How Mahajan and his spin-doctors dissect day's news
By Kaveree Bamzai
The author is a well known journalist
Its located in Pramod Mahajan's 7, Safdarjung Road (New Delhi) home. Lunch, a different cuisine everyday, is cooked in Mahajan's kitchen. And even as a bunch of professionals from different fields sit before state-of-the-art computers to churn out data on elections and do content analysis of newspapers, television sets broadcast news and current affairs shows round the clock.
Welcome to the new world of BJP media manipulation. Every day, Rammohan Rao, Principal Information Officer to the Government between June 1985 and January 1992, takes a meeting where the day's newspapers are dissected. Editorials are examined and biases in news reports are noted. Responses are worked out accordingly - which is when newspaper editors and TV network presidents get calls.
The show then moves on to television news. Doordarshan, Zee TV and Star News are put under scrutiny. The priority their bulletins give to Government news, how much time they devote to the Opposition, and how often they focus on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee are all duly noted.
A report is prepared, salient points of which are communicated to Mahajan's unofficial aide Sudhanshu Mittal, former president of the Delhi University Students' Union and long-time member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
Mittal's father runs what is probably one of the largest suppliers of shamianas in the Capital, the Delhi Tent House. This graduate of the Sri Ram College of Commerce, and his friend and Indian Institute of Technology graduate, Ajay Singh - who was made a consultant in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting with the rank of joint secretary in April this year (though he draws only a salary of Re 1) -then brief Mahajan.
Mahajan then communicates the responses to BJP party spokespersons such as Arun Jetley. Ajay Singh, meanwhile, meets Prasar Bharati CEO Rajeev Ratna Shah, to tell him what line the ostensibly autonomous DD should follow that day. The morning meetings of the BJP's official media cell, at former I&B Minister Sushma Swaraj's home, carry little weight.
These day-long group brain-storming sessions which usually last till 3.30 in the afternoons are the meeting point for several regulars: apart from Rao, there is newspaper executive R.P. Singh, who was part of Task Force BJP last year which developed the election campaign. Then there is Aarnir Raza Husain, who engineered the Satyamev Jayate performance at the Hauz Khas monument earlier this year. Ajay Singh drops in. As does Sanjay Nigam, formerly with TVI and now a consultant to the DD news channel. And though Mittal and Mahajan put in brief appearances, it is clear they are the bosses.
(Source: Indian Express, August 6, 1999)
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