PM Modi in the Hindi press

BY ANAND VARDHAN| IN Regional Media | 28/05/2014
So how did Hindi newspapers respond to the cabinet formation and what does it think of Team Modi?
ANAND VARDHAN takes a look. PIX: The ~Hindustan~ edit

Anand Vardhan 

The centrality of the Hindi heartland to the national elections has long been seen as one of the axioms of electoral politics in India. As the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) made deep inroads into the Hindi speaking states, the Hindi press eloquently heralded  the Modi wave on the national stage. Catering to a region which has the largest number of newspaper readers in the country, the coverage and editorial commentary in it had the task of offering a corrective to the gross underestimation by the liberal intelligentsia (and a large section of English media) of the appeal of a muscular and decisive leadership. Which was packaged with a fresh whiff of assertive identity politics (as incisively analysed by Shiv Visvanathan in his piece  ‘How Modi defeated liberals like me’, The Hindu, May 22).

After gracefully or grudgingly eating their words in the face of electoral refutation of their flawed assumptions about such mobilisation as something unnatural to ‘Indian mosaic’ (whatever that textbook cliché means), the first task that the national press had to address was to analyse the new power equations at the centre and the new faces for delivering the much promised governance - Narendra Modi’s council of ministers. So how did the Hindi press respond to the cabinet formation exercise and what does it think about Team Modi which was sworn in with eager anticipation on a sweltering Monday evening?

Given the daily’s consistent editorial endorsement of Narendra Modi’s candidature as Prime Minister, it’s not surprising that country’s most read newspaper Dainik Jagran sounded very optimistic about the new PM’s ministerial team. In its editorial comment Sakaratmak Shuruaat (Positive Start, May 27), the paper says (as translated from Hindi): “Narendra Modi, along with his 45 colleagues, has taken the responsibility of running the government at a juncture when the country is facing many challenges but people have high hopes from this government. The way Modi has opted for a relatively small and young team is welcome and should be viewed as the right move to begin with.”

Praising Modi’s credentials for governance and co-ordination, the same edit remarks: “For any Prime Minister, the primary basis for success is to make the ministers work as one team. The way Modi is known to function, it’s reassuring that he is capable of sorting out the problems of his council of ministers and convert them into an able and performing group.”  

The upbeat sentiment is something that echoed in Dainik Bhaskar’s edit too, though it also adds a note of caution for the government to gear up for strict public scrutiny. In its take Jan aashaon ki mantraparishad (A council of ministers of people’s hopes, May 27), the paper observes: “If through his style of functioning and his decisions Modi realises the kind of confidence he has inspired for good governance, he would be able to create a long term political capital for himself. From today the steps he takes for fulfilling public expectations would be put to rigorous public scrutiny.”

Both the dailies published opinion pieces to reflect on the new government and its immediate as well as seminal repercussions. While Dainik Jagran’s  associate editor Rajeev Sachan reiterated the thrust of paper’s edit on the contours of new political landscape (Acche dino ki ibarat, Writing Style of Good Days, May 27), it was political analyst Arvind Mohan’s piece in Dainik Bhaskar (Poori tarah Modi ki sarkaar, Modi’s government all the way, May 27) which sought to identify challenges Modi would face in course of implementing his agenda for governance and stamping his authority over the party. Taking along sulking party elders and ignored cabinet aspirants, the need to guard against the likelihood of RSS interference and managing other forms of intra-party issues are some of the challenges that Mohan clearly identifies for Modi to address, apart from delivering on the promises which he made and huge expectations which he raised during his energetic poll campaign.

However, the piece also takes into account a paradigm shift which Modi’s massive electoral triumph has brought about which, if handled wisely, could help Modi’s style of governance and his efforts to address challenges. As Mohan opines, Modi has put an end to the decades’ long phase of coalition politics and started a new phase of an individual-centred politics and single power centre. Now Modi is party, government and leader- all rolled in one...Modi’s track record suggests that he has been successful in such a role till now. But can he repeat the success of state experiment at the centre? This remains to be seen.”

With an editorial judgement which has placed high value on administrative efficiency, Hindustan has appreciated Modi’s decision of having a lean team and apparent focus on curbing the cumbersome red-tapism. Its editorial take Kam mantri,jyada prashasan (Less ministers, more administration; Hindustan, May 27). In drawing parallels with efficient small models of governments across the world and identifying Modi’s clear imprint on council of ministers, the daily is in sync with its English flagship daily’s editorial view (Modi must hit the ground running, Hindustan Times, May 27). Given their known Congress inclinations, both dailies defied such opinion-typecasting to extend a warm welcome to what they thought were the correct moves of the new government. It’s an evaluation which resonated in the editorial views of the most read English daily The Times of India (A Lean Ministry, May 27) as well as The Indian Express (The Modi Era, May 27).

Despite catering to a largely state-specific readership, Rajasthan Patrika chose to brush aside the immediate grievances of state BJP leaders for being overlooked for ministerial berths and instead reminded the Modi government that its performance-appraisal period has begun now. In a tersely worded edit Aaklan Suru (Assessment starts, May 27), the paper said: “Who Modi included or excluded is a matter of political debate but what’s clear is that the new government’s assessment has begun. The coming days will only tell whether good days come or not or if they actually come, how many of them come, for how long?”

Galvanised public opinion is seeking space and thoughtful articulation in Hindi press. The coming days will ask the Hindi press to address a sentiment which has become strange for political discourse in this country: a sentiment called political hope.

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