Endless cable news – impressions of Delhi TV and the Indian elections

I was in Delhi for one day.  I have never been to India before.  Usually this makes for shallow insight (Wow, India is a country of contrasts!  Rich and poor!)

But sometimes you get lucky and the fresh mind sees differently.  I know that was often the truth when I lived in Croatia after the war there.

Anyway, here goes with my three …

— India has seemingly endless cable news channels.   They are all flashy and and they all pop with loud headlines, loud anchors and loud stories.  But this is the kicker — they all cover different stories. This is how much news there is in India.  There was no echo chamber like in America.  Every show led with a different story, each hyped to maximum importance.

I am sure I missed the various motives behind this.  I am sure channels have agendas.  But, hey, that is true everywhere else too.  India must be a dream for a political journalist.

— India is holding elections in a few weeks.  The two biggest parties are knocking heads again, hoping to build yet another fragile coaltion.  But now there is talk that regional parties may cobble together a coalition.  And independent candidates have popped up, threatening enough for the prime minister to dismiss them.  Just spoilers, he said.

All I know is that I asked my cabbie – maybe the most honest man in Delhi from the way he charged me – about the elections.  And he said, “I have a free mind.  Indian politicians are too clever.  Why should I believe them?”

I get the sense that Indians have believed their politicians and their machines in the past.  Maybe that is breaking down.

— Delhi is a huge construction site, as the country prepares for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.   But I don’t really see how it will turn out.  Yes, there are a lot of nice hotels, all tucked away.  Yes, the new subway will get done.  But there is just too much traffic, too much dust, too many crumbling roads and buildings and lives.

But what do I know?  Maybe all the visitors will be happy on their buses between the hotels and the stadiums and on their daytrips to the Taj Mahal …


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