Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Modi government’s India media blitz ends as election rules begin

Newspapers and magazines ran 162 publically funded government adverts between March 1 and March 10

An Indian newspaper vendor reading an edition with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake information ahead of the election in New Delhi. AFP
An Indian newspaper vendor reading an edition with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake information ahead of the election in New Delhi. AFP

An advertising blitz by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, which saw more than 150 newspaper ads in the past 10 days lauding the government’s performance, stopped on Monday as the schedule for the next general election was announced.

The election will be held over seven stages from April 11, the Election Commission said on Sunday bringing with it the code of conduct on election campaigning. That includes a ban on ads in electronic and print media highlighting government achievements and paid for with public funds, the commission said.

Leading English-language national dailies including the Times of India, the Hindustan Times and the Indian Express carried no government ads on Monday.

The New Delhi editions of those three newspapers had 162 government ads between March 1 and March 10, according to Reuters calculations. Of those, 93 were full page.

Most featured a picture of Modi and highlighted government initiatives from rural development and solar power to airport infrastructure and social security benefits, among others.

One of the full-page ads highlighted 12 achievements in different sectors, saying it was "putting farmers first" and "national security is a top priority".

The Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity, a government agency that coordinates with ministries on government ads, said on Monday that "no advertisements highlighting the government's achievements have been issued to any newspaper across the country", in line with election rules.

A spokesman for the agency did not comment on how much money the government had spent on ads recently.

Mr Modi's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Some people had expressed frustration on Twitter with what they saw as excessive advertising.

One user, Dhruv Rathee, tweeted a video last week in which he flipped pages of the Times of India newspaper and said: "Every page you turn has Modi's face on it". The video received nearly 82,000 views.

Another, Shashank Rajak, said: "It's so much annoying to read newspapers these days ... Do we really need all this nonsense? Pure waste of OUR money."

Mr Modi faces growing anger about a shortage of jobs and weak farm prices. However, he is expected to get a popularity boost from his decision to send warplanes into Pakistan to attack an alleged militant site after a Pakistan-based group claimed a suicide bombing last month that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir.

Updated: March 11, 2019 07:02 PM

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