Monday, January 26, 2009

HT praises, Express 'exposes' Narendra Modi on development

If you read the two national English daily newspapers, you would wonder which of them to believe.

Indian Express' lead story 'Report by own Government punctures Modi's Gujarat hype' says that the claims were proved wrong. The government said that 61% of promised investments came to the state but the truth was that just 21% could materialise. Read Indian Express report.

In sharp contrast is the report published in the Hindustan Times (HT). Here the writer, Neelesh Misra, tells us a different story. Though it was neither a Sunday paper or a supplement but it was a full page promotional campaign for Gujarat with a headline 'Prime Minister of Gujarat'.

Misra appears going overboard on Modi's success in governance. The story is not a sort of impact feature but goes extra mile in promoting Brand Modi, just when there is a section within BJP that wants to prop him as PM candidate.

Isn't it confusing for readers? It's true that Modi has attracted investment and the governance in Gujarat is miles ahead of other states. There is less redtapism and bureaucracy works faster than in other parts of the country.

But should a paper look like a propaganda pamphlet? Sadly, it has become a norm for papers (and journalists) in India, to promote and help people in building their images.

After the Mumbai terrorist attacks, every journalist worth his name was busy in eulogising the Taj Hotel, for its spirit, its values, its history and its staff. Vir Sanghvi had written an almost never-ending story in the Sunday supplement about how they considered him and his kid as the part of Taj family.

Shekhar Gupta and other senior journalists appeared to outdo each other in lauding Taj. They forgot the CST (formerly VT). They forgot that Taj is not the symbol of Mumbai or even middle-class Mumbai.

Even more sad was the fact that five star hotels held New Year celebrations, just a month after 26/11 though hotels in other faraway cities across the country had either shunned the parties or opted for low-key functions.

Even then, the editors were all praise for Taj and calling it an iconic structure though 90% of Mumbaiites can never step into the hotel in their entire lifetime. But that's what image-building is.

After all, it's fashionable to call yourself middle-class though you have your breakfast in Singapur, lunch in Dubai and dinner in London or Paris. If these editors belong to middle-class, I wonder what's the class the rest of Indians earning between Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 (or even Rs lakh) per month belong?

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