“Modi’s castle in the air demolished by Nitish’s Topi bomb” was the headline of Urdu daily “Sahafat’ after Nitish Kumar’s address at Janta Dal (United) National Executive meeting on 14thApril. The address was widely covered by the whole media and every word of the speech was minutely analyzed. The headline of ‘Sahafat’ reflects that when media was carrying the headline ‘Modi not acceptable to Nitish’ or ‘NDA on the verge of split’ the Urdu media enjoyed the situation. The headline speaks volumes for how much Modi is disliked by the Urdu media. Defending the headline Bureau Chief of ‘Sahafat’ Mohd Atif says “every media has its own reader or viewer and it has to cater to that segment. It is crystal clear that Urdu readers do not like Modi so how can any newspaper ignore the sentiments of its readers.”
It is a fact that any statement against Modi be it of Teesta Seetalvad, Zakia Jafri, Sanjeev Bhat, Shabnam Hashmi or any adverse remark by the Supreme Court getsgood space in the Urdu media that intentionally or unintentionally does not give credit to Modi for good governance. Shahid Siddiqui, Editor of Nai Duniya, Urdu does not agree that there is a bias, “How much space does the news about industry and economy gets in the Hindi media in comparison to the English media? Obviously much less bordering on the negligible. So it is not that the Urdu media is in any way biased against Modi, it is what kind of news the Urdu subscribers want to read”. Shahid elaborates “I am of the view that no media is honest, everyone has its own interest and they are honest towards their own interests. The so called national media is blowing Modi out of proportion. The English media is biased against the Urdu media but in my view it is the national media that has played a larger role in spreading communalism in the country. I was also the target of this biased approach. When I carried the interview of Narender Modi, it was this media which provoked action against me by party leaders. Several newspapers published the article of Kuldeep Nayyar but my paper was targeted for the same article, a case was registered against me for carrying reports on the Meerut riots and interviewing Khalistani leader Jagjit Singh Chauhan. So, we are targeted both ways, for interviewing Modi and for not giving space to Modi”.
There are some who believe that this is not a one way traffic. “Basically Narender Modi was never interested in the Urdu media because he never tried to approach or manage it like he did with the other media. How many advertisements did the Gujarat government release to the Urdu media in comparison to media of other languages. I personally believe that as a Chief Minister of Gujarat he never felt the need to support and cultivate the Urdu media as he was happy with his hardliner Hindutva image. Urdu media is showing the true picture, and cannot be positive about Modi because Modi himself is not positive about the minorities that constitute the bulk of Urdu readership. If you look into the facts then no one can blame Urdu newspapers of being prejudiced against Modi” says Siraj Naqvi, Chief Sub Editor of Rashtriya Sahara, Urdu. Echoing the views of Naqvi the News Editor of ‘Sahafat’ Nawab Akhtar says “I would say that Urdu media is not biased against Modi. In fact the Urdu media is impartial and neutral because it presents the true side of Modi as this media is not managed like the media of other languages. The truth of the day is this that basic amenities in Gujarat are poor in comparison to several Indian states but the so called national mediaprojects Gujarat as the number one state. Why is it the entire media is so obsessed only about Modi, after all before him also there were other BJP chief ministers.”
Significantly while the English and other language media is busy drawing parallels between Modi and Rahul, this is very rarely seen in the Urdu media, “Agree that there is mediahype with regard to Modi and media is building a Modi versus Rahul contest but there is no comparison between the two. There is no gadget to gauge the skills or talent of the two as Rahul has never held any government position whereas Modi is a Chief Minister of a state and he has a lot of things to present in his favor. The age, experience and backgrounds of both are totally different, so on what ground should we compare the two?” asks Siraj Naqvi.
On the whole issue Shahid says “I would say one thing that most of the Media houses are directly or indirectly controlled by corporate houses and this is not a situation with the Urdu mediahence I believe that it presents the true picture. It did publish the views expressed by Maulana Vastanvi and Mehmood Madani on Modi and both have to bear the brunt of criticism from the Urdu readers, so the Urdu media is not biased against Modi”.
“Modi, whether he likes it or not but now that he is aspiring for a national role, cannot ignore the Urdu readers and has to reach out to them through and the Urdu media. If the Urdu mediais asked to think above its reader’s interest and follow the basic ethics of journalism then Modi should also think above his vote bank and follow Vajpayee’s call for Rajdharma,” says Mohd Atif.