136-Part-1 Amar Ujala

Amar Ujala

Anuj Tyagi, Deputy GM (Media Solutions), Noida; Navjeet Kumar, Marketing Officer, Una, Himachal Pradesh; Mohit Sharma, Asociate Vice President (Marketing), Bharpur Singh, GM (Media Solutions) and Kanwaljit Singh, Sr. Marketing Manager (Media Solutions), Chandigarh; Sanjeev Rastogi, Dy Manager (Media Solutions), Meerut; Harpreet Kaur, Sales Manager, Mumbai; Himanshu Gautam, Business Head and Ashish Vimal Garg, Sr. Manager, amarujala.com, Delhi


cobrapost - March 26, 2018

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Amar Ujala began its journey from Agra a year after an Independent India was born in 1947. From a single-city newspaper to 19 editions, the Hindi daily sells about two million copies a day across seven states of UttarakhandHimachal PradeshJammuHaryanaPunjabDelhi NCR and Uttar Pradesh. According to IRS, it has more than 5 million readers. As one of its senior mangers informs us, Amar Ujala has 72 lakh followers on Facebook, 7 lakh on Twitter and 2 lakh on Instagram, which shows its reach and ability to influence its readers, particularly when its content could be tweaked as Pushp Sharma found during the course of this investigation. Sharma interviewed nine senior functionaries of the daily at Noida, Una in Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Meerut, Mumbai and Delhi. One of the first senior functionaries to receive Sharma was Deputy GM Anuj Tyagi. Sharma briefs him on his agenda and asks him how best they can run the campaing on their print and digital platforms: promotion of Hindutva in the first phase and bashing of political rivals through Pappu jingles in the second. As part of the promotion of Hindutva, the journalist asked if his newspaper can promote speeches of Mohan Bhagwat on particular occasions on their digital platform. Tyagi promptly agrees: “Haan wo aapko video promotion ho gyega video bana lijiye teen char minute ka wo video live ho jayega (Yes, video promotion will be done. You will have to shoot a 3­–4 minute video and it will be posted live).” Sharma again reiterates his agenda, all three requirements, and asks if he got his points clear. Tyagi nods to say: “Hummm.” So, I hope you are comfortable with my first requitement of Hindutva? Replies Tyagi in a reassuring manner: “That I will check with my editorial department. That is not an issue.” How will you go about thrashing our political rivals?  “That is in terms of creative you want to use, we are as a neutral, we do not involve our political our…” says Tyagi, unsure. But you can always print an advertorial? Asks the journalist. Tyagi not only agrees but also says to create one for their client: “Yeah. That can be done. Advertorial type can be done and we can write the advert.” He also assures that the digital promotion will be taken care of with an Aye: “Haan.”

Sharma met Navjeet Kumar, who is working with Amar Ujala as its Marketing Officer at Una, Himachal Pradesh. Navjeet heard his client with rapt attention as Sharma went about briefing him on all three points of his agenda. Supplying their client the information when sought, Navjeet talked in monosyllables like “bilkul”, “ji” and so on. For instance, when the journalist told him that he wants them to promote firebrand Hindutva leaders like Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar and Mohan Bhagwat on their digital platform, Navjeet nodded saying: “Theek hai (All right).” After he has told him he wants to thrash political rivals like Mayawati and Rahul Gandhi using their nicknames, the journalist asks him this can be done in the print version of the paper. “Print mein bhi ho sakta hai (yes, it can be done in print),” replies Navjeet. Telling him if we keep publishing such content on these leaders using their nicknames like Pappu, it will help create a congineal atmosphere in our favour. He says of using those names: “Kar lete hain (We will use them).” Sharma then tells him to divert the attention of the readers from issues such as GST or not so good stories appearing in the press about the misdeeds of some leaders and their kin by placing such negative stories in inner pages of the paper. This way way you can play them down, and you can always place our ad in jacket on such occasions. Navjeet also agrees happily to do so: “Ye zyada accha rahega (This will be a better way).”

