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The role of paid media in putting the final touches on the Narendra Modi facade.

As Modi's war on India reaches its final stages, skilled professionalism carefully wipes out any specks on the elaborate facade.

  1. Mukesh Ambani sues the government for his oil prices, seemingly without waiting for a BJP rule, just in time for elections. In an astonishing display of media independence, all of Indian media refuses to serve his interests even if he owns major stakes in several of them, and plod along determinedly covering cliches. They, with their ready intellectual panels don't lift a finger to help his interests. Yeah. Right. Because gas prices are hardly a national issue! Why should they cover when the election circus is cued for broadcrebuttingast? At best, this is to create a perception in the minds of people that Ambani isn't counting on Modi to lay golden eggs. The timing of the reminder is very elegant too. Day after campaigning ends in Varanasi, so no question of anyone reminding which MLA controls which portfolios in Gujarat and since when, on the ground in Varanasi.
  2. Carefully scripted news interviews to known supporting journalists have served to project a facade that Modi has answered critics transparently, when he wasn't criticized at all on the interviews. Interviewers have managed to not ask him anything that will get him nailed. Some of this has been so blatant, that the India TV interview was ridiculed for having an applause track in the form of a worshipful audience the way comedy shows have a laughter track - regardless of what he said. This saw Qamar Waheed Naqvi, editorial director resigning in disgust, though Rajat Sharma seems to not understand what was wrong with the interview. After all, it was live, no?
  3. Print interview carefully authored by someone not Modi, in language way beyond anything Modi has shown competence with carefully plaster over some of the more skillful perception juggling that Modi probably couldn't handle in person. Thankfully, this interview finally upgrades the Modi trolls from the Subramanian Swamy issued "Naxals" to "Maoists" apart from the perception mongering of Modi as a moderate leader. Incidentally, this is the same Modi that called "trophy" "toffee" in a speech attended by thousands. "Anachronistic" and "detriment" used by Modi? I haven't heard him speak English that well ever, and not even his Hindi speeches cover the meaning of these words in the manner used in the interview. Would like to hear the audio recording of the interview to believe it isn't paid media.
  4. Within two days, Modi appears before the usually shouting, now silent Arnab, manages to speak uninterrupted for as long as he likes and fixes another major criticism of Maya Kodnani being on his cabinet saying there were no charges against her when he appointed her. Right. An FIR 12 days after the riot couldn't result in charges in five years, is what he is saying, in super efficient Gujarat. So which one does it mean? Super efficient at preventing criminals from coming to justice or so efficient that entire fact finding committee reports couldn't make the Chief Minister aware of the grave acts of Maya Kodnani? Arnab lets it pass like the lamb that he is.
  5. The interview with Arnab actually goes a step ahead and claims Modi to be the victim of media not reporting things he says. This is rather rich, speaking on a channel that officially ran tags mud slinging his opponents using interpretations worthy of being issued by BJP trolls themselves and on the same day as Modi hogging Prime Time TV as per CMS media analysis was the other important headline related with him. And he actually says "When I made her a Minister, she was not facing any charges, for your information. But still, I feel she has the right to get justice for herself from many courts. As a citizen, she has that right. Let her have it." Has he forgotten that Maya Kodnani was convicted? He still doesn't seem to think there was any mistake in appointing her to power. Lucky for him, Arnab is such a tolerant fellow.

These are just some examples, but the final stage of the Modi make up is basically to collect all criticism and answer it in a way that fools all but those aware of issues with open collusion with the media. The task now is to present plausible explanations for as much criticism as possible before people press buttons on EVMs - whether the explanation is true or not.

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Before the dust settled on the sniggering at the unabashed fan worship of Narendra Modi in what was supposed to be an interview by the supposedly sharp Rajat Sharma, news comes in of senior journalist and editorial director Qamar Waheed Naqvi resigning from IndiaTV in protest of the "fixed" interview.

The interview in question took "staged interview" to a whole new level from Modi's staged interview with Madhu Kishwar (which later turned out to be old footage from her research for her worshipful epic on Narendra Modi). The audience for Modi's interview with Rajat Sharma was packed with Modi fans who cheered at every single thing he said, while Rajat Sharma was acting like the sub-heading on an article optimized for Search Engines - highlighting the content rather than questioning anything.

To the best of my knowledge, the much acclaimed interview neither brought up any new information on Modi nor posed any uncomfortable questions.

Qamar Waheed Naqvi's resignation in protest of the interview has gone unreported by mainstream media (as expected) and fits into a larger pattern of omerta on anything that makes BJP look bad in the run up to the election.

This fits into an election season strangely devoid of many experienced voices being nudged out of public vision. Another example of a missing commentator who won't bend ethics is P Sainath. He doesn't appear to have written on the Hindu this year at all, while tweets on Twitter indicate that the last anyone heard from him was when he pointed out in his Keynote Speech at "Zeitgeist" (a media conference by St Xavier’s College) on "Structural compulsions of the media to lie" that the coverage of Aam Aadmi Party changed drastically after they took on Ambani.

While Sainath is known best for his ground breaking work on the Agrarian Crisis, he is among the leading commentators on paid media and elections. His silence in what is turning out to be a Modi season of media is a story of its own.