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Change that headline: How Nirav Modi had to make way for Narendra Modi

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If big politics is now mostly about headline management, BJP has emerged its unassailable practitioner.

Look back on the headlines screaming out of your front pages and causing prime time shoutrage about a week ago. These were all about uncle-nephew duo Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and the money they had stolen from Punjab National Bank. In their wake came Vikram Kothari of Rotomac pens and sundry others, in the sub-Rs 1,000 crore zone. It seemed there was a run on PSU banks.

It wasn’t good for a government that came to power on the plank of fighting corruption. Critics and the Congress were mocking Narendra Modi for claiming to be the chowkidar (watchman) of public money. Commentators were saying BJP had lost its anti-corruption plank, especially as Nirav Modi had featured close to Modi in that Davos group photo.

Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi, the names of two other celebrity tax/debt exiles, were added to the latest ones. The doughtiest BJP spokespersons were struggling on TV channels. Their argument that the theft took place under the UPA in 2011 was defeated by the CBI’s own FIRs. Those headlines were looking ugly. Then it all changed. These headlines died. New ones appeared.

No, I am not suggesting that Sridevi’s death had something. That was obviously a pure and tragic coincidence. But the larger change was man-made, or rather BJP-made. So think of the headlines as this column goes into print: Did Karti Chidambaram take $700,000 from Indrani and Peter Mukerjea? Did his father help in striking that “deal”? Karti is denied home-cooked food while in custody, but the judge has allowed him to keep wearing his gold chains, and so on.

The discourse has changed. He could have been arrested any of these days over the past several weeks. Please note he wasn’t arrested when he was leaving the country, but when he arrived at airport immigration. Because, if you want to control the message, timing is the thing.

This was a sledgehammer blow, but check out the other, more artful stuff that’s been happening. After remaining frozen for four years, the appointment of a Lokpal has made a comeback. As expected, the Congress protested and another set of virtuous headlines emerged. Then the latest, at this week’s cabinet meeting, the decision to pass an anti-fugitive law, whereby anybody not responding to enforcement agencies within six weeks will be declared a fugitive. You’d wonder what further difference it would make to Mallya or the jeweller Modis if they were also declared fugitive. Besides, the question we can reasonably ask: aren’t they fugitives already? On another day I would have dismissed it as ‘Lawlipop Politics’ (throw in a law when you can’t fix a problem). Not now. Because it serves the purpose beautifully.

A picture of Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of ThePrintAnother set of leaks emerged saying the government may bring in new rules whereby immigration authorities will prevent all wilful defaulters of bank loans from leaving the country. Now, in terms of just legality and fundamental rights, who would decide whether a citizen is a wilful defaulter or it is a case of business loss? Further, isn’t it like the typical old Indian police method of posting cops outside any house that’s just been burgled—never mind that it failed to prevent the burglary?

Compare the state of politics today with just a week ago when the BJP was on the ropes. On every channel now, the BJP is back on the attack and the Congress is defending the Chidambarams. Elsewhere, the editorial commentary and talk is about Lokpal, anti-fugitive bill and immigration restrictions on defaulters. A new regulator has been announced to oversee the chartered accountants who in turn oversee the nationalised banks. These banks have apparently been also ordered to report to the CBI all wilful defaults above Rs 50 crore. CBI also registered a case against promoters of Simbhaoli sugar mills, including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s son-in-law, for “loan fraud” on a PSU bank. Remember, it started with those fat-cat jewellers escaping before all this fortification was put in place, with about Rs 20,000 crore in all, that one of them featured in that Davos photo and another was addressed by the PM with a familiar “Mehul Bhai”, though in a light-hearted jibe. That was bad news, so forgettable, and forgotten.

Within a week, a government reeling under charges of failing to save such massive loot, being friends and complicit with alleged thieves, allowing PSU banks to be bankrupted under its watch, had morphed into the exact opposite: a government of relentless, unforgiving corruption fighters.

That’s the art of politics by headline management.

List the big crisis points in the nearly four years of this government and you will see the same strategy at work. The setback in Uri was set right soon enough with highly dramatised “surgical strikes”. Questioning that would amount to doubting the armed forces so the opposition also mostly shut up and applauded. When the pain of demonetisation seemed building to unacceptable levels, stories and pictures of several tens of crores of cash found in different parts of the country came up. In the course of time, it became evident that most of these pictures of cash-piles were fake. But for the moment, the mood had shifted.

