Narendra Modi turns 69 today. In itself, the number ’69’ is not ‘abhut purva‘ as the alliterator-in-chief himself might say, except for its more popular connotation. Turning 69 is not any different from turning 67 or 68, and certainly not as significant as turning 70.
The pradhan sevak is still a sexagenarian.
At best, one could truthfully say, in the lazy language of daily journalism, that he has reached an “unprecedented” age—an age he had never reached before. Undoubtedly an age he has reached for the first time since 2014.
Yet, looking at the editorial pages of a dozen newspapers in seven languages today, in fact just looking at the unctuous headlines, it would appear as if readers are being introduced to somebody Indians had not heard of before.
And doing the introductions are honourable members of his ministry, some of whom now seem to have blossomed, at the hands of friendly owners, uncritical editors and other toadies, into full-fledged op-ed columnists churning out hundreds of inches of drivel each month.
Leading the pack up-front today is Amit Shah, the arrested, jailed, bailed and externed Gujarati politician who is now Union home minister, who can barely utter a full sentence in English.
Following in the wake of his monumental pieces in The Times of India last month (headlines: “Modi, great reformer” and “A strong-willed PM“), Shah today has a piece in the Hindustan Times, whose headline is even more revealing.
Hopefully, this completes the long-awaited trilogy.
Shah’s unputdownable “column” finds its way into Sandesh in Gujarat, the Assam Tribune in the Northeast, the Telugu newspaper Eenadu in Andhra Pradesh, and the Kannada daily Vijaya Vani in the South.
The first three newspapers show due deference to the “real No.1”, as many are calling Shah, by placing his piece on their edit pages.
Vijaya Vani—owned by former BJP MP and MLA, the transport baron Vijay Sankeshwar—takes the mass email a little too seriously, calling it an “exclusive” and using it as an eight-column front-page flyer that jumps into the turn page, which carries a picture of Anand Sankeshwar meeting and greeting Modi during an “exclusive” poll-eve interview.
The star of the day, however, is the brilliant Prakash Javdekar, the Union minister for information and broadcasting, whose email to edit page writers probably ended with the kind words, “in favour of publication, or else”.
For, newspaper after newspaper—from the Indian Express in Delhi, to the Orissa Post and Dharithri in Bhubaneshwar, to Pratidin in Bengal—prints the same garbage.
In this ocean of conformism, thankfully, there are still a couple of outliers.
The Times of India is one, using its in-house spiritual fountainhead, Jaggi Vasudev alias Sadhuguru.
And, Prabhat Khabar, the Hindi daily previously edited by Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh, is another, which has a panegyric by Bhupendra Yadav.
The effusive praise suggest that despite all the thousands of crores spent on publicity and promotion in the last 64 months, Narendra Modi’s thirst has not been sated.
And the profusion of political bylines once again show that the editorial and op-ed pages have been reduced to little more propaganda pages for the party in power.
The “headline management” is so obvious many publications belonging to different groups in different cities carry the same headline.