US Media Manages To Look At Lighter Side Of Elections

Updated: Apr 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
Even as all news and current affairs channels continue to focus on the ongoing elections, BBC is planning a series on the global significance of the polls. BBCs India correspondent Sanjeev Srivastava, leading the channels election coverage, recently travelled across America to find out how it views the worlds biggest democracy going to polls. The following are the excerpts from his talk with Nivedita Mookerji:

How exactly is the US looking at the Indian elections
Theres no denying the interest India is generating across the globeas a growing economic power, a vast market and the worlds biggest democracy. The US is no exception to this trend. Having said that, we all know the US as a pretty insular and inward looking society, but still Indian polls are getting noticed in the US mediaparticularly vis-a-vis what they regard as the exotica elements of our democracy like the fresh set of Gandhi faces in the electoral arena etc. There are also stories around Mr Vajpayees personalityhe has definitely carved out an image for himself as an elder statesman from the regionand what the elections could mean in terms of the bigger South Asian picture i.e. India-Pakistan dynamics.

Since the US is also set for polls this year, what are the similarities and differences between the two elections
The US poll battle was still warming up while I was there and the main difference I could see (apart from the most obvious one, that in the US there are no public meetings like in India) was the difference in style and approach. Despite much more being at stake, politicians in the US do try and introduce some humour in the otherwise serious debate. They also trade insults and take pot shots at their rivals with a certain degree of finesse, having mastered the art of hitting below the belt in a graceful manner which I think politicians in India are still very sensitive about.

In terms of media coverage, media campaign and poll-related advertising, how do India and US differ
In terms of media coverage, I think broadly its quite similar. Politics takes a lot of space and airtime in the US as well, especially for the Presidential elections. If anything as the election day approaches, not just the US, but the world media will be completely obsessed by the story. But again, I feel there are a couple of noticeable differences. One, we in the Indian media tend to make our election coverage too staid and serious. Its not such a grim matter either. The American mediawithout overdoing it does manage to look at the lighter/funny side of things as well.

Outsourcing of jobs to India is understood to be a key poll issue. In that sense, do you think Indias a talking point in the US electioneering, more than in the previous years
Although I had read a lot about it in the media but had never imagined outsourcing could be such a big issue before I landed in the US...I suspect it may become the most emotive poll issue in these US presidential elections, after Iraq. Headlines like jobless economic recovery are not just headlines in the press but emotive slogans for the Democrats to damn the Republicans. Theres no doubt that India is more a talking a point this yearthanks to outsourcingthan any other time in the past.