Elections Stories I missed in the newspapers that I buy

In his priceless ruminations throughout the 18th Lok Sabha polls the senior journalist brings us to us the shadows and silences by the “commercial” (“mainstream”) media during the coverage of the recent elections
Image: The Quint

Chances are this will be the last such message from me to some of you. Having dangled that delectable inducement, I request you to read till the end.

The following is a list of stories I missed reading in the nine newspapers I buy and read online, and where I saw them. Others may have carried these stories but the point is I am reacting as a reader or audience as the suits classify us, not as a journalist.

In the latter half, I air my views as a desk hand.

  1. The abandonment of Muslims (Saw it in multiple interviews by Karan Thapar and others for The Wire and read about in The New York Times. The photographs in The Times were outstanding, you cannot look at them without (tears) welling up.)
  2. The electoral bonds. (The ready-to-report story that the mainstream media dropped like a hot potato. Most of the original stories I read in The News Minute-Newslaundy-Scroll. The Hindu and The Indian Express did carry some original stories but wasted them with the lukewarm display.)
  3. The radical transformation of Rahul Gandhi (By Meena Kandasamy in The Wire; by Rahul Bhattacharya in The Economist)
  4. The political and economic transformation of the Congress (articulated through its manifesto) (Yet to see a comprehensive copy. Perhaps, the pink press has carried but I don’t read business papers now as I cannot understand most of the jargon they write. I wonder if the reporters and subs also understand.)
  5. The tempo-van meltdown. (I badly wanted to read a full-page collection of stories on this. About the van, about robber-barons, about how much cash fits in — with legal as well as demonetised notes. I am not joking. When Harshad Mehta claimed that he gave a crore to Narasimha Rao, a magazine tried to fit Rs 1 crore into a suitcase and found the brand which can. Oh, how green was our newsroom valley then, and now a cracked-earth desert!)
  6. The breathtaking role played by civil society in the elections. (The New York Times)
  7. The lies of Modi and the inability of most of the paper tigers to call him a liar. Some newspapers exhausted the thesaurus to steer clear of the word “lie”. (Ravish Kumar and Ajit Anjum all the way)
  8. The rise of Uddhav Thackeray from an entitled member of a dreaded clan to a leader who has earned respect. (Multiple YouTube channels)
  9. The valiant battles fought by Tejashwi Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav. (Social media)
  10. The uncompromising ideological armour built by MK Stalin and Udhayanidhi. (Media One TV)


  1. Dhruv Rathee, Ravish Kumar, Ajit Anjum, Karan Thapar and countless others who exposed how irrelevant the so-called mainstream media has become.
  2. Umar Khalid, Siddique Kappan, Mohammed Zubair and several others who have paid a price for standing up to the regime. (Scroll, The Telegraph)
  3. Kani Kusruti and her gesture at Cannes, the “Sudappi from India” post by Shane Nigam. (Malayalam media)
  4. Above all, Shikha. Some of you may wonder who Shikha is, which probably means you are a newspaper-reading, English-speaking citizen. A homemaker in Rae Bareli, Shikha has voted for the BJP twice. Now, she is asking questions. Her questions need not reflect any sea change on the ground and Modi can still be re-elected. But the point is she has neither forgotten nor forgone her right to ask questions. (Mahol Kya Hai)

There must be several other stories that were untold. I leave it *to *you to decide what you missed.


I will end with a small note on headlines. This may sound *like *nitpicking to laypersons. I request you to indulge me.

  1. Which one is the best headline of the 2024 elections so far? My vote is for “The Audacity of Hate”. (The Guardian editorial on Indian elections)
  2. Modi was not being “bitter”. We must choose our words with care and precision. Just as the golden hour in a heart attack and in a crime scene investigation, all you get in a headline is a few words. Choose wisely. Venom must be bitter but I don’t know. I have tasted it in only those I have helped. Call venom venom, poison poison, toxic toxic and hate hate. Divisive is not a synonym for raw, unvarnished hate.
  3. I see a tendency among subs to abridge words like Opposition to Opp, governor to guv, president to prez. Nothing wrong with them. My son says econ for economics (econ is more apt also, I think, considering the con jobs that are pulled in the name of economics). Some newspapers have already graduated to Maha for Maharashtra and Raj for Rajasthan. I am waiting for Him for Himachal and Ben for Bengal and Shyam for Shyambazar.

As I said, nothing wrong with them if that is your house style. I am guilty of allowing Kejri for Kejriwal. So, I have forfeited my right to lecture.

Still, I will try to briefly explain why acerbic and arrowroot-biscuit-chewing (for ulcers) chief-subs used to dustbin subbed copies that wrote Opp or Oppn. Journalism is the most repetitive creative job in the world. Which makes it vulnerable to cliches, triteness and boredom. So, you need to play around with words to make it original each time you give a headline. The moment you say Opp, it means you are lazy to work on the headline and you go with a cliche. But challenged, you will think of new ways. Then you will think about the kernel of the story, its politics and its hidden nuances. Shortcuts kill the unique features of each story.

A drill you can follow after work so that your deadline is not affected:

  1. Be convinced like a fanatic: every copy has a perfect headline. You just need to find it. Nothing can beat the high of a reasonably evocative headline falling into place.
  2. Take a headline with Opposition or Guv or Prez.
  3. Work on it till you can say the same thing with Opposition or without the word opposition.
  4. Draft five headlines for the same copy: single column, double, three columns, 4 columns and eight columns. 5, 6 and 7 columns will fit if any of the five fit.
  5. Always work on a sixth headline. Something wacky and wild. It will be your private collection that will make you proud one day.

(The author is a senior journalist; this is from his social media post)


The handover at Rae Bareli



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