Indian Media Wild for Modi’s US Visit

Indian media is going wild over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, calling his address to Indian-Americans at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday “rocking” and following his every move with breathless headlines and sweeping coverage.

India’s main television channels aired his speech live on Sunday night and will air extensive reports of his visit to the White House this week.

Shailaja Bajpai, a critic and commentator who writes a weekly column, said that she has not seen such extensive coverage of any prime ministerial visit to any country before.

Shailaja said that almost every television anchor of India is in the U.S. covering the visit.

“We are doing a non-stop coverage of Modi’s visit,” said Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief and anchor with Times Now, the most watched English language channel in India.

Arnab said that he has a team of 16 people and multi-cameras setup for the visit.

Suhasini Haider, diplomatic editor of The Hindu newspaper, who is in the U.S to cover the visit, said the coverage is historic in terms of number of people covering the event and the intensity.

Supriya Prasad, managing editor of India’s news channel Aaj Tak, said that extensive coverage of Modi’s visit on his channel started three days before Modi landed in New York.

“The most noteworthy thing this time is that even major domestic political developments have taken a backseat,” said Supriya, who has been in the private Indian television news industry since its inception.

During Modi’s visit, two major political alliances split in the state of Maharahshtra,  where elections are due next month. On another front, the chief minister of the Indian state of Tamilnadu received a four year prison sentence in a corruption case. Most days, these developments would have overtaken other news but Modi’s visit far out-paced them.

India’s vibrant and aggressive regional newspapers are also covering Modi’s visit in great detail.

“If there is any news which is a top priority for us at the moment, its Modi’s visit to U.S.,” said Anand Pandey, who is the state editor of on one Hindi daily, Dainik Bhaskar. He said that Dainik Bhaskar has sent a reporter to the U.S. from their Gujrat edition – the home state of Narendra Modi – to do special stories.

Analysts say Modi’s popularity in India is fueling the hyperbolic coverage of his U.S. visit.

“Modi is the darling of India right now,”  said Venkat Rao, news and current affairs director at Reliance Industries and a former newspaper editor. “Whatever Modi is doing  is being covered by India media at a much larger scale. After 10 years of having a prime minister with no personality, no leadership and no oratory the country was hungry for a strong leader and that void has been filled by Modi.”

Modi was once denied a visa for entry to the U.S. Barkha Dutt, a television anchor with NDTV who is in the U.S. to cover the visit, said that Modi getting a big reception in a country which once denied him visa has made this story very compelling.    

Analysts say Modi’s political team has a very good understanding of media requirements and of this trip  full of “made for media” events, including engagements over five days.

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