Competing fasts, competing dailies

BY K Sriramulu| IN Media Practice | 27/12/2010
Sakshi and Eenadu are priming up their political mentors as they report on farm suicides in Andhra Pradesh.
K SRIRAMULU weighs the relative claims
“Pot calling the kettle black,” has become the favourite phrase for those writing in Telugu daily Sakshi, owned by former MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, whenever they report on C Ramoji Rao, who edits and owns Eenadu.
This war of words began when former chief minister and Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu started a fast unto death in Hyderabad to press for relief to farmers devastated by floods. At the same time Jagan Reddy (son of former chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy) too, went on a 48-hour fast on the banks of river Krishna and managed to mobilise lakhs of farmers in his support.
Eenadu, while giving more publicity to Naidu, sought to project that the number of suicides by farmers was far more during 2004-08 when Rajasekhara Reddy was the chief minister than during 1994-2004 during the Telugu Desam regime.
This sparked off a reaction from Jagan Reddy’s supporters and Sakshi carried an edit page article recalling how Naidu had debunked agriculture and had criticised Rajasekhara Reddy for giving free power to farmers. “If free power is given to farmers, the overhead power lines would be fit for only drying clothes,” Naidu was quoted as saying when the Congress promised the measure in the run up to the general elections in 2004.    
The Sakshi article, while emphasising the large number of suicides following the floods, is seeking to highlight how Rajasekhara Reddy had come to the farmers’ rescue and how the present government was giving them step-motherly treatment. “It shows that the situation has returned to pre-2004,” says the Sakshi article. It accuses Ramoji Rao of deriving sadistic pleasure from focusing on the plight of the farmers belatedly in his Eenadu.
Sakshi has been portraying Congress chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy as being “anti-farmer” and an “urbanite” as he is educated in Hyderabad. This apart from trying to dub Naidu’s fast as being a gimmick to “capture power.”
It cannot be denied that Eenadu lags behind Sakshi in focusing on the woes of the farmers. On Sunday (December 26, 2010), Sakshi had a four-column story on 35 farmer suicides. The paper also reported on the 26 weavers, some of whom had committed suicide and others who had died of hunger. In a cartoon, the paper on Sunday lampooned Kiran Kumar Reddy for saying that “the rush of suicides by farmers is not entirely due to the crisis”.  
In the war of attrition that is being waged between the two groups, all one hopes is that the plight of the farmers is not side tracked.
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