Shantilal was the founding father of a leading Gujarati daily that was extremely popular amongst the elite Gujaratis, in particular the business community, and had a tremendous impact on developments within the state. It was credited with bringing down governments, and propping up leaders with its amazing influence. Shantilal was actually a magician, an illusionist of national fame. He died last year and with him his legacy ended.
Shantilal died seven years ago but his influence on the people of Gujarat remains through the newspaper that he set up. This remains compulsory reading for the politicians in Gujarat as well as the other influential sections of society. It has been added to with a television channel. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi takes every single item of news in this paper seriously.
Gujarati media is not sycophantic in nature. There are some newspapers and television channels who have been running a campaign to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of India, but there are others who are treating the issue with professional competence. Political pundits discuss the possibility, or otherwise, in thought out articles with questions being raised by the media whether Modi will get the support of the BJP in the final analysis. Almost all newspapers in the Gujarati language are purely news carriers and do not slant this in favour of Modi, or otherwise. Their approach is quite different to the more partisan reporting of the English language media.
There are three big media houses in Gujarat who have at least five editions across the state, namely Gujarat Samachar, Sandesh and Divya Bhaskar. These three media houses have their own agenda and they never take a similar position on any one issue, but follow their own ‘business’ interests and requirements. They are often pitted against each other, reporting one piece of news from opposite ends. This confuses the readers but it does not deter the media establishments from pursuing their own agenda.
One large daily has given its staff blanket instructions to play up all news related to Narendra Modi as it has established excellent relations with him recently. Journalistic rumours suggest that this newspaper has got a business file cleared from the state government. The present position is very different to the stance of this daily during the Gujarat Assembly elections when it was opposing the state government on every single issue. But now, as journalists point out, it has its very own Modi tune that it is playing enthusiastically every day. And in the media tradition of Gujarat, the moment this daily started supporting the government its main rival decided to oppose Narendra Modi.
An English news daily has made its business to attack Narendra Modi these days. Rumours suggest that the reasons are other than journalistic, but the fact remains that the Gujarat chief minister can do nothing right insofar as this well read newspaper is concerned. But all said and done, except for some small newspapers that are dependent on government advertisements and patronage, most medium and larger newspapers prefer to print news and not views, regardless of the fact that the news might be critical of the state chief minister. For instance when a five member family poured kerosene and set themselves on fire in the BJP ruled Rajkot Municipal Corporation, the media took the issue to Gandhinagar and wrote at length about government apathy towards the poor, hopeless people who are dying every day in the soc called ‘vibrant’ and prosperous state of India. An editorial castigating Narendra Modi said he should have sympathy towards the poor. In other words the Gujarat media follows the motto: if there is a public related issue then strike the government with a hammer regardless of the consequences.”
But, there are some exceptions too. There are some media houses that blindly follow the ‘business model’. Their only agenda is to keep the state chief minister and the government in good humour, and take loans and other favours on a regular basis. The list includes some journalists and columnists who have been supporting Narendra Modi regardless of what he does, or does not do. But fortunately in Gujarat they are still in the minority.