Rajnish Mishra | Apr 3, 2019 | 5 min read
By Rajnish Mishra
Ahmedabad: Even as the mystery around the actual ownership and funding of controversial NaMo TV, a channel dedicated to Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has mysteriously come up during the election season, is still unresolved and somewhat deepened, name of a person who owns a domain name 'Namotv.com' and has very close connections with the BJP and the PM himself has started doing the rounds.
Parag Shah had once worked for almost five years as the Officer on Special Duty (IT) in Modi's office when he was the chief minister of Gujarat and now owns a domain called ‘Namotv.com’, however, Shah denies to have any connection with the mysterious channel which is being targeted by the opposition and is under the radar of Election Commission of India.
The NaMo TV was first aired way back in 2012 before the Gujarat Assembly elections, however the channel was later stopped and one of the original promoters of the company that had first aired it has also denied running the channel anymore.
Ahmedabad-based homeopath doctor and one of the original promoters of Hope Infotainment incorporated, Sujay Mehta, had said that he or his company is no longer involved in the operations of the channel.
After the announcement of seven phased Loksabha election schedule, NaMo TV in its new avatar beamed on major direct-to-home networks on March 31 this year. PM Modi’s official mobile app has a link to the TV which carries content related to him including his speeches and other promotional material. Both Modi and his party BJP had tweeted urging people to watch it. But it is still not clear who owns or funds the 24-hour channel, that borrows the PM's initials and his image for its logo and is available on various DTH and cable TV platforms also. It has been airing PM Modi's speeches and interviews of other BJP leaders.
Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had made complaints about the airing of the Namo TV claiming it to be a clear violation of the model code of conduct. The Election Commission of India had also sought explanation from the union Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Shah, the IT man of Gujarat govt
The owner of the domain name Namotv.com, Parag Shah (46), now runs NST Private Ltd, a company that deals with networking and data services business. The office is situated in over a decade old building in plush Amabwadi area in his hometown Ahmedabad.
Shah was posted as officer on special duty (IT) in Gujarat chief minister’s office from January 2003 to 2008. Apart from CMO, Shah also looked after 32 different state government websites including that of information department. He was also involved with IT related work in the state home department and the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Gujarat police. He had also worked as personal assistant to Gandhinagar Member of Parliament and former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani.
‘Registered, but never used Namotv.com’
When this reporter met Shah in his office on the third floor of an old building Sanskar-2, he said that though he had registered the domain name Namotv.com way back in 2004, it had never been used.
“The Namo TV that is on air has the domain name ‘Namotv.in’ and not .com. It is entirely different. I am an IT professional who was associated with the Gujarat CMO and even with Advaniji but was never a member of BJP. It is my business to get the domain names registered and sell them. I have several domain names registered in my name and there was nothing wrong in that. My Namotv.com is coincidentally associated with Godaddy.com with which the Namotv.in was also connected but I don't know who owns that. I had put my domain name for sale long back and it is still very much on sale,” he said.
The IT professional said that PM Modi was like a father figure to him and he held him in high but he was not a member of the BJP.
To a query he said that he had heard of Sujay Mehta who had once aired Namo TV but did not recall meeting him ever. He also said that he did not know Sujay's partner in the Hope Infotainment Inc, Sanjay R Shah.
Parag Shah said that he had earlier gone to the US for job on H1B visa and then returned to India. After his OSD (IT) job in the Gujarat CMO he started his current company way back in 2008.
Channel helped CM Modi too?
The earlier version of Namo TV was launched in 2012. As the then CM, Narendra Modi wanted an electronic platform through which he could share his views about various initiatives of his government directly with the people. According to Mayank Jain, who was the content head of Namo TV in 2012, Modi used to insist his ministers and senior bureaucrats to do extensive interviews on the various initiatives of his government. He had also done a film on the food safety measures.
The Namo TV, then was not a big hit.
After its latest controversial launch, questions are being raised about the propriety of this step involving prime minister and the ruling party.
“Capture the colours of elections. Watch the dance of democracy. Say NaMo again with NaMo TV. Tune in to get real-time coverage of PM Modi’s election campaign and a lot more fascinating content,'' the official account of BJP had tweeted.
Not news, it’s advertisement
A leader associated with the BJP's IT cell said that Namo TV was not a news channel but an advertisement channel. “No rules/norms have been flouted by airing it,” he said but chose to keep mum when asked about who exactly owned it.
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