If election is akin to war, all is fair – including candidates placing advertisements with radio station in Nepal.
A cartoon on Bihar politics by Jayanto
And what does Nepal have to do with the democratic exercise in India as such? Nothing. But its 104 FM radio channels do, as Bihar has several constituencies bordering Nepal and these radio channels can be heard there.
Valmikinagar, West Champaran, East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Sheohar and Sitamarhi are being bombarded with political messages from across the border. The sloganeering on Modi is followed by one on the RJD and the Congress, as candidates of some 14 constituencies along the 750-km Bihar-Nepal border vie for airspace.
It works out cheaper too. For every 100 in Indian rupees, publicity worth 170 in Nepalese currency is assured.
Rajdevi and Indrani FM channels are among the most popular for their views on Indian politics and politicians. They offer multiple language packages, too. So it is Bhojpuri for Champaran, Vajjika for Tirhut and Maithili besides Hindi and English for other areas.
Nepalese FM radio stations have gained in prominence due to the absence of competing Indian FM radio stations along the border. Over the years, Jaleshwar FM, Rajdevi FM of Gaur Market, Radio Mithila, Madhesi Radio, Radio Today, Janakpur Radio, Garhi Mai radio, Bhojpuri Radio, Sanskar Radio, Sanskriti Radio, Narayani FM and Radio Birgunj have gained popularity in Indian villages.
“FM stations in Nepal air popular Bollywood and Bhojpuri songs and are very interactive, that is why they are popular in border areas. Local merchants and clothiers too air their advertisement through them,” said advocate Janak Singh, who lives in Raxaul, from where the Nepalese town of Birgunj is barely half a kilometre away.
Ram Singh Yadav, a shopkeeper in Nepal’s Jaleswor, opposite Bihar’s Sitamarhi district, says he regularly tunes in to Nepalese FM radio stations to compare prices on either side of the border to book profit.
With the EC fixing the maximum poll expenses at Rs. 70 lakh, many independent candidates have found Nepal FMs to be a cheaper way out. “It worked out to our advantage, even in areas which were not accessible otherwise,” said Manoj Paswan of the RJD in Motihari.
In last assembly polls, the EC had shown its annoyance over poll campaigning from across the border and asked information and broadcasting ministry to coordinate with Nepali authorities to restrict FM operators from airing propaganda in favour of candidates.
To their credit, Nepali authorities requested all FMs stations along the border to stop beaming such messages, but there is no law that can bar them from favouring candidates.