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Modi TV before poll

Ahmedabad, Oct. 3: Doordarshan spurned him, so Narendra Modi has secured his own TV channel.

The Gujarat government has got technology company Inficast to float a channel, named Vande Gujarat, and rented it for the next three months during which the Assembly polls are expected to be held.

Since Monday, the channel has been airing government-sponsored programmes that hawk the chief minister’s achievements and try to answer his critics.

The company, which already had an internet telephony (IP) distribution network, has tied up with over 60 per cent of Gujarat’s cable operators. The programmes — 32 documentaries in all — are expected to reach about 1.6 crore people.

Modi had earlier tried to force cable operators to beam “Modi DVDs” during prime time across Gujarat free of cost, but it led to a controversy. Doordarshan then discontinued a series of state government-sponsored programmes it had been beaming every day at prime time.

With the Assembly polls weeks away, the beleaguered chief minister, under attack from an upbeat Congress and BJP rebels, needed a vehicle to tout his achievements. The government signed the contract with Inficast on September 13.

“We demonstrated what we are capable of. It did not take much to convince Modi’s team that an IP-based network is an effective medium,” said Malav Mehta, who runs the six-year-old company.

He would not reveal the payment, but sources claimed the figure would be around Rs 2.5 crore a month.

A top official in the chief minister’s office said the channel has been rented for four hours a day, from 6pm to 10pm, and “the contract will be withdrawn when required”.

Mehta, however, has been running the network round the clock to popularise the channel, punctuating the government documentaries with some Gujarati folk music.

“A lot of people want to use it. Some educational institutions, too, have shown interest. We are open even now,” he said.

BJP rebels have scoffed at the chief minister’s move, saying the channel should be called “Vande Modi”. Even Modi supporters are sceptical.

“It’s a smart move to reach out to the maximum people but we are not sure it will bring in votes,” a party source said. “The development plank never works in elections.”

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