its ship even further (if that's possible). 

Furthermore, for anyone who knows the process, all states are invited but many, particularly those from the North-East but infamously also the combined Andhra Pradesh, do not bother to even try. Submissions are vetted by a committee of bureaucrats to see if they are worthy enough to be at the parade (there is a due process for this). Whatever comes out of this, is displayed at the parade. Therefore, if a state is not represented, it is the state government's fault, not the Center's, which invited everyone to participate (in fact, a similar process is followed for the Central ministries). Politically, the central government's role is negligible; it is purely a technical affair that the states have to lead in (and most do). 

Where did this controversy come from? From TMC leader Derek O'Brien's allegation that the West Bengal tableau was rejected and the media then painting is at Modi discriminating against non-BJP ruled states. Rules of debate (and justice) require the accuser to prove the accusation - in this case, the TMC has to prove that it was done for political reasons and not for technical reasons (late submission, incomplete proposal, technical faults etc.). This it can do by making its entire correspondence with the Central government on this matter public. It is not enough to say that the submission was based on a noble scheme - if it is accusing partisanship, it has to prove that it is not at fault itself. 

As for the mainstream media, whose journalists do not seem to know the first thing about verifying claims with facts or 'balanced journalism,' the less said the better. The level of debate there is anyway at rock-bottom and accusations are routinely hurled ad nauseum without an iota of proof. Tomorrow, the TMC or any other desperate party in the Opposition could well claim that Modi wiped out the dinosaurs from the planet and the mainstream media would report that to be gospel truth. For that, my fellow Indians, is the media we deserve. 

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