A deal is no deal unless and until money involved is discussed. So, coming to this important point of the deal, Sharma tells him that, look, most of our money comes from donations. Would you mind if I pay you 50 percent in cash and the rest by cheque? We hear him agree to the deal saying: “Payment cash se bhi le lenge le lenge hum cash bhi le lenge … pehle deal toh kariye aap (We will accept payment in cash also … but let us close the deal first).”

Sharma met Associate Vice President Mohit Sharma, GM Bharpur Singh and Sr. Manager Kanwaljit Singh at their Chandigarh office using a different pitch. In order for our party to gain a strong foothold in Punjab, he tells them, you will have to promote Hindutva by spreading the message of Gita and Lord Shri Krishna so that a favourable atmosphere is created. As 2019 elections approach, our campaign will take a political hue to further the cause of our party. “Okay okay … yani ki aap Hindutva kee baat karenge (Okay, Okay. It means you will talk of Hindutva),” asks Kanwaljit. Exactly, this is what we want. Says an agreeable Kanwaljit: “Bilkul, bilkul Sir … (Sure sure Sir).” To make his agenda clear to them, the journalist again tells Kanwaljit that after the first three months of test and trial phase of Hindutva, his campaign would take a political tinge in which our agenda will be to polarize the electorate so that we can convert the campaign into votes. “Yani ki aap 2019 ka wo … (You mean you want to 2019 …),” Kanwaljit wants to know. Yes, you are right, Sharm tells him. We are targeting our campaign for 2019 elections. Understanding the import, Kanwaljit says: “Okay.”

The tone is thus set for the deal. Sharma now asks if they have digital presence. Yes, we have amaarujala.com, informs Rohit Sharma. It is a kind of e-paper? Yes, says Mohit and goes onto add: “e-Paper haan (yes). That will go, but if you [are] looking for a separate platform we can create that if you are looking for it.” Appreciating his idea, the journalist now tells them that his Sangathan wants to thrash political rivals using those Pappu jingles using satire. Although Kanwaljit understands the limitation of such political campaigns, yet he agrees to do it the way the journalist wants him to do, saying: “Not directly, indirectly.”

Finding the entire marketing team sitting before him on the same page, Sharma now asks them to write advertorials covering the events of firebrand Hindutva leaders and package them in such a manner that they are published in their “news setup.” We hear Bharpur Singh promise us this much: “Haan (yes). That’s is basically part and parcel when we are doing all the things.” When will you start? The team now wants to know. Here, the journalist has already sold them a cock and bull story telling them that creatives will be issued by a Nagpur-based company called Third Eye! But the payment will be made locally, he further enlightens them. Bharpur Singh understands well how the deal is going to be materialized and seeks to say: “Nahi, nahi. Humare ko matter Third Eye se aayega, payment humare paas 50 percent cash or baaki RTGS … local se ayega before publishing the ad (No, no. We will receive the matter from the Third Eye whereas the payment will be made locally 50 percent in cash the rest by RTGS … from the local source before publishing the ad).” That settled, the meeting draws to a close as Kanwaljit seeks creatives to be published in their paper: “Ek baar na sir aap mere ko creative print ke jo creatives hain kyonki humein kuch creatives apne editorial se bhi sanction karwane hote hain … aap mere ko forward kar dijiyega (Sir, since we have to seek the sanction of our editorial department, so forward me those creatives you want for print).”

After finishing with Amar Ujala’s team at Chandigarh, Sharma’s next port of call was the daily’s Meerut office where he met Deputy Manager Sanjeev Rastogi. The journalist briefs him on his agenda and tells him how the campaign from soft Hindutva will move on to become political in which they will have to thrash political rivals. Surprisingly, Rastogi has understood the nature of this defamatory part of the campaign. He says: “Haan main wahi keh raha hoon actually humara jo focus hai 2019 hee hai hum uski preparation derh saal se kar rahe hain … dheere dheere usko … tapmaan dheere dheere temperature add on karenge (Yes, yes, this is what I am saying. Actually our focus has to be 2019 [elections] for which you have been making preparations for one and half years … so slowly we have to add on the temperature [through this ad campaign]).” Exactly, appreciates the journalist. But the main objective of this Hindutva campaign is to polarize the electorate so that we are able to make political capital out of this campaign. We had secured a thunderous win both in parliamentary and state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. We are afraid we may otherwise slid to a pitiful position securing only handful seats. Endorsing the journalist, Rastogi says: “Gujarat kee tareh na ho jaye ([Yes, we may see] a repeat of Gujarat [in Uttar Pradesh]).”

