Several leading newspapers published from Patna appear biased in favour of BJP. In their coverage, they are giving a large share of space to the BJP. Their major focus is the speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Several reports have come, singing praises for him. In return, the newspapers are rewarded with big advertisements. For example, several newspapers carried a full page advertisement on its front page in which Prime Minister is alluring the voters of Bihar that they would be given free vaccine of the corona.
Interestingly, the BJP advertisement, promising a free corona vaccine, could only carry the giant image of Modi. Note that the BJP is fighting the Bihar polls under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. The absence of Nitish Kumar’s image is yet another indication that all is not well within the NDA. Is this an indication that the BJP is trying to cut Nitish down to size? Has the saffron party decided to emerge the front player in Bihar politics, throwing off Nitish Kumar’s crutch?
Modi and the BJP are getting more media attention than Nitish Kumar. Take the example of the Sasaram rally (October 23) in which both Modi and Nitish were present. The next day, Dainik Jagran (Patna, October 24) made Modi’s speech the lead story on the front page. “Government jobs are a source of earning bribe for RJD: Modi” (Sarkari naukariyan Rajd ke liye rishwat kamane ka zariya: Modi).
Remember that NDA’s main opposition, the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ led by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, had promised to approve 10 lakh jobs in the first cabinet meeting. Since the NDA, both in the centre and the state, has miserably failed to create jobs, the voters, particularly the youth, are considering voting for the change. To counter the Mahagathbandhan, Modi tried to scare people that the RJD would earn bribe through the process of job creation.
Led by Modi, the BJP leaders are targeting the RJD by invoking ‘jangal raj’, corruption, lack of development during 15-year old Lalu-Rabri raj. Modi, in his speech, also invoked article 370 and the security of the country, alleging the opposition of weakening the country. Contrary to Modi’s speech, Nitish Kumar’s speech got much lesser media coverage even though he is the leader of the NDA in Bihar. Kumar focused on development and Bihari pride. He also tried to attract the attention of the minorities by saying that his government formed a commission to look into riots and later jailed the culprits and gave relief to the victims.
On the same day, a six-column separate story of Dainik Jagran showered praises on Modi for “enthusing” the voters. Modi was praised for speaking a few lines in Bhojpuri, Maithali, and Angika.
The bias of the media in favour of Modi and the BJP may be a result of rewards in the form of advertisements. The next day, October 25, several leading dailies published from Patna carried a full-front page advertisement of Modi. Dainik Jagran, Hindustan, Dainik Bhaskar, Prabhat Khabar published Modi’s advertisement with a slogan “We have faith in BJP: Vote for NDA” (Bhajpa hai to Bharosa hai: NDA ko jitayen). Note that Modi’s advertisement, eying voters in Bihar, exclusively uses BJP’s name. The leading Urdu daily Inquilab (Patna) did not have the said advertisement but it published a full-page advertisement of Prem Kumar, BJP senior leader in Bihar.
In sum, the large share of the page goes to Modi/BJP/NDA, while a small proportion is given to Tejashwi Yadav/the RJD/Congress/Left/Mahagathbandhan. Other smaller parties such as LJP, the AIMIM, the RSP, the BSP, the JAP, and the SDPI are not much visible in the media. The bias in media coverage points to the fact that the contents of the media are largely determined by the advertisers.
(Abhay Kumar is a Ph.D. from JNU. He is broadly interested in Minority and Social Justice. Earlier, he held a Post-Graduate Diploma in English Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and worked as a Delhi-based reporter with The Indian Express. You may write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org).