Home Editor's picks Coverage of Priyanka Gandhi’s closed office door is one of the lowest points of Indian journalism

Coverage of Priyanka Gandhi’s closed office door is one of the lowest points of Indian journalism

They saw the magic surname written in magical letters, drank the psychological nectar and then went home, much fulfilled.

After Indira Gandhi’s government was uprooted in the elections of 1977, Lal Krishna Advani taunted in these famous words the pathetic capitulation of the Indian media at the time of Emergency.

You were asked only to bend, but you chose to crawl.

But what do you do when nobody asks for anything and yet for some “journalists”, crawling becomes a habit? A reflex? A way of life? A compulsory part of the job description, perhaps? Maybe media indulges even in “competitive crawling”?

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It could not have gotten worse than this.

Pallavi Ghosh on Priyanka Gandhi
CNN’s Pallavi Ghosh in a 90-second video showing Priyanka Gandhi’s office door and name plate

Prominent Indian journalists, household names, all standing outside the door of a nondescript room, presumably in the Congress Headquarters, bombarding us with breathless coverage of the name plate.

Or maybe I should call it a “surname plate” because that is all they came to see. They saw the magic surname written in magical letters, drank the psychological nectar and then went home, much fulfilled.

The Congress, for its part, played aloof to the hilt, firmly showing these minions their real place. That “sneak peek” video above… it does not contain even one second of coverage of the room inside, let alone that of the exalted Nehru-Gandhi princess who is supposed to occupy it. At one point in the video, we get a sense that half of the door has been left open. That’s it.

That’s all they came for. Images and/or video of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as she occupies that office? Forget it. The reporters who provided “coverage” were reduced to using file photographs of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi in order to give their viewers a sense of what was happening.

This was not a ‘sneak peek’ into Priyanka Gandhi’s new office. This was a ‘sneak peek’ into the pathetic grovelling that goes by the name of journalism.

If I see one more time that video of the guy getting up on a ladder or something to nail the “surname plate” outside the door…

The amazing thing is that it does not even feel choreographed. Everyone in this drama seems to know their natural place already. The Nehru-Gandhis know their place as deities. The alleged journalists know their place as devotees, crawling to make their pilgrimage from the studios to the Congress office on Akbar Road.

Not for an interview, not even for a 5-second soundbite or even a still photo. Just a glimpse of the “surname plate”.

That one surname appears to bring out in them a kind of primal, feudal loyalty.

Well, they are free to worship their deities in any way they choose. India does have freedom of religion.

But for common people, this show of servility should be another pointer to what the self proclaimed “fourth estate” of journalists, academics and intellectuals has done to our historical narrative. If they crawl like this when the Congress is in the opposition with less than 50 Lok Sabha seats, can you imagine what the cult must have been like back in the days of Nehru, Indira and Rajiv? Can you trust a single thing they wrote down and/or recorded in praise of their Bharat Ratna Prime Ministers?

You can also see where the Nehru-Gandhis get their sense of entitlement. It is the devotees that make the deity.

Meanwhile, I hear from other media reports that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra undertook a visit to some slum areas in Delhi yesterday. She stopped around, posed for photographs. One channel even reported that she “inspected” the living conditions there. Once again, it is hard to decide whether Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is entering Indian politics or starring in a parody of Indian politics.

I quote from memory here and loosely paraphrase some words of PM Modi during the 2014 campaign: Modern descendants of ruling families often like to visit the palaces and forts their ancestors built. They want to show off to their friends the “parakram” of their ancestors. What can the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty do? The Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty likes to show off the monumental poverty of India that was built by their ancestors over decades.

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