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NitiCentral is no more. The right-wing news and commentary website, part of the NitiDigital venture which also coordinated volunteer efforts for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign in 2014, posted a message on its front page said it has been “retired” as of January 31.
NitiDigital was founded in 2012 by Rajesh Jain, who also established NetCore, a digital marketing and enterprise solutions firm. Its vision, as laid out on the website, was of “changing minds to change people’s votes to bringing political change to bringing about the right policies for India’s development”.
The first of its efforts was NitiCentral, a news and commentary website aimed at being the “voice of the Neo-Middle Class in India” that would be unapologetic about its advocacy of the Indian national interest. The site was initially run by Kanchan Gupta, a senior journalist who was Associate Editor at the Pioneer, before he left to become the Editorial Director of NitiDigital.
In addition to NitiCentral, NitiDigital also set up IndiaVotes, a resource on elections in India, as well as India272+, a volunteer organising effort aimed at getting out the vote for Narendra Modi in the 2014 election.
NitiCentral was supposed to be part of an effort to turn the immense popularity of Modi, and his brand of Bharatiya Janata Party politics, into a sustainable intellectual ecosystem online. The flag of the website boasted of being “Bold and Right” and for a time it was immensely popular, acting as an alternative source of news, views and even community organising in the run-up to the 2014 elections.
The aim of the website was in some ways to push back against the belief that while there were thousands of BJP and Modi supporters online, they were mostly “shrill and over-the-top”, as political commentator Ashok Malik put it in 2010, in a piece calling for the BJP to “delink” from so-called Internet Hindus.
The Left has its universities, journals and institutional support system. It is a commentary on Internet Hindus that they only have multiple email accounts.
— Ashok Malik
But the inability of NitiCentral to shed its close associations with the BJP coupled with the cementing of the “shrill and over-the-top” tag meant that it was unable to be perceived as anything beyond a large echo chamber. After the 2014 elections led to the resounding victory of Modi, the website said it had played a “critical role in shaping the political narrative” and told its readers that its mission had begun a new chapter.
Gupta, however, left the site soon after the elections, while it ramped up its aggregation efforts under the Offstumped tag, which once was the blog run by NitiDigital’s Chief Executive Officer Shashi Shekhar. Meanwhile, attention online moved to new efforts to bring a more intellectual bent to right-wing commentary online such as Swarajya or other sources of alternative views like IndiaFacts and OpIndia.
While all traffic in the same sort of fare that NitiCentral did, promising the true version of India that the mainstream denies its citizens, none of them have yet reached the popularity that Niti did in its initial years.