Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bihar media humours Nitish

RSS grows in Bihar but media shuns saffron stories, humours Nitish

By Manoj Chaurasia

Lal Krishna Advani has
often said that the Sangh
Parivar had chosen
Madhya Pradesh as its
laboratory for making
experimentations in politics. No one
then, at least outside of the Sangh
Parivar, suspected that these
experimentations would eventually
extend to the use of arms and
making and planting of bombs.
The morning at the Patna's
Jaiprakash Narayan international
airport was busy like any other day
that day, i.e Friday ~ to be exact,
August 15, 2003 ~ the lone
difference being heavy deployment of
security forces around the airport.
The forces got an alert and further
tightened once they heard the loud
noise emanating from a hovering Air
Sahara flight in the sky preparing to
land. After all, the plane was
carrying a special passenger -
Praveen Togadia, the international
general secretary of the Vishva
Hindu Parishad. But, the tension
was soon vanished like a morning
dew from grass as Togadia was not
allowed by the then Rabri Devi
government to enter Bihar. He was
packed off to New Delhi by the same
flight moments after his plane had
touched down the airport. He had
come on a mission to hoist the
national flag at the Saraswati Shishu
Mandir school located in the
communally-sensitive locality
Phulwarisharief locality of the state
capital. He was also scheduled to
distribute tridents during his "Trishul
diksha programme'. Another senior
VHP leader, Acharya Giriraj Kishore,
too met a similar fate when he
arrived the very next day ~ August
16~ to address the state-level VHP
conference in the north Bihar district
of Muzaffarpur. He too was hurriedly
sent back to New Delhi by the same
Indian Airlines flight. None of the
two leaders offered any resistance
before the local authorities.
But then the local media played
up the incidents and carried big
front page stories. There were followups
over the twin incidents which
were described as a direct assault on
a citizen's freedom in the
independent India. Nothing wrong,
at all! Media, after all, is the
watchdog of the society and is
supposed to raise such issues. It has
the right to bark, and even bite
whenever noticing any fault with
the system.

However, the same media which
by its own yardsticks had cried foul
over the RJD government banning
the entry of the VHP leaders, has
remained mysteriously calm and also
joined the shameful act of censoring
the story when the ruling National
Democratic Alliance government in
Bihar headed by chief minister Nitish
Kumar "banned" the entry of his
Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi.
Now Modi is no ordinary politician.
He is the potential prime ministerial
candidate from his ally the BJP and
the hardline Hindutva leader. But
Nitish banned his entry in Bihar
during both 2009 Lok Sabha
elections and 2010 assembly polls.
None of the newspapers questioned
why the leader who is credited with
putting Gujarat on path to progress
to prosperity was being "banned" in
Bihar although his own party. No
one also questioned the rationale of
the BJP, being a coalition partner in
the ruling NDA government and
without whose support Kumar
surely would not have become the
chief minister!

It is not just this omission. The
role of the media has come under
scanner and it has suffered serious
dents in the aftermath of the Nitish
Kumar led JD(U) coming to power in
Bihar. The most general refrain is
that the media which was "vibrant"
and "independent" during the
previous regime pin-pointing the
faults at its will and reporting the
"truth" in the system has now gone
"biased". It is said to be picking up
only those stories which could suit
the present regime. Or else, there
was no reason why they would have
remained silent when, first, the
Gujarat chief minister was
disallowed to campaign for the party
in the last two elections in Bihar and
then his leader LK Advani too was
"restricted" from campaigning for his
party in the Muslim-dominated
border districts, such as Purnia,
Araria, Kishangaj, Katihar which
went to the polls in the first phase of
the October-November 2010
assembly elections.

"We don't require Gujarat's
Modi, our own Modi (Sushil Kumar
Modi) is enough", was the
explanation offered by the NDA
leaders at that time. The last time
Narendra Modi was seen in Bihar
was during the two-day national
executive meeting of the BJP held in
Patna in 2010. At that time also his
presence kicked up a major
controversy. And, his gesture
annoyed the Bihar chief minister so
much so that he not only returned
Rs 5 crore cheque donated by the
Gujarat government to help the
2008 Kosi flood victims but also
cancelled the dinner hosted by the
chief minister at his 1, Marg official
residence in honour of the visiting
BJP dignitaries. If that was not
enough, the police as directed by the
Nitish Kumar government also
raided the local ad agency which
had given advertisements to all the
prominent dailies showing a smiling
Kumar clasping hands with his
Gujarat counterpart whom he loves
to hate in public. After all, it was the
ad which had kicked up storms in
political teacups just ahead of the
forthcoming assembly polls by
"exposing" the secular credentials of
Kumar in public.

