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UP Election Result 2017: Drama around Akhilesh Yadav's response to a hypothetical situation puts media in a bad light

In Uttar Pradesh, it is not clear whether the BJP would form the next government or Samajwadi Party would retain it, though the exit polls have generated enough speculation. It is as if the ball is still in the air after an agonising seven-phase polling.

The exit polls are not convergent on any point. Each has a different number and only India Today–Axis poll predicts a landslide for the BJP. The poll of polls also varies and it is now clear: No one seems to know what will be the outcome on 11 March. Eminent heads have, and will continue to, almost like a blind man trying to feel the elephant.

 UP Election Result 2017: Drama around Akhilesh Yadavs response to a hypothetical situation puts media in a bad light

File image of Akhilesh Yadav. AP

In the midst of ‘let-us-guess’ tamasha, came the ‘news’ which implied that Akhilesh Yadav had almost given up and indicated that he may not be averse to a tie-up with the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party. He said nothing of the sort.

According to this audio track from the BBC Radio, he repeatedly stressed that his party, in an alliance with the Congress, would secure the majority to form the government in Lucknow. Not once, but twice. When the interviewer pressed on with the possibility of a hung House, Yadav said what he said, hypothetically.

No one would want a President’s Rule as it would mean governance of Uttar Pradesh with the BJP having the remote control. President’s Rules are conducted by the governor who reports to the Home Minister, though technically, it is to the President in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

At no time did he concede a possibility of a loss at the hustings so laboriously and vehemently fought, and in which the media kept Mayawati and the BSP on the fringes, making it appear as if it was a direct fight between the BJP and the SP-Congress for the 403 seats.

A hypothetical response to a hypothetical question on which the media pounced. It set such a wildfire that Ravidas Mehrotra, an outgoing minister, went on record to whine about the losses the party would suffer because of the alliance with the Congress. He also had his other reasons: His was a seat on which a Congressman too contested despite their alliance. But the media report citing the BBC gave him the impetus.

It is not that I question the likelihood of the SP-Congress loss but building an entire superstructure of a political pyramid for a state on the strength of a hypothetical response to a hypothetical question detracts from the credibility of the media which is already low for a variety of reasons. This includes paid news, biases because of the ownership of the media outlets, both by way of their political inclinations and business interests, and the sheer inability to build a larger picture because of dependence on circumstantial wisdom which is the requirement for being a sought-after chatting head for a TV studio.

Each and every pundit heard on any channel had his or her own take, each of it sounding quite plausible in isolation but when put together with other views, did not quite fit the jigsaw. When channels have to run from about 5 pm on Friday to about 8 am on Saturday when the results start to indicate trends, it leads to a lot of pointless speculation.

That is the time, I wager, when advertisers flock to the TV channels and book air time and in between, to the exclusion of other news that may or may not be developing, the airtime has to be filled. What better than a discussion on the possibilities till the reality proves one or the other right or wrong?

This is what is precisely wrong with the media. The tendency to waffle and the tendency to provide it with an air of authority, of even butting in during a response of an interviewee with the surprising comment; “You have just given us a headline” even before, as in Akhilesh Yadav’s case, he provides the entire context. Sometimes, such opportunities too are denied.

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Updated Date: Mar 10, 2017 18:34:45 IST