Offstumped is marking the first in a series of posts from now till the counting of votes as Gujarat conducts elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

So how is the battleground in Gujarat shaping up ?

More than a month back when the Congress with great enthusiasm celebrated the arrival of its heir apparent Rahul Gandhi with juvenile cricketing metaphors, more than one Congressman said it would be Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi. The heir apparent meanwhile seems have gone into hibernation after promising “rapid fire talking points“, “booklets on Rama Sethu” while calling for “accountability” and “meritocracy” in the Congress. In fact it needed the Uttar Pradesh Police to conjure up kidnap plots to bring back the media spotlight on the heir apparent since his lackadaisical AICC speech.

So where is Rahul Gandhi and is he up to the challenge in Gujarat ?

In fact so lacking in punch is the Congress campaign in Gujarat that the only headlines it seems to be making are the candidate lists it belatedly released after Modi stole an early lead with a slate that punished non performing incumbents while breaking new grounds in representing women. Whether all of this is any panacea to Modi’s woes remains to be seen.

But the principal opposition it appears is the least of Modi’s worries at the moment. A  cursory scan of the media stories says it all. For every 10 news stories on Modi and the feud within the BJP there are probably one or two stories on the Congress and that too mostly carrying soundbites coming from local leaders while the national leadership of the Congress is nowhere in the picture.

While the electoral battle in Gujarat is increasingly looking like a BJP versus BJP family feud, the 24×7 news channels have decided to pick up the gauntlet dropped by the Congress. The reporting line by NDTV and CNN-IBN says it all.

About 109 news stories from NDTV on Gujarat in the last 30 days. Of these about 67 stories had to with the polls. An analysis of th 67 stories by NDTV is very revealing.

Anti-Modi (tehelka, riots and related muslim issues,  development) – 27 stories includes only 2 on development (1 story on Modi’s Chiranjeevi scheme to encourage private use of maternity homes/clinics is strangely given a negative spin of decaying public health and a second one on nomadic muslim tribes being denied voter identities)

General Muslim issues (excluding riots) in Gujarat – None

Factual reporting on Congress/rebels/others campaign – 13 stories (mostly PTI releases)

Factual reporting on BJP/Modi campaign – 14  stories (mostly PTI releases)

Positive stories on Development in Gujarat with credit to Modi/BJP – None

Positive stories on Gujarat with no apparent credit – 1 story on snake charmers getting voter identities

Negative stories with no specific target of criticism or generally critical of politics – 2 stories on fishermen and rural foodgrain  banks run by women being disenchanted with politicians

Poll process related – Rest

The bias in the reportage is damning.

What is apalling however is that how little the reportage has focused on development related issues on Gujarat in general and on Muslims in specific.

The other interesting aspect of the reportage is the near equal coverage to the political opposition despite the Congress yet to seriously begin its campaign. This is a reflection of how prominently the BJP rebels and the internal feud with Keshubhai Patel has figured in the media.

The doom and gloom reportage is not confined to NDTV alone. The CNN-IBN is guilty of it as well. Of about 36 news stories sampled by Offstumped in the last 30 days, CNN-IBN had the following break up

Anti-Modi (tehelka, riots and related muslim issues,  development) – 27 stories including stinging op-eds by Sagarika Ghosh and Rajdeep Sardesai

General Muslim issues (excluding riots) in Gujarat – None

Factual reporting on Congress/rebels/others campaign – 4

Factual reporting on BJP/Modi campaign – None

Positive stories on Development in Gujarat with credit to Modi/BJP – None

Positive stories on Gujarat with no apparent credit – None

Negative stories with no specific target of criticism or generally critical of politics – None

Poll process related – Rest

If NDTV was merely biased, one can be forgiven for mistaking CNN-IBN to be contesting the elections against Narendra Modi.

Offstumped Bottomline: The battlelines are drawn in Gujarat. Its media versus Modi with the Congress nowhere in the picture and BJP rebels hogging the headlines. With the heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi neither “here” nor “apparent” its clearly Narendra Modi’s election to lose or win.

http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/2007/11/27/gujarat-polls-2007-its-ndtv-ibn-versus-modi/#post-comments

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