The Bihar Assembly election is in full swing, with two phases down and one to go. The last phase of voting takes place on November 7, followed by counting on November 10.
Predictably, political parties in the state are using all means available to connect with the people, from traditional media to social media.
Newslaundry looked at the first; more specifically, at political advertisements that appeared in major Hindi newspapers in the state. And there’s a clear winner here: the Bharatiya Janata Party and its partner, the Janata Dal (United), are far ahead of other parties when it comes to political advertising in newspapers.
In the three newspapers — Dainik Jagran, Hindustan and Prabhat Khabar, all published from Patna — that we sampled between October 20 and 31, the BJP and JDU had multiple full-page ads. Other parties like the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal had smaller ads, perhaps half- or quarter-page, and mostly in the inside pages of the newspapers.
It should be noted that the epapers of all three newspapers were not available for October 26 and 27. We calculated a total of 29 ads from the NDA in the time period mentioned above, 23 from the Mahagathbandhan, and 10 from others.
On October 28, for example, which was the first day of voting, the Patna editions of all three papers carried full front-page ads for the JDU featuring photographs of prime minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Nitish Kumar. “Voting is the most important thing you can do,” the ad declared, along with an appeal to vote for the National Democratic Alliance.
On the same day, all three papers had a half-page ad for the BJP on page 3, featuring Modi, the BJP’s national president JP Nadda, Nitish Kumar, and Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi. The ad proclaimed that the BJP “ensures trust”.
And that’s not all. Page 7 of Prabhat Khabar and Dainik Jagran had a BJP ad for an upcoming rally at Patna, while the ad appeared on page 5 of Hindustan. Page 6 of Jagran also had a quarter-page ad of the BJP’s Bankipur candidate Nitin Navin.
That’s 10 NDA advertisements in the three newspapers on day one of voting.
The Mahagathbandhan didn’t fare quite as well. On the same day, Page 5 of Prabhat Khabar featured an RJD ad with a picture of Tejashwi Yadav and a Congress ad featuring Rahul Gandhi. These ads appeared in the inside pages of Hindustan and Jagran too. Jagran also had a quarter-page ad on Page 4 for the Jan Adhikar Party with a photograph of Pappu Yadav alongside his promise to make Bihar the “best state in Asia” within three years.
Here’s a quick rundown of the ads on other days.
All three papers carried half-page ads for the BJP featuring Modi’s upcoming rally in Chapra on November 1. “Chapra has trust in Modiji,” the ad said. Arun Kumar Sinha, the BJP candidate from Kumhrar, had an ad on page 5 of Jagran, page 4 of Prabhat Khabar, and page 2 of Hindustan. BJP candidates Nitin Navin and Sanjeev Chaurasia had quarter-page ads on the inside pages of Prabhat Khabar too, and Chaurasia’s ad was also in Jagran.
Luv Sinha, the Congress candidate from Bankipur, had a half-page ad on page 4 of Dainik Jagran, while Prabhat Khabar had a three-column Congress ad on page 7. Hindustan had three ads on page 2: a half-page ad for RJD’s Dharmendra Kumar, and two two-column ads for the Non-Democratic Secular Front’s Jagdeep Prasad and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)’s Shashi Yadav.
Page 4 of Prabhat Khabar had a half-page ad for Dharmendra Kumar, the RJD candidate from Kumhrar. The Congress had a quarter-page ad on page 3 of Dainik Jagran with a photo of Rahul Gandhi.
After the conclusion of the first phase of polling, JP Verma, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party’s candidate for Patna Sahib, had an ad on page 4 of Dainik Jagran.
Page 1 of all three papers had a full-page ad for the BJP with a photograph of Modi and the text “We trust”. The ad emphasised how the BJP would give free Covid vaccines to the people of Bihar.
Page 5 across papers had a small ad for the JDU’s general secretary in Bihar, Pragati Mehta. The inside pages also had a quarter-page ad for the RJD and an ad for the Congress. The Jan Adhikar Party had ads in Jagran and Hindustan. Jagran also had an ad for independent candidate Anil Kumar, for Rahul Rai of the Bharatiya Sablog Party, and the RJD candidate from Masaurhi, Rekha Devi. Prabhat Khabar carried a half-page ad for independent candidate Karn Veer Singh.
Page 8 of Dainik Jagran had an ad for Congress candidate Satyendra Bahadur, who is contesting from Barh. The same page had a quarter-page RJD ad for Tejashwi Yadav’s rally and a similarly sized ad for independent candidate Rakesh Ranjan. Page 12 of Jagran featured a half-page ad for the BJP’s candidate from Barh, Atul Kumar, with greetings on the occasion of Vijayadashami.
Prabhat Khabar had a half-page ad for independent candidate Karn Veer Singh on page 4 and a quarter-page ad for the Congress’s Satyendra Bahadur on page 6. Hindustan carried no ads from any political party that day.
The JDU had full-page ads on the front pages of all three papers featuring a letter from Nitish Kumar thanking Bihar for allowing him to serve for 15 years. It included seven resolutions for Bihar’s future should Nitish win the Assembly election.
The Congress had a three-column ad with a picture of Rahul Gandhi’s rally on page 3 of Prabhat Khabar, page 8 of Hindustan, and page 7 of Dainik Jagran.
There were no ads from the Mahagathbandhan in the three papers, which carried half-page ads for the BJP featuring Narendra Modi’s rally in Sasaram and Gaya. The ad appeared on page 1 of Prabhat Khabar, page 5 of Hindustan, and page 3 of Dainik Jagran.
Ad rates much lower, thanks to social media and Covid
During the first week of the first phrase of the election, the NDA gave 20 advertisements to the three newspapers. Nine were full-page ads and 10 were half-page ads. In contrast, the Mahagathbandhan had 17 ads, the largest being quarter-page ads. Independent candidates and smaller parties had eight ads in total during the first week: three half-page and five quarter-page.
The NDA ads were not only larger but generally appeared in the first few pages of the newspapers, making them much more prominent.
Chetan Anand, the advertising manager of Prabhat Khabar in Bihar, refused to divulge the prices of the ads to Newslaundry, saying rates are “inconsequential” nowadays.
“Electoral advertising in newspapers has fallen substantially this time,” Anand said. “The primary reason is preference given by politicians to social media. Everyone has a phone with internet, so they [parties] have invested less in newspapers compared to social media...We publish any advertisement which comes to us, no matter how low the offered price. Understand this: we publish even if we get 10 percent of our rates. You can’t evaluate expenditure through a rate list.”
An employee with Dainik Jagran told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity that advertising rates in newspapers have “fallen exponentially” compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
“One of the major reasons is Covid, because a lot of people stopped taking newspapers during this pandemic which has severely affected the newspaper distribution,” the employee said. “The prices of advertising in Hindi newspapers used to be between Rs 1,400 and Rs 1,800 per square centimetre at least, but those rates are inconsequential due to Covid-19.”
The Jagran employee added that it’s difficult to give an accurate number but newspaper advertising during the election has suffered a revenue loss of over 50 percent due to the pandemic. More money is being spent by the political parties on hoardings and other means of advertising.
A version of this story was first published in . This story was translated from Hindi by Shardool Katyayan.
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