Ranjona Banerji: Handout journalism again!

15 Jan,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


On Monday night, Twitter was full of photographs and congratulations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (including from the PMO Twitter account) for winning the “first-ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award”. Almost every news channel, newspaper and news website went overboard on this award, given for “visionary leadership”, and “selfless service to the country”. That is, they all duly put out the official press release, with no further work on it. Kotler is a marketing guru who established advertising and marketing awards a few years ago.

Thanks to The Wire, we get a better inside story on this “award”. Because it was evident immediately that there was no mention of any such award on the Kotler or WMS websites on Monday night. Instead, you had people from Emory University and the Suslence Research International Institute Private Limited handing Modi this award.


The Wire story puts the award in perspective: “highly confidential” apparently. Indeed. If only other journalists and editors had put as much work into this “award. But alas.

Although, given that some of the media in India is full of reports and opinions about how most Modi government schemes have either failed or are stumbling, one might imagine someone in a newsroom would question why Modi would get an award for Make in India, for instance. Or Unique Identification Number, that is Aadhaar.

Perhaps the poor Kotler committee (if there was one) who chose Modi for a “Presidential” award (president of what?), had read a few press reports, they would know that a) the UNI was not Modi’s idea and he vociferously opposed it as chief minister of Gujarat and b) the Supreme Court of India has struck down most of the intrusive changes which the Modi government tried to make in the original UNI plan.

And then there’s Make in India. Under Modi, India has apparently emerged as “the centre for innovation and value-added manufacturing”. Sadly, as all government figures show, this has not resulted in either any growth or any jobs. Except possibly and even that is in doubt, for pakora-sellers.

The citation with the award is in fact deeply embarrassing for the Modi government because it outlines and emphasises everyone of this government’s failures from Swachh Bharat (Clean India) to the digital revolution. Oddly, Modi’s “great” demonetisation idea has not been mentioned which perhaps shows that someone in this awards committee decided to use some brain power.

Added to this is the great irony of a Prime Minister and his government being overjoyed about winning a marketing award. At the end of its term, that’s about all this BJP-led government has to show for itself: thousands of crores spent on advertising and marketing. What is it, ₹5000 crore?

This is a copy of the press release, for added entertainment:


Sadly for the Modi popularity brigade, apart from BJP ministers and members being full of pride and joy, Twitter was full of sarcasm and wit on this award. This lack of respect was unheard of, say, three years ago.

And, lest one forget, remember that Peace award Modi got from South Korea everyone got so excited about? Turned out it wasn’t from the South Korean government but some NGO? O dear. There was a clue there, ladies and gentleman of the press.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal


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