The Rohith Vemula suicide saw the scene shift immediately to JNU and registration of sedition cases against “Bharat tere tukde” speeches allegedly by Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, although nobody has as yet seen a video with either of them saying it. The crisis in Doklam was a more urgent issue and a simpler method was used: just “persuasion” with TV channels and newspapers to not make a big deal of it in the national interest. None of our commando-comedians who sound like they are itching every evening to carry out their own surgical strikes across the Kashmir LoC even mentioned Doklam.

All governments try owning the message, but the Modi-Shah BJP has developed it into a fine art. All new headlines conform to the three essential attributes of Brand Modi for the voters: an incorruptible corruption fighter, an unabashed protector of Hindu-ised nationalism, shoulders so broad and chest so wide that no crisis ever brings a crease to his face. Because he knows he has done nothing wrong and that he is unassailable.

That’s why he has chosen never to respond to any setback. Compare that with Manmohan Singh and his government. They would go into hiding even if it was rumoured that somebody stole tomatoes from a subzi-wala (vegetable-seller) cart under their watch. They must see the Modi government’s performance during its crises with awe, and should also applaud its political genius.

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  1. Congress and left politics along with left intellectual and journalist are bent upon committing suicide. It is beyond comprehension why our liberals are preparing themselves to commit ‘SATI’ with them.

  2. Can see the anger when you’re denied the required bite to run ‘NEWS’. Bhai roti ka sawal hai, kuch to likhna padega. Shekhar sir aap jaise ‘AWARD WAPSI’ gang wale ab yahi umeed hai. Though you’re far more capable of. Just lack proper intension.. Point out government promise and delivery with substance and force the government to take note. Otherwise aap v Congress jaise irrelevant ho jaoge ..

  3. Sekhar Gupta do you realize what readers think about you, how much they hate you. Reading the comments on your columns, any sensible journalist will drown in shame and will stop writing. But paid journalists like you will never do that because they are being paid for a purpose. Shame on you Chatukar Gupta.

  4. dear shekhar,

    Not allowing home food to karti is the bone of your neck. But the gold chains of his is neck is ur weapon to defend your own less confident statement about the food. Dude, not allowing food from home is obvious as one is under CBI investigation, where its a mandate to keep him away from every source which can communicate any message or poison to him.

    And gold chains in the neck don’t hamper CBI’s investigation in any form.

    But you worried about the food is like you are so much concerned about him, like your own kid. And dont worry about theg old chains, you will definetly get diamonds for this sort of journalism.

  5. Very disappointing aericle. A sheer waste of time as another reader had pointed out. It’s a pity that Indian Journalists, however senior they become do not develop maturity and are unable to break free of their pseudo-secular left leanings. Readers are not as stupid S Mr. Gupta presumed. I enjoyed reading the astute comments more than the article

  6. Shekar guta u r a gutter chaap bootlicker journo desperately trying to get ur master Pappu elected in the next election! Please shut up and try something bettr as this ain’t going to work

  7. Shekar Gupta, I feel sorry for you. You have taken so much pains to twist, pull and yank something to make BJP look bad. But the trouble is, your effort is so obvious that even a blind reader can see that you have been trying to be too clever by half. As to your ‘points’, if you have a page full of dots you can connect any of them to draw any picture you want. The ‘events’ you try to correlate to make BJP masters (only) in headline management is like that. You are obviously a key brick in the ‘deep state’ set up by the Congress, which is at work today. Regrettably, you are a journalist too.

  8. seems a confused writer with so confused views.. so many points of last 3 4 years, not making stand clear.

  9. Shekhar Gupta must be feeling awful with BJP’s performance in the North East.
    He was a junior reporter with the Express when he came to Duliajan Assam on 19 November 1981. The AASU had called for a strike but Oil India was working. He said that the Army has made the employees work because the resident chief executive was an Army Officer!!
    Of course, he dutifully reported what he did not see!!!

  10. After the razing this article few questions are coming to my mind . Does Modi Shah duo call all news channels ( more than 400) to run programmes and make headlines as per their wish on daily basis ? If yes then why they didn’t stopped Nirav Modi – choksi news initially without coming to channels? Does he not part of same Lutyens cosy club when he questions arrest of Karti Chidambaram rather than putting facts or Amarinders son in law for that matter? If he was so true journalist why did he not wrote articles for fuzzy businesses of Chidambaram? Does Mr Gupta have some guts to reply questions raised by readers ? I don’t think he will bother to reply , He must be busy somewhere to write another gossip !

