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Is Indian Mainstream Media a game changer in 2019 elections?

Since 2014, the Indian Media evidently got divided into parts. There are battalions of journalists and mainstream media houses who are hell-bent on proving how PM Modi is the only appropriate Prime Minister of India and how there is no other choice if not him. On the other hand, there is an opposite brigade of Media, which has strained all the guns to expose and attack PM Modi and his government. Apart from these two categories, there are some rare journalists, who are not the supporters of any political party but they make PM Modi and his ministers accountable for all those things they had promised and they expose the government for all the wrong they did and they equally stand by the ruling government when worth appreciating things happen. They are the media people who follow no ideology of a party or a political person or their propaganda, and their simple agenda is Media, News, and Ethical Journalism. These rare species in Media are not liked by many or hated by much. They are always in silence and not much regarded for their neutrality because they speak against everyone and they stand by all when it’s worth. So, this Media has no buyer or taker. The other two could grab a lot of fan following and attention due to their attacks on each other’s side.

Well, there has been a lot of propaganda spread around by the Media and peculiar influential people’s groups. Some media houses have a pro stance on PM Modi and his work while others never fail to criticise him. The 2002 riots in Gujarat and the ‘Hindutva’ tag attached to BJP have made people feel that the BJP and Modi are anti-minority, especially Muslims. The Opposition takes advantage of this to create fear among the minority. Moreover, the appeasement by the previous governments towards the minority has largely affected the perception of the minorities towards BJP.

However, if you look at the recent elections, BJP was on toes to please minorities and Congress President Rahul Gandhi was visiting all temples by telling his “Gotra” and displaying his sacred thread. When BJP realised that the Hindu sentiments may get hurt, they announced 10 per cent reservation to the economically poor upper-class community. Meanwhile, the political parties were playing their vote games and the Media was playing for TRP, they were going with their preset agendas of fame or defame their counterparts.

Some Indian media groups served the news in a way that it was less news and more of their opinion towards BJP and PM Modi. For example, in some state, someone killed its opponent in personal land dispute, but just because the one who got killed was Muslim and the one who murdered was Hindu, the media and social media bigots gave it a shape as ‘minority hate supported by BJP government’, just because Modi did not comment on the subject. On the other hand, if some Hindu men get accused in illicit activities and the victim is also Hindu (for example, self-declared Godmen), immediately the social media groups and Right-wing media publish it as an attack on Hindutva and Hindu saints. There are many such examples, but the point is that the News should be a report based on facts but not the fantasy that comes to your mind. Journalists can’t resist from making the Breaking News, out of any shit! If there is no news, they create propaganda against PM Modi/for PM Modi. When the PM once said that even if a puppy is hurt, I feel bad, let alone human beings, the Media showed: “Modi compared Muslims with puppies.” So this is how news is baked these days. However, if we look at the broader aspect of it, Modi government or its supporters have not tolerated anti-Modi media brigade, rather not even those who make constructive criticism, because BJP and its supporters cannot handle criticism.

To counter such audiences, voices, and viewers, there was a new addition to the ever-growing Indian media. The launch of the much-talked Republic TV channel anchored by Arnab Goswami in May 2017 is assigned to shut opinions. Over screaming Arnab plays his role as BJP and PM’s mouthpiece. To compete with him, other Prime Time television anchors of the Indian mainstream media followed the same footsteps. Meanwhile, on the other side, these additions to the existing avalanche of channels, newspapers and online portals in the country will witness the return of several so-called high profile and established journalists like Barkha Dutt, Karan Thapar, Punya Prasun Bajpai, Abhisar Sharma, and many others who are familiar to the television viewers. What has heightened the interest in the media and political circles about these new additions to the mushrooming Indian media is that the politicians are backing many of these ventures for their own motives. These both side channels have become the mouthpieces, keeping the journalism at bay.

Considering that the general elections are around the corner, it is not surprising that these new entrants are being launched at this juncture to make the most of the charged atmosphere and the political drama that is expected to unfold. Scandalous journalist Barkha Dutt is making a grand comeback to the electronic media as its prime anchor along with Karan Thapar, another known name in Indian journalism, through Harvest TV, a 24-hour English news channel. High-profile Congress politician Kapil Sibal is funding the channel. Other prominent television journalists such as Seemi Pasha and Vineet Malhotra, former India Today and former Times Now respectively, are also said to be part of the new channel and will vie for viewer’s attention. A Hindi channel will soon follow after the launch of the English Channel. The channel is owned by Veecon Media, which has secured licenses for English, Hindi, and regional language channels. The channel has promised to ‘provide space for an alternative narrative without being jingoistic’.

With the entry of Republic Hindi TV, the Hindi television media, which is presently dominated by the likes of Aaj Tak, Zee News, and India TV, there is going to be a real media battle for supremacy. Hemanth Sharma, another known face in the Hindi television, who was part of India TV, is also said to be launching a Hindi channel for TV 9 group with the support of other television journalists like Vinod Kapri and Ajit Anjum. The print media is not left behind either. Media conglomerate Network 18, the promoters of CNN News 18, and the promoters of the web portal Firstpost have launched its first weekly newspaper with the same name on the Republic Day with Praveen Swamy as the Editor. The weekly belongs to the group of

Well, 2019 elections are all about Media; however, do remember that even though the voters may not be in power, but they hold the control, can ask questions to the government, and they are obligated to answer us. The Media may play its game; as a citizen of this diverse nation, you remain a smart voter and get the right person and party to the supremacy.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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