The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide sweep in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections yielded epiphanic, incisive analysis of India’s polity by Indian media organisations, while also making headlines in international publications.
Keeping in mind the role of information in determining this mandate and the low approval ratings for the fourth estate of late, the media’s reaction to Modi’s reelection on Thursday made for an excellent picture of dignity and civility—for the most part.
Here’s our assessment of the media coverage of the final moments of the race and how our appointed dissenters held themselves to the highest standards of journalism.
Soon after it became clear that Modi will return for five more years, the country’s newsrooms witnessed some electrifying debates with panelists from across the political spectrum stating their views on what worked for the BJP and what went wrong for the Opposition.
News18 invited former political analyst and farmer’s rights activist Yogendra Yadav to weigh in on his comment that the Congress must die.
Veteran journalists N Ram and Shekhar Gupta made their observations at NDTV’s poll coverage-cum-panel discussion; reporters stationed across the country were looped in, and they filled in with updates from the scenes in respective states while counting was underway.
Senior moderators like Sagarika Ghose, Nidhi Razdan and Pranoy Roy placed difficult questions on the table and talked about pressing matters like communal polarisation, ultranationalism, Narendra Modi’s acceptability among women, and the need for a coalition that subsumes individual identities.
India Today invited psephologist Pradeep Gupta, whose organisation Axis-My India had conducted the channel’s exit polls, predicting the most accurate outcome of this election. Gupta broke down on camera, as journalists Rahul Kanwal and Rajdeep Sardesai recounted how they had neen trolled over the massive projections for the BJP.
Newspapers and online publications had a field day coming up with headlines for their Friday editions. With gorgeous illustrations and packed with all the poll information you need, TOI offered the most comprehensive coverage of the poll results and trends in print.
Leading daily The Telegraph, which memorably criticised Modi’s silent performance at the press conference last week by reserving an empty white space on its front page, once again made use of witty visual elements and bold messaging to congratulate the PM in their Friday morning edition.
The lede read: Modi wave 2.0 ended up decimating the Opposition in large swathes of the country—reflected most starkly by Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s defeat in the family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
The Hindu dove straight into analysis mode with articles titled “Decoding the BJP’s victory in elections 2019”, “Analysis: Highest ever vote share for the BJP” and “How the saffron tide shook the Trinamool citadel.”
Left-leaning websites The Wire and Scroll.in did not relent in their criticism of the Hindu nationalist party after its landslide victory.
Some of The Wire’s pieces on the election results are titled as “A New India has emerged and Narendra Modi is its voice,” “BJP experimented with identity politics in 2014 and cemented it in 2019” and “Five things the second Modi government can do to fix the economy.”
Alternative and independent media agency from the hinterlands, Khabar Lahariya and its women journalists, ran a brilliant coverage of the results that streamed live on YouTube and Facebook.
While it was the most important day of the year for Indian media, foreign outlets also showed keen interest in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.
The front page of The Guardian on Friday carried three stories and a video on the general elections in India. Their lead story was how Congress president Rahul Gandhi lost his family bastion of Amethi.
An editorial piece after Modi’s victory was certain said, “The world does not need another national populist leader who pursues a pro-business agenda while trading in fake news and treating minorities as second-class citizens.”
The New York Times opinion piece is titled ‘How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate’. The Washington Post writing about the big day, published “India’s Modi wins resounding election victory with potent appeal to nationalism.” It said that “voters endorsed his vision of a muscular, assertive and fundamentally Hindu India” by voting for Modi.
The report further added that Modi, who the new site termed as charismatic but polarising, is part of a crop of the right-leaning populist leaders around the world.
Al Jazeera, in its coverage, noted that ‘Modi is the first non-Congress prime minister in India to return to power after a full five-year term’.
Pakistan’s Dawn also carried an editorial on the Indian general elections. It was headlined, “With elections over, we hope Modi will rein in his anti-Muslim; anti-Pakistan rhetoric”.
Global leaders, however, appeared equally thrilled. From Chinese president Xi Jinping to US president Donald Trump, a number of world leaders extended their “heartiest” congratulations to Modi on his “big” election victory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan were among those who congratulated Modi and vowed to work with him to bolster the bilateral ties.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius