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Moment that mattered: Narendra Modi wins the Indian elections

India has a strong mainstream media that plays a big role in forming public opinion, but we don’t have a strong independent or alternative media. During the general elections the big media houses, newspapers and television channels were criticised for aligning with political parties who bring in a lot of money by buying advertisements. Indian media is also mostly owned by big industrialists, who more often than not have political affiliations. Certain types of issues were not covered, while certain politicians were always on the front page getting mainly positive coverage.

“Entire villages boycotted the elections because they had seen no development for 20 or 30 years. Mainstream media don’t go to these areas”

Khabar Lahariya is a newspaper produced by a team of 40 women from rural areas and small towns in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It covers politics, development, governance and local issues the mainstream media do not cover. We challenge the idea that you need a certain level of education and knowledge, and to be of a certain gender and caste to be a journalist, by covering issues from the perspective of women on the margins of society.

In the communities in which Khabar Lahariya is published, people felt that other political parties and previous governments hadn’t met their expectations, and unemployment and inflation were big issues. Many voters felt they had no better options than the BJP, and Modi’s party represented change. Its campaign was also the strongest and best resourced, with Modi himself attending political rallies and meetings in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – he was the most visible party leader.

While people in these areas are generally aware of what’s going on in national politics, there are also pockets where people are alienated. During the elections, we published special issues of Khabar Lahariya focusing on politics in these districts. We looked at areas where Dalits [the group at the bottom of the caste system] are living and reported on whether they were seeing real change amid the flashy promises politicians were making. There were entire villages boycotting the elections because they had seen no development for 20 or 30 years. Mainstream media don’t go to these areas because they have no paying consumers who will look at advertisements. We try to give them a space to articulate themselves and a channel for their voices to reach the powers that be. This will be especially important now that a huge mandate has been given to the BJP and to Modi.

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