  11. Actually, Mehul Chowksi and Nirav Modi are small time crooks. I am surprised why no one is talking about RCOM, which breathed its last breath on 31st December. The younger Ambani in the process created an NPA of 1.25 Lakh Crores, the debt got restructured and he was reloaned to start another company in a field which he has no experience in.

  12. Dear Shekhar , Nothing more can be expected from you. I wonder what you do is journalism than I am sure ppl like you, Rajdeep Barkha etc are not journalist. By virtue of your position you get write to anything against any one and go scot free. Where were you when at instruction of Rajiv Gandhi CM Arjun singh sent off Anderson to Bhopal Air port in collector’s Car after 3 December 1984. Where were you Ottavio Quattrocchi is staying in 10 Janpath and CBI searching him with a look out notice against him. Where were you when Nagarwala died in prison when ready to spill the bins in 60 lac with drawl from SBI branch. Where were you when Harshad Mehata cheated Banks LIC Ulip in similar fashion.
    Just Neerav Modi made a fraud bcoz of carelessness and greed of PNB officials how can be Narendra Modi is responsible? Karti was arrested after trip bcoz he went to close the trail of money laundering if foreign Banks. And bcoz of this fact CBI got 6 days custody. If he was arrested earlier they have no case against him. These facts you know well as you are in media. But when you write an article hiding truth you loose your credibilty as journalist and become Bhand of 10 Janpath.

  13. Smart people are now people who do not care about being dishonest, manipulative, divisive or in different to facts. One just needs to be successful, and it would justify any means. Morals followed in public life will soon reflect on societal standards for the same. Hope this will not bring about a permanent change the values systems in the future.

  14. This scam happened in one bank’s branch and you are cursing modi for that he is PM but that doesn’t mean that he us responsible for each and every corruption of a bank employee no one asks question from chairman of pnb bank manager of branch no one is talking about those bankers who are really responsible for this
    It’s a truth that in 2016 he received a complaint about that but immediately he forwarded it to registerar of companies and they have rejected this complaint so why don’t u ask the ROC that on what basis they have rejected that.
    Always you know to target modi only.

  15. True. UPA Govt. used to panic and went to receive Ram Dev at the Airport. However, it is the success of the con-people who will evenyually be exposed. But in this case, the damage to the idea of India and the evolving human issues will be colossal and far more serious than even what Jews have had to bear.

  16. It seems to be that it is Shri Shekar Gupta who is neither reading headlines nor watching TV. On a day in which BJP has become the numero uno in the North East and Congress has been decimated Shri Gupta is writing about yesterday’s headlines. You need to be a lot more subtle about your ideological biases Sir, otherwise people will not take you seriously.

  17. Time to retire Mr Gupta, from active journalism, you have lost your touch! It’s a non issue what you have raised. Such games are played even in college elections.

  18. has modi or amithsha come physiclaly inbto shekar guptha, or nidhi razdan or sagarika ghose or ira dugal keyboard and type a particular headline. you people have full liberty to telecast, to write to share nirav modi or lalith modi or commonwealth game or 2G scam for continuous days, who is stopping you media people

  19. As per coup expert BJP wins through efficient headline management! Surgical strike,JNU arrest,Doklam,arrest of poor KC all r stage managed to change public perception!INC n MMS were duped for their innocence,even din’t raise voice when they were alleged for petty theft like stealing tomato (2G,Coal,CWG,etc)!

  20. As per coup expert BJP wins through efficient headline management! Surgical strike,JNU arrest,Doklam,arrest of poor KC all r stage managed to change public perception!INC n MMS were duped for their innocence,even don’t raise voice when they were alleged for petty theft like stealing tomato (2G,Coal,CWG,etc)!

  21. Dear Shekar, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are 24/7 politicians, unlike Rahul Gandhi. In this day and time of perception creation by the left leaning media, what they are trying to do is called survival.A section of the media which benifitted under the UPA has been kept at an arms length by the present regime. This is such a loss of face /status in the society that you live. The anger amongst such journalists is palpable, visible when they speak or write.
    Modi and Amit Shah have been smartly countering the perceptions being created by you and your friends in your fraternity.
    The best part is the muck thrown by you is not sticking on to the Kurta’s of Modi. The common man feels that Modi is an honest man and he is doing his best for the country. Successful headlines management again?