While trying to get a toehold in Maharashtra, Amar Ujala runs an office in Mumbai also. Here, Pushp Sharma met Sales Manager Harpreet Kaur and briefs her on his agenda. To consolidate Hindu votes we will target Rahul, Mayawati and Akhilesh, using their nick names, Pappu, Bua and Babua, respectively, in jingles. Harpreet is sharp enough to know who the visitor represents. Telling her that they are not bringing out any edition from Mumbai, he would like to assign a budget of Rs. 50 lakh for digital promotion of his agenda. But this budget will increase as we get a good response on this digital promotion. Says Harpreet: “Ok sir.”

In the next phase, the journalist tells her, as elections approach we will put our campaign on an aggressive mode to polarize the electorate and create a favourable atmosphere to our benefit. Harpreet has no problem with this communal agenda as she says: “Okay.” Is that clear? Harpreet again talks in monosyllable: “Hoon.” Seeking editorial support from her team, Sharma now asks her to downplay negative stories which may tarnish the image of his party and its leaders. We hear an understanding Harpreet say: “Okay negativity na ho (Okay, you want no negativity).” Yes, you got it right. The journalist then asks her to prepare a plan how she can help him polarize the electorate. Here again we hear her say: “Okay.” As the discussion moves on, Harpreet tells the journalist that her newspaper has a strong presence in Uttar Pradesh. If that is the case then, says the journalist, we would like to concentrate our efforts on the state. But then you will have to create an atmosphere in our favour there by running down Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party in your stories and not allowing stories against our party. We get a cool reply from Harpreet: “Okay.”

What about your presence on social media? Yes, Harpreet tells us, Amar Ujala has 72 lakh followers on Facebook, 7 lakh on Twitter and 2 lakh on Instagram. So, you will include all these social media platforms in our digital media campaign? Of course, assures Harpreet while offering a host of services in the deal: “Hum log wo cover karenge. Aapka social siting bhi karenge. Aapka Twitter mein bhi karenge because Twitter mein Facebook mein we are very strong … toh usmein hum log aapka social siting karenge usmein aapka like content bhi hum kar sakte hain. We can do video running also (We will of course cover that. We will also work on social siting [sic] for you because we are very strong on Twitter and Facebook … so we will be doing social siting [sic] for you. We can do like content for you also. We can do video running also).” Wow! Nothing can be better than this. But will we have to shell out more money? Reassures Harpreet: “Nahi nahi … aapko ek poora package sort of main banake de sakti hoon (No no. I can make a complete package sort of for you).” She goes on to add: “Toh wo mujhe like senior hain Himanshu Gautam karke hain. He doesn’t sit here. He sits in Delhi only. Toh main wo discuss karoongi. Unke saath even Gagan is there. Toh pehle main aapka poora briefing discuss karoongi ki this and so and so dekh rahe ho humare side se toh uss hisab se kya kar sakte hain (Then, I have seniors like Hinanshu Gautum. He doesn’t sit here. He sits in Delhi only. So, I will discuss it with him. Then even Gagan is there. So, first I will discuss with them your briefing, this and so and so. I will ask them to see what we can do according to that briefing from our side).

Now, it was logical for the journalist to meet her senior colleagues at Delhi and see if they too are willing to do his bidding. To his surprise, he found both Himanshu Gautam and Ashish Vimal Garg receptive to his agenda. He tells them after the first phase of Hindutva, he wants them to bash political rivals using words like Pappu, Bua and Babua. Then palying before them Pappu jingles, he categorically states this is how he wants their character assassination to be done. We hear Gautum say: “Bilkul (Sure).”

