Phata poster, nikla hero

BY NUPUR BASU| IN Media Practice | 15/09/2013
Channels had a field day playing archive footage, all of which was meant to lionise the leader.
NUPUR BASU catches the coverage of the Modi coronation.

The coronation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, provided the expected unplugged coverage on 24x7 news channels. The drama heightened with NDA chairman L K Advani boycotting the coronation.

BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, soon after the coronation, deflected persistent questions put by one of television’s sober journalists, Sanket Upadhaya of Times Now, as to whether Advani’s abstention from the coronation had dampened spirits. Instead, she went onto aggressively question his credibility as a journalist. Sometimes one wonders why TV channels cannot just unplug the oxygen of publicity from leaders who openly insult journalists, simply because they pose the uncomfortable questions.

In fact the ‘press conference’ that the BJP had soon after the coronation, was just an opportunity for Rajnath Singh and Modi to say what they had to. No questions from the media were entertained. One wonders on what basis these one way interactions of political parties qualify as ‘press conferences’?

However, the ra ra on news channels, particularly on the Hindi channels had begun. Slugs like “Mulk ka moorad puri huin” (the nation’s wish is fulfilled), ‘chai paan par Modi gaan’ (tea and snacks and the Modi song) and “India ki rail chali” (Indian railways is on track) set the mood of the coverage. The travel analogy was taken further with ‘Modi Express’ in India News which had a graphic of a train. Modi was in the driver’s seat and it relayed announcements as the train stopped at different stations: ‘kripaya dhyan de’ (please pay attention).

News 24 had a graphic of Modi as the driver of a chariot – the question being posed was: can Modi take the chariot to its final destination of garnering over 272 parliamentary seats?

Rahul Kanwal was borrowing phraseology from an upcoming Bollywood film to describe Modi’s coronation: ‘Phata Poster...Nikla Hero’.  The Bollywood lingo continued with News 24 saying that Modi’s coronation movie was scripted by RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat and directed by the BJP president Rajnath Singh. The film was titled ‘Mission PM’!  Not to be outdone with clever phraseology, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad quipped with a shayari: ‘naam sikandar rakhne se sikandar ban na saka”.

Even the business channels like Zee Business, CNBC, etc were all reporting on the coronation of Modi. CNBC Awaaz was running a slug ‘BJP Modi-fied’.

On India News, the question being raised was: did Modi’s journey in life begin as a sadhu, a sanyasi or a political actor? There was a lengthy reconstruction - how Modi left his one-room house without windows in Vadnagar at the age of 14 years for the Himalayas to do ‘chintan’ (meditation). The programme had interviews with Modi’s brother, Soro Modi, talking about how he left the house and some soap opera type re-enactments of young Modi and his mother.

On Headlines Today, author of the book ‘The Namo story’, Kingshuk Nag said – “Modi’s own mother cannot stay with him!”. The channel was asking whether ‘Modi was a megalomaniac or the humble son of a tea shop owner?’

Channels had a field day playing archive footage, all of which was meant to lionise the leader. There were tapes of Modi playing where he was saying ‘jisne apna ma ka doodh piya hain...’ before heading to Srinagar to hoist the Indian flag without wearing a bullet proof jacket. There were archive photos of Modi during the Emergency showing how he had escaped arrest by changing his appearance as a turbaned Sikh.

Famous archive footage of BJP supremo A B Vajpayee appealing to Modi to follow ‘Raj Dharma’ post the Godhra riots and Modi smiling back at him was also played. Tapes of Sonia Gandhi referring to Modi as ‘Maut ka Saudagar’ and Modi’s retaliation calling her a Maut ka Sudagar in the Bhopal gas tragedy deaths made rounds as well. Zee News telecasting a 1998 programme with Modi and an audience in which he was drawing the lamp analogy to himself: “Diya jalega, bujhaya jayega, phir jalega” (The lamp will burn, will be snuffed out but will burn again). Something akin to former Prime Minister Deve Gowda’s famous speech in Parliament when his government fell: “I shall rise from the ashes like a Phoenix”. Except that in his case, his prediction did not come true. Modi’s maxim has turned out to be true up until now, at least.

On the weekend, on NDTV’s Big Fight, Shoma Choudhury from Tehelka said it was wishful thinking on the part of those who are trying to project him as a repackaged leader: “There is no question of Modi having emerged as a new leader” she said and lashed out against Modi supporters on social media that attack anyone who critiques Modi- “I do not like to be called a wh*** just because I criticise Modi..and neither do I like to be dubbed a Congress supporter.” To add insult to injury, a Modi supporter on the panel said ‘social media does such should not take it seriously!’ The panellist should have been reminded that men do not get called ‘wh****’! Only women do.

Shoma Choudhury lobbed another shell during the Big Fight: “Very senior leaders in the BJP have said they will use Modi as a driver and then ditch him after he does the job!”

Another Modi supporter angrily said that the US which had denied him visa, would invite Mr Modi to their country as soon as he crossed the rubicon of 272.  Pawan Varma, former diplomat and now with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U),  quipped back: “‘We are doubtful that Mr Modi will get a visa from the Indian voters!’” Nitish Kumar, meanwhile, was giving statements to channels saying that the BJP would live to regret this decision.

India News conducted a poll the following day, in which anchor Deepak Chaurasia pointed out that the BJP was ‘getting stuck at 200’. A BJP spokesperson dismissed the poll impatiently saying: “There is a ‘pro Modi wave’ in the country and you all are not picking it up.’” The poll however had some good news for the BJP. It said that 48 percent said Muslims will vote for Modi. Another BJP supporter said: “Advani is Nand, Modi is Nandlal and BJP is Nandapuri”.

Slugs with neurological phraseology too sprang up: ‘Modi ki brain mapping’ (the mapping of Modi’s brain). Meanwhile, praise for L K Advani’s brain came from unlikely quarters. The Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury said in an interview to a channel: “Advani has 100 times more brain than Modi....aage dekhte rahiye, picture abhi baaki hain.

NDTV replayed a Walk the Talk episode which Shekhar Gupta recorded in April 2004 with the Gujarat chief minister. The same media which was lauded by Modi at the acceptance speech as PM candidate, was being accused by Modi in this programme. “You people have an agenda people in the media are thinking this fellow did wrong and we could not finish him...hang me if you think I did wrong..!” Grilled by The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief about using ‘below the belt’ phrases like ‘Mian Musharraf’...’ ‘bachra’, ‘driver’ etc, Modi laughed and replied: “Kabhi kabhi no ball..wide ball..ho jaata hain..” (Sometimes one does end up chucking a no ball or a wide ball).

Interestingly, in the interview, Modi claimed there was no such thing as ‘brand Modi’ – “other than brand Gandhi there is no brand”, Modi said. However, since 2004, Modi has obviously had a rethink and done nothing but built a brand in his name, to the annoyance of his own party leaders.

In not so far off, in Muzzafarnagar, Sreenivasan Jain and a team of reporters of NDTV on Truth and Hype were reporting the polarisation between Jats and Muslims thanks to the Modi mania. A top BJP leader of the area was ironically lamenting how the crowds at the maha-panchayat, after which the massacres of Muslims took place, were uncontrollable and were brandishing swords, shouting and eulogising Modi. Brand Modi had struck at the heart of once communally peaceful co-existence between Jats and Muslims shattering the peace forever.

Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More