  22. Namo and team is just following already proven dikta hai wo bikta hai… Today’s voters are no exception to this. Remember, how AAP came into existence from no where and captured hotspot of the nation.

    Also, headline management is nothing but time management in which, one is better than the other. Days are not far off when we will see similar actions against the present tycoons, when the wave flips.

    Finally, voters seem to suffer with a short term memory loss and hence go with latest headlines, leaving aside facts of the past that may have made an positive/negative damage to the nation. The “local” broomstick that made headlines in the past is not being talked about now-a-days. Recall the rush of celebraties to clean the nation, was up on the air for several days, eventually lost its path. However, Ram mandir and lokpal are the latest events in “The making of 2019”.

  23. I spent 3 minutes reading the article which had no news, just an opinion and that too poorly researched. Hope you spent at least a couple of minutes to think before writing such tripe. Now I have wasted 5 minutes

  24. When everybody in India including Shekhar Gupta is angry with Modi then Modi is doing something very right for the country . God bless him.
    Oh I came to know that he stopped wasting taxpayers money on journalists who usually accompany PMs abroad!
    Shekhar must understand why Journalists have lost credibility with the people nowadays.

  25. The series of quick actions, passing of bills, plugging of loopholes that had made plundering banks and the exchequer ridiculously easy, shows beyond any shred of doubt that this Modi government is NOT suffering from Policy Paralysis that afflicted Manmohan Singh and made him the laughing stock of the whole nation for the better part of 10 years.

    I wonder how many times Shekhar Gupta wrote about the said policy paralysis! Far from it, he became a part of the same set up, though not outwardly. This article by him shows to what depths a hate-filled journo can descend.

  26. Electoral in India is not affected by the headlines in national newspaper. Let us not give any credit to media managers of BJP. Voters are impressed by what is offered or promised to offer in return for votes. BJP knows this.

  27. People are aware now that there is no organised lot and plunger from the current ministers.It’s because the intent is there to punish the wrong doers and the man at the top is clean. You should be grateful that the is a man big enough to lead and not plead.

  28. Good analysis as usual. The only conclusion we can draw is that Namo and his team is very smart, and we do need smart people at the top for sure.

  29. Today’s headline is tomorrow’s footnote. Like soap suds floating in bright sunshine. All of this should rest on a solid bedrock of achievement, to endure.

  30. Kindly click #UmeshModi on twitter or search on google with 3 keywords “Umesh Modi” “Lalit Modi” and “Baghpat”

    Did any Sr Journalist raise in anywhere in Hindi or English media ? Even Shekhar Gupta , The print informed by saveral people but ignored it , Don’t all of playing with us ? Why did nt you print n raise this ? Kindly reply

  31. Shekhar, You are not the only person who can notice all this headline management. At their gut level, if not at a sophisticated level, common voters do too. George W Bush and Karl Rove were much better at it than Modi and Shah will ever be. Look at what happened to GWBush’s presidency. Look at what is happening to Trump. Eventually you will also write an article in which you will say: Nautanki Bazi can never beat sincere and hard work towards good policy. For the good of the country, I hope Modi realizes it too.

    • >>>Look at what happened to GWBush’s presidency.<<< nothing happened to his presidency – he completed two terms as president of USA, the maximum that any person can remain as president – suggesting that Obama succeeding him as president was any fault his presidency is akin to suggesting that Trump succeeding Obama is the fault of Obama presidency

  32. Dear Shekhar, very unfair to your readers ! Your article is not different from the propaganda of the defeated opposition that Modi won 2014 on the wave of ‘media glitz’ and ‘money power’ or that they are winning state after state thereafter due to Amit Shah’s formidable ‘election winning machine’ ! Your write up is not in the ‘national interest’ at all !
    Please stop speculating and gossiping. Inform us what are – or are not, the facts of the case against Karti Chidambram – rather than why was he arrested ‘after’ his arrival not ‘before’ the departure ! I need to know how much Amarinder Singh’s son-in-law can be or cannot be held culpable for the loan his company has taken and defaulted. I wish to know what institutional mechanism Arun Jaitly should have brought in to come true to their leader’s claim of ‘na khanuga na khane dunga’ in reference to PNB scam. Do not tell me that Nirav Modi being in a frame with Narendra Modi inculpates BJP. None of you ever asked questions to the political party concerned why it made Vijay Malya an MP !
    I agree that BJP and Modi are formidable and must be checked and balanced for a healthy democracy. But please bring cold facts and critical analysis rather than indulging in kitty party-type chattering.