Telling them he has such 30 jingles ready for Karnataka elections, he would like to change the content somewhat for Uttar Pradesh. So, do you have inhouse team to create such content for him? He asks them. Replies Sales Head of amarujala.com Gautam: “Wo kara sakte hain … haan kara denge ye toh normal advertising kee tareh jayega na humare liye (We can get it done … yes we will get it done. This will go as a normal advertising for us)?” What do you mean by “normal,” asks the journalist. Inquires Gautam again: “Ismein aise jayega na jaise jingles rahega aapka (It will go like the way your jingles are)?” The journalist asks if they have Apps for this purpose and if yes how it will help in our promotion. We hear Guatam say: “Hum log isko video mein embed kar denge (We will embed it in the video).” As the journalist appreciates the effort they would make, Gautam tells him: “Ye hum regular basis par karenge aapke liye (We will do this for you on regular basis).” Apart from this digital platform, I want you to run the same on your App. Assures Gautam: “Haan App mein bhi jayega (Yes, it will go on the App also).” What position would I get on your App? Explains Gautum: “Aapka jaise jab on hoga na jaise … ye jaise koi site kholi pehle ye aa jayega (When you press on your device, for example … if you open a site it will appear there at once).” You mean it will appear on the side? The journalist tries to understand the working of their App. Gautam again explains: “Side mein nahi poore App mein aa jayega (Not on the side. It will appear on the whole App).” His colleague Ashish Garg complements him: “Jaise iss tareh ka hoga ye jo banner aap dekh rahe hain iss tareh ke jo banners hain … ye rahte hain (It will be like the banner you see here … these banners are there).” Gautam adds: “Ye sab banner yoon hi chalte rahenge ispe barhiya banner ban jayenge yahan pe Bhagwad jo bhi Samiti … uska aa jayega aur wo poori messaging aa jayegi (All such banners will run here on the App. We will design good banners and here will run the name of Bhagwad … whatever Samiti it is … its name will appear there and that complete messaging will also appear).” After the nitty-gritties of the payment, GST and so on are discussed, Gautam advises the journalist that when he meets other functionaries of his organization, he must speek only of the Gita. You mean I should not disuss Hindutva with them? Gautam explains why: “Haan unse matlab unbiased baat karein dekhiye mera toh background mujhe toh koi farq nahi padta. Maine aapko kya bola ki main ye cheezein run kar sakta hoon mere liye ye advertisement hai ismein koi pareshani kee baat nahi hai … internally main iske liye lad bhi sakta hoon ye advertisement hai iske liye (Yes, I mean talk to them in an unbiased manner. You see my background [is the same as yours]. I don’t care. I told you I can run all these things. This is simply an advertisement for me. There is no problem with it … internally I can fight for this as well. This is simply an advertisement).” Gautam now makes it clear where his loyalties are and why he is ready to run the agenda. While telling the journalist that as a newspaper establishment they have to play neutral, he commits to do the job in no uncertain terms: “But kyonki main online run karta hoon toh definitely kuch cheej hai har company mein kyonki internally mere ko pata hai ki kya cheejein kaam karengi toh maan ke chaliye wo cheej hum koshish karenge saari cheejein karne kee (But since I run the online, definitely there are some things in every company. I know what things will work. So, take it for sure that we will try to do everything you have asked for).” Then you may drop our Pappu agenda, the journalist expresses his fear. “Dekhiye jo mere khyal se Pappu word pe Supreme Court ka kuch verdict tha (I think there was a Supreme Court verdict on this Pappu word),” Gautum tries to guess. No, it was from the Election Commission. The journalist corrects him. If there is any such order or if any police station asks so, he will withdraw the campaign. His fears thus laid to rest, Gautam nonchalantly says: “Mere ko koi farq nahi padta (I don’t care about it at all). To see reactions of concerned person click here

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