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Indian CNN predicts a resounding victory for Modi. How were they so wrong?

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During India’s months-long national election season, hundreds of the country’s cable news outlets seemed to be racing to outdo each other: They predicted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would win, and win by a landslide.

However, the actual election results on June 4 Seeing his fortunes fall to such a low point He was re-elected with the help of his coalition partners.

The result came as a shock to many, and now India is wondering why few foresaw the opposition movement would be so popular. Some media outlets had predicted that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would win 400 of the 543 seats in parliament, but in the end, the party won only 240 seats.

Many believe that this discrepancy shows that the prime minister has thoroughly cowed the mainstream media and that his control over the information system has become so complete that hype obscures the true sentiment of the electorate.

During Modi’s decade in power, the pressure and temptations have made mainstream news channels cheerleaders of his every move. They have portrayed the powerful prime minister as an unstoppable leader, unstoppable and unchallenged by any opponent. It is impossible to debate his policies or even his delivery of his promises.

Many journalists at prominent news organizations have embraced what Mr. Modi has normalized: pride in his Hindu-first vision. Those who have investigated the darker side of his tenure, including independent Body Those who sharply criticized his policies were ostracized, attacked, or otherwise forced into submission.

When exit polls came in on election night, one channel even declared that Modi’s coalition would win 30 parliamentary seats in a state that had only 25. Another host seemed to mock his own station’s reporters for suggesting that people were unhappy about economic pressures.

Analysts say the fact that the vast majority of media predictions were wildly wrong suggests one of two things: Indian citizens are too afraid to speak their minds or too skeptical of the broadcast media to trust their true thoughts.

“The media is actually campaigning for the ruling party and they are a stain on our democracy,” said Yogendra Yadav, a political activist and veteran election analyst.

Analysts say Modi and the mainstream media underestimated the extent to which the information space could break out of the bubble they created. As the mainstream media loses credibility, a parallel online system information The number of journalists with a more independent perspective is increasing.

Indeed, much of the election was conducted on the internet, and opposition figures have found cyberspace to be a vital outlet for criticizing Modi, whom they say has made India less democratic and more unequal.

“Central journalism is missing and that’s a loss for the country,” said Saurabh Shukla, co-founder of YouTube channel The Red Mike.

Mr Shukla, an award-winning journalist who quit his job at a news station to create his own YouTube channel with another reporter, said what was shown on TV news was in stark contrast to what he and many other journalists saw on the ground.

Mr Modi, aware of the gap, has sent his ministers to interact with YouTube channels to discuss his party’s achievements. Sometimes, he even pokes fun at the mainstream media that sing his praises.

“If you are in the media, if you are waving the Modi flag religiously – who will keep you?” the Prime Minister told four interviewers at a media outlet in New Delhi.

India has a population of 1.4 billion, more than 350 news broadcasters, 880 satellite TV channels, and is also the country with the largest number of YouTube users in the world.

Since independence in 1947, India has been known for its large and independence-leaning media culture, a reputation interrupted only by months of emergency and censorship imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid-1970s.

Yet, over the years under Modi, leaders of his Hindu nationalist group have found ways put pressure on Keep the media community on the same page.

Journalists and editors critical of the government began to leave traditional news media and flocked to the Internet. Unlike TV news channels that spent hours covering Modi during the campaign, this group of independent journalists talked about people, their stories and their problems.

Ravish Kumar is one of them. After Kumar quit his job as a prime-time news anchor, he started broadcast on YouTube. For months, he has focused on issues such as rising rural unemployment and loopholes in competitive exams, which have prompted hundreds of thousands of students to join protest marches.

As Kumar, watched by more than a million people a day, questioned why Modi was exploiting religious polarisation to win votes instead of talking about his own development story, his fellow TV newsmen were using prime time to attack Modi’s opponents.

Network news anchors used their time interviewing Modi to mainly ask soft questions unrelated to national affairs, such as “Is this election just a formality?” or “Why are you not tired?”

Another independent journalist, Ajit AnjumReports on voters’ complaints about federal ministers’ spending sky In the Uttar Pradesh ministerial constituency, many news channels predicted she would win by a landslide, but she was defeated by a low-profile rival who is the long-time campaign manager of an opposition leader. This was another accurate prediction by an independent YouTube news channel.

“YouTube is making life difficult for the BJP and its media backers,” said Shukla, the journalist. As more election results emerge, more viewers appear to be turning to online news viewing for follow-up coverage.

Several independent media organizations Come together They also love to cover election night, and many Indians follow them online for more sober analysis than the shouting matches on TV news.

It’s unclear whether the sudden surge in independent journalism will last.

“I don’t know if this will continue,” said freelance journalist Mandeep Punya, adding that while more people are watching his content, a new law makes it easier for the government to censor online news.

Despite the challenges facing the administration, online news providers have earned credibility this election cycle. Their accuracy in predicting outcomes stands in stark contrast to that of cable news networks.

After touring Hindi-speaking northern India, traditional strongholds of Mr. Modi’s party, Mr. Yadav, a political activist, said he expected the BJP to win as many as 260 seats. Few believed his estimate, especially television news commentators. But he was right.

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