The Law of Attraction: Modi factor woos 'national media' to Assam?

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah
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When was the last time Assam saw such a huge media contingent from Lutyens' Delhi?" was the sarcastic remark of a reporter, who works in an Assamese daily, as he sipped tea with his colleagues in the spartan looking Press Club, located in the heart of Guwahati.

The Press Club, overlooking the beautiful lake Dighalipukhuri (the popular meeting ground of lovers), is the place of ‘adda' for most journalists and photojournalists in the city, as they discuss socio-political affairs of the state.
With the election dates coming closer, it is perhaps easier to predict whether it would rain or not in Guwahati gauging at the cloud laden sky of the city, than to make any assumption on which party would come to power.

Tarun Gogoi

Modi magic?

In this atmosphere of uncertainty, the sudden media attention Assam is getting is further baffling the local journalists as well as the common man on the streets.

"Perhaps it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi factor," remarks septuagenarian Haren Deka, at a bookshop in Panbazar, just 500 meters away from the Press Club.

"He is a crowd-puller. Media follows him everywhere, so they are here too. Modi has made several trips to Assam in the past few months and it was not surprising to see journalists from the national media covering his rallies. The BJP has a fair chance of coming to power in the state for the first time, as the Congress is facing anti-incumbency," adds Deka.

Deka, a retired teacher, has seen several elections in his lifetime and it might be his experience which helps him come up with quick answers to tough questions, which even poll pundits are finding it difficult to anticipate.

Delhi dor hain?

Most of the journalists covering the upcoming Assam Assembly Elections 2016 are in a fix to predict anything about the results.

"It is a difficult election to predict. Stakes are high and I have an inkling several surprises are in store," says a veteran journalist, who didn't wish to be named.

Ask him about what he has to say about the remark made by one of his juniors, regarding the visiting journalists from Delhi, the veteran says, "It is a good sign. Delhi is taking interest in us. I wish there were more reporters from the mainstream newspapers and news channels covering Assam throughout the year."

The moment the veteran finished his "balanced" observation on the whole phenomenon of visiting mediapersons from Delhi, sceptics in the Press Club openly expressed their disagreement.

Violence attracts attention?

"Where were all these journalists when Assam was reeling under severe floods in 2015? The national media was busy sensationalising the Sheena Bora murder case (the Guwahati girl alleged to be killed by her biological mother Indrani Mukherjea, the wife of former media baron Peter Mukerjea in Mumbai)," says a photojournalist.

The grouse of the local Assamese journalists against their colleagues working in various media houses across the big cities in the country is not new.

Several popular national dailies, magazines, websites and news channels don't even have a single reporter to cover the northeast region.

It is only terror-related incidents that get flashed on national channels, a common protest of any news junkie in Assam.

Modi in Assam

Why media love to ignore northeast India?

"There was a time when the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) (now almost defunct) used to carry out attacks to attract the attention of the media in Delhi. Imagine, the desire to get some attention in national dailies and channels," says a senior journalist.

"There are several instances when reports on important issues pertaining to Assam and the northeast region never getting published in the national media. This is the kind of censorship we are talking about here. A common blanket ban of news from the northeast region in the mainstream media," he adds.

The anger is so rife that many working journalists of Assam, especially in remote areas, see the visiting scribes as "parachute journalists".

"They have no knowledge about Assam, its history and people. They come here, meet few politicians, businessmen and political gurus and file reports based on hearsay. This is dangerous. They should stay in Assam for at least a month to understand the local issues," says a Nagaon-based journalist, who works for a popular English newspaper.

The tug-of-war between the local and Delhi journalists is just like the trailer of a Bollywood blockbuster.
The actual ‘film' revolves around PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah's election strategies to snatch away fourth consecutive victory from the incumbent chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

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