The Delhi media’s almost hysterical coverage of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as possible Prime Minister was clearly not echoed in the state media, that remained largely preoccupied with regional issues and leaders. In fact, the larger than life Modi acquired in Delhi through the so called national television channels and some of the newspapers, was not reciprocated in the states where the media was not particularly interested in propping up the Gujarat chief minister, preferring to treat his ambitions as routine news.
The difference underlines the different preoccupations of the media with each state now having a plethora of local newspapers and even television channels. The coverage thus, differs with local issues and personalities clearly dominating. For instance the media in Bihar is clearly more interested in the rift between their chief minister Nitish Kumar and the BJP over Modi, than the latters ambitions to head the government at the centre. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh the media is more preoccupied with Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh’s Prime Ministerial gyrations, than with Modi’s stated ambitions. The thrust of the political coverage varies across the states with the Tamil Nadu newspapers and television channels obsessed with the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka and visibly less interested in the future of Narendra Modi.
The New Delhi agenda has become very different to the rest of India, with big industry and TRP ratings ruling the roost. The toss up for the so called national media is between Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s Modi with the regional leaders rarely figuring up in the potential PM line up. The comparison between the two is also a media creation that virtually pushes the viewer to opt for one, because of his far better showing administratively than the other with all other aspirants from the states sidelined in the process.
The job of the media is to inform and educate the viewer through non-partisan reporting. The concerns of the people of India cannot be boxed in parameters set out by the media. Instead of reporting with a free and fair mind the media now seeks to fit news into perceptions that then are forced on the viewer as the ultimate truth, or as in this Modi versus Rahul Gandhi case, the only possible choice. This is dangerous for democracy partly because of the distortion of news and often fake choice, and partly because it creates illusions that force decisions not married to reality.