Democracy as Rumor: Media, Religion, and the 2014 Indian Elections.

Ahmad, Irfan. 2019. “Democracy as Rumor: Media, Religion, and the 2014 Indian Elections.” In Irfan Ahmad and Pralay Kanungo (eds) The Algebra of Warfare –Welfare: A Long View of India’s 2014 Election. New Delhi: Oxford University Press: 55–90.

Abstract: Based on qualitative data from the coverage of the 2014 Indian elections by television channels and social media, this chapter demonstrates Schmittian politics by examining electoral–democratic rumours. It discusses how media circulated Hindutva as development to resemble rumourmongering, in that the sources of development remained unknown. The emerging interface among media, elections, and neoliberal economy in polities like India signifies what is proposed as ‘designer democracy’, of which rumour is a key component. The chapter discusses the effects of rumours and other factors that helped Hindutva win in 2014. The premise of rumour as a plebeian resistance, it is argued, is unsustainable. Contra established view, this chapter contends that rumour is also a weapon of the power elites and is deployed during elections. Dwelling on the vital issues of the truth and lie, the chapter concludes with observations on the place of rumour and media in democracies in general.

Keywords: anthropology of rumour, democracy, Hindutva, lies, Modi, rumour, social media, television, designer democracy