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How the Gujarat & Himachal Assembly polls unfolded on news channels

Counting of votes kept all news channels busy throughout yesterday (December 18, 2017), with results anticipated for the crucial state of Gujarat as well as for Himachal Pradesh. It was BJP all the way in both the states, as expected by almost all psephologists. However, poll performance of Congress, led by the newly appointed party president Rahul Gandhi, gave the results an interesting twist. 

With the counting of votes beginning early, all the news channels began their real time coverage from the early hours. Republic TV provided coverage on both TV and website, which included bytes from all key leaders. The early hours created quite a ripple with Congress moving ahead. Republic TV’s multimedia Live-blog accurately represented the seesawing drama from the counting throughout the day. 

The channel partnered with data science company Gramener for the Gujarat elections 2017, which helped enhance the visual look both on-air and on Republic TV’s digital platforms. 

According to Vikas Khanchandani, CEO, Republic TV, the channel’s website had up to 41,000 people on it at one time. He also claimed that Republic TV was the first to declare BJP win in Gujarat when the required number of seats had been awarded. 

Republic TV tracked key wins losses in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, including candidates such as Vijay Rupani, Arjun Modhwadia and Prem Kumar Dhumal, among others.

CNN-News18 did extensive programming under the branding ‘Battle for the States’, which comprised Polling Day coverage, audience-based shows, travelogues, documentaries, newsmaker interviews and Poll of Polls. Radhakrishnan Nair, Managing Editor, CNN-News18, remarked, “Our coverage gave the viewer a 360-degree view of the elections in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The channel’s top reporters crisscrossed the length and breadth of both the states to bring all the latest updates.” 

Nair further said, “On Counting Day, CNN-News18 was the only channel that did not succumb to fudging temptation as counting started. Our teams in every counting centre were giving us first hand and accurate data. Our commitment to the viewer is to stay with the real picture and not create artificial trends. The markets recovered from a big fall after CNN-News18 called the elections. We stuck to the real situation. Also, we kept giving News18 insights, making the elections clear to understand for the national audience.” 

Prabal Pratap Singh, Managing Editor, News18 India, informed Adgully, “For the past one month, we had focussed extensively on Gujarat and devoted at least three hours (6 pm to 9 pm) to the Gujarat elections. Both of our prime time debates – ‘Aar Par’ and ‘Hum To Poochenge’ (anchored by Amish Devgan and Sumit Awasthi, respectively) discussed the topics either raised during the campaign or issues concerning Gujarat. Our popular show, ‘Bhaiyaji Kahin’ anchored by Prateek Trivedi, extensively travelled all across Gujarat to do shows from different parts of the state.” 

Singh further said that the strategy was to mount the coverage and create hype around it much before others could do. Even during the day any information trickling out of election campaigning was given prominence in the bulletins. “We continuously followed political leaders who would matter in Gujarat. Also, we organised almost a dozen special debates not only at our regular news studio, but also at specially designed studio. Our weekly satirical show, ‘Lapete Mein Netaji’ anchored by Kishore Ajwani, too, focussed on Gujarat elections ever since the campaigning started,” he added. 

Republic TV, too, followed all the top leaders and provided the fastest social media updates, including live-tweets of at least 10 senior leaders: Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar, Smriti Irani and Dr Jitendra Singh, among others. 

Exit polls have been an important and inseparable part of any election coverage. For the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, too, every news channel had come out with their exit polls predicting the number of seats each party was expected to win. 

With the results declared, now all channels are claiming to have provided the most accurate exit poll. India Today Axis My India claims to have been closest to the bull’s eye. The channel had predicted 99-113 seats for BJP (Actual result: the party won 99 seats), and 68-82 seats for Congress + (Actual result: 80). 

Meanwhile, giving his take on the election results, N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, remarked, “The BJP has retained power in Gujarat after 22 years of being in power and it is definitely not an easy feat. However, with the might of the BJP put behind this prestige turf, a win was mostly expected. However, the difference in these elections is that the Congress has given a really tough fight, getting 80 seats and making the BJP sweat a bit during the course of the elections, and also on the counting day. Whatever said, Rahul Gandhi has emerged a clear winner by showing that he will put up a tough fight in 2019.” 

According to Chandramouli, the results show that sheen of Brand Modi is not unassailable and altering the ‘vikas’ rhetoric during the elections has made them vulnerable to messaging inconsistency. “After demonetisation and the back-and-forth GST implementation, Brand Modi has started facing a trust deficit by sections of society that once could not see beyond him. The next two years will not be easy, as the citizens test and rate every action of Brand Modi, as he tries to stitch the strings of ‘vikas’ into tangible, impact oriented projects.”

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