Aj (Hindi Daily)
136-Part-1

Aj (Hindi Daily)

cobrapost |
March 26, 2018

Harinder Singh Sahni, Business Head/Branch Head, Aj (Hindi Daily), Lucknow


One of the most prominent Hindi news dailies, Aj does not need any introduction. The paper was started by freedom fighter Shiv Prasad Gupta in Varanasi in 1920. With a claimed circulation of 149,339, the newspaper has grown into a multi-edition brand published simultaneously from 12 cities across four states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. Once very popular among readers for both journalistic candour and literary flavour, the daily, however, is no longer a citadel of those ideals that its founder started it with almost 100 years ago, as a look at the interview that Sharma had with Harinder Singh Sahni, Lucknow branch head of the paper, reveals.

News is simply a business for Sahni, only a means to riches, and he will do whatever it takes to earn those riches. So, when Sharma clearly tells him what his objective is, Sahni comes straight to settling business terms under which he is supposed to run the pro-Hindutva ad campaign in his daily, although initially he says: “Nahi nahi main eek point bola kee I go through main jaoonga jo bhi aap mujhe content dijiye subject dijiye jo bhi banayenge uska body language hoga jo bhi uska ek matter hoga I go through I possible check the aisa toh nahi ki uska jo idea hai (No, no. I told you a point that I will go through the content you will provide me. Whatever its subject is, it will carry a body language, whatever its subject matter is I [will] go through if possible [to] check what its idea is ….).”

When Sharma reminds him of the jingle that he had listened to a short while ago, Sahni does not take much time to turn from a ‘Nay’ sayer to an ‘Aye’ sayer: “Isse dekhkar mujhe achha lagega ([yes] I will certainly love it).” Now, Sharma tells him that as elections would approach in 2019, his media campaign will shift gear from soft Hindutva to bashing political rivals. Agreeing with the proposition, Sahni asks what the budget outlay is: “Aapko kitna space chahiye jacket ka ek mahine mein kitna chalana chahte hain … week mein ek chaloa … according to rate chale toh bahut lamba chalega kitna budget hai aap mujhe bata do aap kitna paisa dena chahte hain (How much space you want. How many jackets you want to run in a month … [I suggest] run a week … if you go according to rate [card], it will run for a long time. What is your budget? Tell me how much money you want to spend).”

Sharma tells him that he has a budget of Rs. 1 crore for his newspaper. Sahni does not get it and asks: “Aap sabko ek-ek crore dena chahte hain ki total ek crore (You want to give Rs. 1 crore each to all or total Rs. 1 crore).” We have set aside Rs. 1 crore for your newspaper only, Sharma informs him. Bluffing Sharma says his organization has set aside a budget of Rs. 742 cr for Karnataka elections only!

You could see Sahni drop his jaw at this imaginary ad spend and it sets the ball rolling on fast track. “Ek crore kitne din ka rakhna hai aapko (One crore for how many days?),” Sahni is now eager to know. One crore for three months, he is told. See, you can tell me if you have any objection to carry our ad showing Lord Krishna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, asks Sharma. No way, reassures Sahni. In fact, his only concern is money: “Nahi aap mujhe creative de dijiye main aapko apna A/c de denge aap usmein paise daalte rehna main usko chalate rahenge theek hai (No, provide me the creative [content] and I will give you our account no. You put in the money in it and I shall keep on carrying the ad).”

As the interview progresses, it becomes apparent that Sahni will have no problem as to whatever content we would promote through our ad campaign in his newspaper. Is it okay with you if our campaign carries the Hindutva agenda? “Koi diqqat nahi (There is no problem),” he says reassuringly. How will you make the payment? He asks in turn. He has no problem when Sharma tells him it will be in the ratio of 60:40 cash.

As the interview draws to a close, Sharma reiterates that he would continue to pay them as long as his agenda of Hindutva is run by them. At this point, Sahni shows his true colour: “Sir main kisi ko nahi janta mera chalees saal ka tazurba hai mujhe paise milenge main kisi ko bhi maine bola na paanch saal pehle main koi head wead nahi tha mere upar tab main chauthe no. par tha teen log mere upar ab toh mujhe hee karna hai (Sir I don’t know anybody else. I have an experience of 40 years. If I get money then I will not … 5 years back I was not a head. I was no. 4 here as there were three more up there [in hierarchy] then. Now, it is only me who decides. After me there is our owner Shardul Vikram Gupta. There is nobody else in between).”

In the next breath, Sahni declares why he is in the news business: to make money. He says: “Maine bola tha ki main seedha sa dhanda karna chahta hoon mujhe milta rahega aur main karta rahoonga (I told you that I am here for making business. As long as I get it, I will be doing [what you ask for]).” To see reactions of concerned person click here


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