The reason for
Kumar's annoyance was his
apprehension that more than
disturbing his party's Muslim votebank,
it could damage his "secular"
image so assiduously cultivated in
the media over the years.
It's not that the media has made
changes in its policy and gone more
objective in their stories. The truth is
that the local media which have
been hugely feasting on government
advertisements, as allege the rivals,
can't even bark at the government
lest they would end up as a biggest
loser of huge government revenue
coming through regular publicity
ads by the government and hence
has almost "adapted" itself to the
routine "diktats" of the chief minister
who is a known baiter of the hardline

"My zeal for reading
the local morning newspapers is
finished now as they have virtually
become the mouthpiece of the
government. No media house has
the guts to assert its position…they
are losing both grounds and
credibility", remarked a prominent
industrialist and former Bihar
Chamber of Commerce official NK
Thakur. "The problem with me, like
the majority, is that we are not
accustomed to read government's
publicity materials which all the
local newspapers look like today", he
sums up.

In the past seven years since the
Nitish Kumar government has come
to power, there has been a sudden
increase in activities of the Hinduvta
organizations, such as the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the
Vishwa Hindu Praishad (VHP) and
its other frontal organizations but
the developments have gone largely
unreported or partially reported in
the media now caught between
Kumar-led Janata Dal-United and the
BJP, both partners in the ruling NDA
government. They must have been
fair in assessment of the whole
situation in Bihar but there is no
denying the fact that the local media
appears to be lop-sided now, allege
all the opposition parties.

The inside
story is that the media has been
under tremendous pressure to ignore
all such stories which are likely to
show the present regime in poor
light. Just everyone knows how the
hardline Hindutva organizations,
especially the activities by the RSS
activities, have recorded a sudden
spurt in recent years. Much to
everyone's surprise, the RSS chose to
hold its crucial meetings, including
the three-day executive committee
meeting, twice at Rajgir in Nalanda
which is incidentally the home
district of the Bihar chief minister. In
a way, the RSS seemed to be
challenging the much-hyped "secular
credential" of Kumar but the local
media chose to play down the story.
In the first week of February again,
the RSS chief Mohan Bhawat held
an in-camera session with the
Sangh's representative in-charge of
around a dozen affiliated
organisations in the state during his
three-day Pravas Yatra in Patna but
this story too ended up making
partial appearances in the local

Bihar chief minister, through his
words, actions and body language,
has always tried his best to show
"abhorrence" towards the "hardcore"
Hinduta leaders but he surprised all
when he decided to flag off the antigraft
nation-wide rath yatra being
undertaken by LK Advani, the leader
who is facing trial in the Babri
mosque demolition case and who
was removed as the BJP president for
hugely praising Pakistan founder
Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Advani who
began his political career as a
volunteer of the RSS kicked off his
anti-graft campaign from JP
ancestral village Sitabdiara in Bihar's
Saran district in October last. During
the occasion, Kumar was seen not
only cosying up with Advani at the
dais amidst host of top BJP leaders
but also flagged of his yatra, much
to the annoyance his own party
leaders in the JD-U. But the story
was widely publicized in the local
media as Kumar's ongoing campaign
against corruption. "Hindutva may
be the reason behind the local
media's choice to overlook certain
stories but its scope is very limited.
The major reason behind is the
peculiar race among the media as to
who pleases Nitish the most",
observes Ajay Kumar, the editor of a
news portal bihartimes.com.

Opposition parties allege the
media in Bihar has been playing up
or playing down the issues
depending upon the context to suit
the Bihar's present regime, to be
more precise the chief minister who
is considered as de facto "Editor in-chief".
In the past two decades, the
Hindutva forces have been trying
hard to make a foothold in Bihar
and they found the ground situation
far more favorable soon after Advani
was arrested by the then Lalu
Prasad government in Bihar in
October 1990 while he was leading
his Ram Rath Yatra to Ayodhya to
seek people's support for construction
of Ram temple at the disputed site. It
surged ahead further in the
aftermath of demolition of Babri
mosque at Ayodhya in December
1992, creating a sharp divide
between the Hindus and the
Muslims. Later, using the RJD chief
Prasad's usual diatribes against
them, they tried hard to spread their
base far deep the state. It was result
of their efforts that the BJP which
once looked a non-existent party
emerged as the main Opposition
party in Bihar and at one stage, its
number in the state assembly was
far bigger than Kumar's JD-U.

However, under the large shadow of
Bihar chief minister, the BJP today
gives the impression of being a
"helpless" coalition partner which
has virtually no "saying" in the NDA
government although its
performance in the last assembly
elections was far more better than its
"Big Brother", the JD-U. Its authority
over the state politics is underlined
from the fact that the BJP was able
to win 91 of the total 102 seats in
the last assembly polls it contested in
alliance with the JD-U, this posting a
magnificent 91 percent strike rate in
matter of victory. Yet media has
gone on ignoring certain facts.
"Bihar has now gone in the
hands of communal forces but the
media is not reporting the truth; it is
in chains", rues the Leader of
Opposition in Bihar assembly and
senior RJD leader Abdul Bari

(The writer is the Patna-based
bureau chief of The Statesman)

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