Four prominent Kannada newspapers had identical front pages on Thursday, October 6, with the same news stories published verbatim. The reason? It was an advertisement by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka, displaying a collection of old news articles criticising the Congress party. The lead story in the advertisement was a 2008 news article India today titled, 'Rahul in party mood when Mumbai was under terror attack.' The article referred to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which took place on November 26.
The identical front page ads in Kannada Prabha, Vishwavani, Samyuktha Karnataka, and Hosa Digantha confused readers since it was not immediately clear that it was an advertisement and looked like a regular newspaper front page with a collection of news articles. However, the fine print at the bottom right of the page made it clear that it was an advertisement by the BJP. The timing of the ad coincides with the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi, passing through Karnataka and the arrival of Congress’s interim president Sonia Gandhi in Karnataka, to take part in the yatra.
The advertisement was a collection of articles handpicked from different news organisations from the last 15 years. One of the other stories mentioned in the advertisement was an Indian Express report titled '175 cases against PFI/KFD dropped by Siddaramaiah government.' Reacting to the advertisement, Congress leader Priyank Kharge denied this charge and asked the BJP to produce the list of cases dropped by the Congress government. “I challenge them to publish the details of these 175 cases with the names and details of those released. Their front page ad should have had these details,” Priyank Kharge told TNM.
The Congress leader raised questions about the timing of the ad. “They (BJP) have released two ads on the five days of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Are they having sleepless nights over the unity march by the Congress?” Priyank Kharge asked. Two English language articles were also included in the ad. One of them was a 2010 report in the Indian Express quoting Rahul Gandhi as saying “Hindu radicals pose a bigger threat than Lashkar.” Another was an National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report from 2017 stating that Bengaluru was next to Delhi in crimes.
Another news article in the advertisement was from July 22 of the former Karnataka speaker and Congress leader KR Ramesh Kumar's statement at a protest that party workers have been amassing wealth for generations in the name of the Gandhis. The other news articles included a story on the Enforcement Directorate's case on Congress leader DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah stating that celebrating Tipu Jayanthi is a point of pride and on the National Herald corruption case in which Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are accused. The BJP Karnataka’s Twitter page also released a series of tweets highlighting each article mentioned in their advertisement.
The BJP's ad blitzkrieg has come in the week, where the Bharat Jodo Yatra has gathered momentum in the state. While Sonia Gandhi joined the yatra on Thursday, Priyanka Gandhi is also expected to join the yatra in a few days. The yatra which began in Kanyakumari will end in Kashmir after travelling across India.