    • Well put, Mr. Ramesh Singh, Sir. Your comments on “ journo “ Shekher Gupta’s article is succinct and hard hitting where they should . Pravin G Desai. VALSAD . Gujarat.

    • That’s an excellent rejoinder, Ramesh Singh, to what one has to sadly describe as a uni-dimensional article. Shekhar Gupta has been an excellent journalist, investigative and beyond; one would expect him to go beyond mere descriptions all the time. Your comment convinces me that “The Print” is actually being followed by some astute readers – the Print guys need to recognize that too. Bravo!!

    • Ramesh Singh.. what are trying to do here .. whom are you trying to explain.. Shekhar Gupta is the heart of eco system that keeps defending the Family, the congress and the communists and all other anti BJP parties .. at one time he himself admitted he is closet communist !! He developed anti Modi articles to a fine art.. first thing is, he will be smooth with the language, adjectives and all.. and thats the key !! you see, shouting curse words will be easy to deny.. but smooth twisting of narrative is very difficult to beat.. and second thing, he will be very selective with the facts .. so selective, he will never mention one good governance or administrative decision taken by Modi or for that matter any BJP government .. if you actually carefully read between the lines/behind the lines, he is implying that surgical strikes are fake.. you see , he will never oppose anything directly.. he pretends to be a friends, be smooth with food, wine and talk , and then plants a seed of doubt in your mind with a smile.. third, they select and twist the facts to their liking.. Rohit Vemula suicide will be brought up again and again and again.. so that people will never move on from it.. as if no other student committed suicide.. as if no student committed suicide in congress/communist regimes.. and more importantly, its not only Rohit vemula who had to face and ups and downs and challenges in his student life.. 95 out of 100 students have same discrimination/financial/logistical challenges going on for them .. I had to drop out of REC Warangal ( it was not NIT then) and never got to complete my Btech.. shall I commit suicide buddy ?? and about “Bharat ke Tukde” piece… this is stroke of a genius .. if you follow the tone and intent of the article, SG is actually implying that Modi and Shah arranged for that “Bharat ke Tukde” demonstration.. who told JNU people to do that shouting.. when group of students in an university sitting right in the heart of Delhi does that kind of sloganeering, Media and Media headlines follow.. and for some reason, known only to SG, its Modi’s cunning that Media picked up JNU incident and the actual incident itself. and lately Nirav Modi thing.. for Shekhar Gupta, it does not matter when the loan were issued first or for that matter , issuing LoU is an every day intra -bank / inter bank transaction and certainly the Central governments does not have much say in this.. and fraud that has happened is because of negligence of banking staff.. and there was not Look Out circular for Nirav Modi when he left the country.. Nirav Modi left the country with a valid passport and visa and somehow it PM Modi duty to be there at every airport terminal gate to catch every supposed criminal at the gates. And then he himself brings Human rights thing into the table. So, first he says, Nirav Modi should not be let go out of country ( inspite of no look out circular or report of fraud committed by him at that time) and then brings Human rights thing into play saying no body should be stopped from leaving the country based on hearsay.. He plays both the sides and does with a smooth cunning which feels like he is on your side.. and regarding Doklam.. show one more government in the world which handled the issue with such calm , grit and patience.. Chinese government did back down after all the spiteful, hateful and fear mongering rhetoric.. again, if you read this article, he is implying that Modi government did not handle Doklam very well and thats why those generals are not talking.. may be Shekhar Gupta wants to go to a war with China .. ofcourse, he wont send any of his family members to the war zone .. but he just wants some more war stories and wine and dine with military generals out there .. to summarize, Shekhar Gupta is a double tongued, smooth & cunning fox who lies with such a finesse and adjective filled way you will go home happy that he is praising you when he is actually tarnishing your name and reputation.. he employs all this skill in attacking everything BJP does and never once stopping to ask what the Gandhi family or (Yadavs or Pilot or Scindias ) have to offer for this nation ..

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