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Election updates: Much fun

The cleanest screen and the fastest election updates were on CNN-IBN. The graphics were clear and bright. In contrast, the graphics on MOST other NEWS channels like NDTV 24X7 were cluttered, writes Poonam Saxena.

india Updated: May 22, 2009 22:37 IST
Poonam Saxena

Last Saturday, I — like the rest of the country — was all agog. I sat, chained to my chair, watching TV non-stop. And like the rest of the country, all I wanted to know was the answer to just one question: who was going to win the election? The crucial hours were from 8 am till about noon (by which time the picture was crystal clear).

I couldn’t see all the news channels (a physical impossibility, doable only if you’re God or a close relative), but from whatever I did manage to see, a few observations.

The cleanest screen and the fastest updates were on CNN-IBN. The national tally was in a strip at the bottom of the screen and the states tally was on the left hand side. The graphics were clear and bright. In contrast, the graphics on many of the other news channels were cluttered and confusing. The most confusing was NDTV 24x7, where three or four gold-coloured blocks kept spinning dementedly, like over-enthusiastic participants of a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong. There were some numbers on those blocks, but even as you began reading them, the blocks would suddenly start spinning again. Maybe — unbeknownst to us poor viewers — it was a ‘catch-the-numbers-if-you-can’ game, in which

I at least failed miserably. Even more perplexing was the fuzzy blue map which would suddenly appear on the screen.
Some words were written on the map (presumably names of places) but once again, it seemed to be a ‘read-the-names-if-you-can’ kind of game in which I did very poorly. (Also, why were there rivers and indeterminate ridges on that map? Was it a geography lesson? Why not a simple political map of the country?) On Times Now, the problem was that the numbers were being updated very slowly. For a long time, they didn’t even have the figures for the states up there on the screen. For the latest updates and trends, I had to switch to CNN-IBN; they were really on the ball.

As far as analysis is concerned, NDTV 24x7 had a very good line-up of panelists, but there didn’t appear to be any
single person who was controlling/guiding the discussions. Some people spoke for ever and ever, others didn’t speak much because the others were talking so much, occasionally everyone spoke at once – it seemed such a waste.

The election results were, not to put too fine a point on it, stunning. And the reactions of members of the BJP that morning were rather, er, diverting, if not stunning. Example A little after 9 am, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s said, ‘It’s too early to say anything, let’s wait and see.’ By about a quarter to ten, by which time even the BJP’s Delhi office had started emptying out, he said, ‘Let’s wait… in the IPL matches, the team that does very well in the first ten overs, slumps later.’ Thankfully, by the time he appeared on NDTV24x7 at about 11.15 am, he didn’t say, ‘Let’s just wait a little longer, miracles are known to happen, we can still win.’ But what he did say was probably the understatement of the day if not the week (or month, or year for that matter): ‘The early trends for BJP are disappointing.’ A little later, he added, ‘We will accept the verdict of the people with grace.’ That of course, became the default screensaver for all the losers (though if they had any other option — like refusing to accept the verdict of the people — I would love to know).

And finally. Though I didn’t watch the Hindi news channels as much, I did catch Aaj Tak when it was showing clips of various politicians and playing appropriate Hindi film songs in the background. For Mayawati, they chose Dil ke armaan aansuon me beh gaye, and for Lalu-Paswan, they played Do bechare bina sahare, dekho dhoond dhoond ke hare. Much fun.