Modi and the Mainstream Media

By Nirav Shah

Ahmedabad, 21 November 2012

The Indian Mainstream Media i.e. Print & Electronic have never been covert in displaying their antipathy towards Narendra Modi. Commending him for the development in Gujarat has often been synonymous with attracting a Communal tag. It is indeed noteworthy how Modi survived and thrived in such a malicious environment for so long. Most importantly Modi has never relied upon the Indian Mainstream Media. He has always let his work do the talking. But following the popular saying ‘ Jo dikhta hai, wo bikta hai’ he has never failed to utilise any opportunity to showcase his achievements. Fair enough? Modi is also probably the only Indian Politician to use all forms social media with flair.

In retrospect, Mainstream Media though unwillingly and unknowingly has a giant share in elevating Modi to his position today. In its haste to project Modi as the villain in the aftermath of Godhra riots, the media presented a contrasting picture of the actual happenings. In this hate campaign it crucified Modi and portrayed a picture as if it was Modi himself running around murdering the innocent. More than it harmed Modi, it ruined the credibility of the media in the state. Its neglect for the Sabarmati Express victims and the riot victims from the majority community who comprised almost 1/3 of the total number led the majority community to believe that Modi was their sole saviour. Polarisation was inevitable and thus nothing could stop Modi from an emphatic victory.

Since being re-elected Modi has left no stone unturned in writing a story of development for Gujarat which was grossly neglected initially by the Media. But like an ideal nemesis Modi has always been a step ahead of the conventional media. He started and actively followed a grievances section in his website instigating a sense of belief among the people that he was directly accessible to them. He showed his marketing acumen during the 2007 polls with the use of hugely popular Modi masks and stumped the media again because the opinion polls were predicting a much closer fight for him. Sonia’s Maut ka Saudagar proved to be the final nail in the coffin. But in the episode we often underestimate the role of media. In its quest to please MadamG the media kept repeating her statements and thus kept instigating the people of Gujarat to vote for Modi.

By now the winds of change had blown and Modi had realised that social media is the future of media. Modi is perhaps the most tech savvy leader of the country. His Facebook page and Twitter account is liked and followed by around a million people , thus giving the common man an insight into his vision. He has an App about himself available for both the Android and Iphone platforms. The use of Google hangout was a very novel approach to reach out to people across people around the world. It is remarkable that his Hangout session has around 6.5 lakh views on Youtube. Barack Obama’s hangout has around 7.5 lakh views. The magnitude of his popularity can be estimated by the fact that internet penetration in India is 65 times less than that in USA. He is also among the few leaders to have a TV channel dedicated to him. The latest trick in Modis bag was the use of 3D conferences using the holographic technique. His initial speech was attended by people in 4 cities of Gujarat. The use of such technology is impressive because it can enable him to reach out to multiple gatherings at a time in the busy election schedule. As expected the most of the media has not made a note of the event ans some have carried criticisms of the event.

Thus, in a span of 10 years Modi has reduced the mainstream media from a potent adversary to a redundant force.