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How Popular is the PM Mann Ki Baat? A Glimpse after its 100th Episode Comes out

By Mohd Ziyaullah Khan

PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat program is a monthly radio address that has been a part of his public outreach since he took office in 2014. The program is aired on All India Radio, as well as on various digital platforms, and is meant to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to directly address the public on a variety of issues. While the government claims that the program is immensely popular, recent data suggests that this may not be entirely accurate. As the monthly radio program, “Mann Ki Baat,” completes its 100th episode, we come across a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Lokniti in October 2022 that challenges this claim. According to the survey, Mann Ki Baat is not as popular as it is claimed to be, even in households with a high media presence.

The Survey 

As per the report titled ‘Media in India: Access, Practices, Concerns and Effects’ as advised by political scientists Sanjay Kumar, Suhas Palshikar and Sandeep Shastri has a different story to tell. The report is based on a sample survey of 7,463 Indian citizens aged 15 years and above in 19 states and union territories of India. These states include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

The survey found that in households with a high media presence, which includes television, internet, and stereo, two-fifths of them had not heard Mann Ki Baat in the last one year. Furthermore, three in every ten households had only heard it once or twice. These findings challenge the widespread belief that Mann Ki Baat is a popular initiative that has successfully connected with the masses.

The CSDS report includes a section titled “PM’s Mann Ki Baat: A reality check” which reveals that only one in ten respondents claimed to have listened to the program regularly in the last year. The majority of respondents, or three-fifths, reported not listening to the show at all. The survey questioned over 7,000 Indian citizens in 19 states and Union Territories and covered various media platforms, including radio, television, and the internet. The report’s findings were based on a sample survey of Indian citizens aged 15 years and above.

The listenership – high or low? 

The survey also found that the listenership of Mann Ki Baat was higher in rural areas than in urban areas. However, the overall listenership of the program was still relatively low, with only 18% of respondents stating that they listen to it regularly. This suggests that Mann Ki Baat may not be as effective in reaching its intended audience as it was intended to be.

The reasons behind the low listenership of Mann Ki Baat could be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, the program is broadcasted only in Hindi and some regional languages, which may not be accessible to a large portion of the population that speaks other languages. Secondly, the program is broadcasted on All India Radio and Doordarshan, which may not be the preferred medium of communication for younger generations who rely heavily on social media and the internet.

Another reason could be the content of the program itself. While Mann Ki Baat aims to connect with the public and address their concerns, it often comes across as a one-way communication where the Prime Minister talks at the listeners rather than engaging with them in a dialogue. The program also tends to focus on government initiatives and achievements, which may not be of interest to a large portion of the population.

Moreover, some have criticized Mann Ki Baat for being a platform for the Prime Minister to promote his own agenda and ideology. The program has been accused of being biased towards the ruling party and its policies, which may not resonate with a significant portion of the population. Interestingly, the report also revealed a surprising finding that over half of those leaning towards the BJP don’t seem to be listening to the PM’s radio program Mann Ki Baat. Among the few who do listen regularly, BJP is highly popular.

The report showed that at least 51 percent of BJP-leaning respondents had never listened to Mann Ki Baat, and only 7 percent of their supporters listened to it almost always. Another 7 percent of their supporters heard the program most months. However, of the few citizens who listened to Mann Ki Baat almost every month, 58 percent were BJP-leaning. Thus Aamir Khan applauding MKB loses ground if we look at his statement in the perspective of this report.  It might sound like a politically correct statement though.

Wrapping up 

The survey by CSDS and Lokniti challenges the claim that Mann Ki Baat is a popular initiative that has successfully connected with the masses. While the program may have some listeners, its overall reach and impact may not be as significant as it was intended to be. This calls for a re-evaluation of the program’s approach and content to better connect with the public and address their concerns.

Ziya Khan is a social activist based in Nagpur involved in diverse social and religious projects. He works as content head at a Digital Marketing Company in IT park. Views expressed here are the author’s own.