Even though I didn’t find enough indicators of a mother-of-all-elections on the streets of Varanasi, speak to the average Banarasi and he or she would definitely have a view on the political sentiments of a majority of citizens.
I asked the person who helped us get special access to the famed Kashi Vishwanath Temple on who he thinks is a likely winner and he said rather emphatically that it will be Narendra Modi, even as he hastened to added: Kejriwal is a nice, honest guy.
The owner of Pahelwaan Lassiwalla, a lassi shop near the gates of the Banaras Hindu University, was confident of Narendra Modi romping home when I stopped by on Thursday. But do you trust a party which did nothing for you in the last five years, I asked, referring to the sentiment that Murli Manohar Joshi did precious little for the city as MP?
Although the lassiwalla was polite with me, the folks in the next shop were upset with my question. Since my cousin had mentioned that I was a journalist when I clicked a couple of pictures to tweet, the guys started condemning journalist for stoking a fire when there’s none.
“These channelwallahs want to hear of only bad things,” one said. The other agreed and said: “Arre Bhai” and then went on in Bhojpuri saying that the media can’t be trusted a wee bit these days and went on an offensive against the media. “Yeh, sab TRPs ke liye hai.” TRP is evidently an integral part of the lexicon even in Tier 2 India.
This of course is not just the refrain of people in Varanasi alone and back in Mumbai, there are many who have lost faith in television news. Why I, as a print and digital media journalist, have to suffer all these jibes is another peeve, but there is a sure need for professionals to do review their strategy post the election results.
If there is so much angst against news channels, and there is a breakdown of trust – albeit not complete (thankfully!), guess a soulsearch is a must. A chintan shivir, as the BJP would call it.
Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and editor. When he’s not chasing news, he’s watching it.