#PrimetimeWatch: Channels Debate Modi’s Chest-Thumping, Manmohan's Claim of Surgical Strikes

A daily round-up of trends and patterns on news television.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a political rally in Jaipur that the UN’s decision to declare Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’ was a “great success” and that “this is just the beginning – just wait and watch.” He also took a dig at the previous Manmohan Singh government, saying it was a “remote-controlled” government where even the voice of the PM was not heard.

In an interview to Hindustan Times, Singh broke his ‘maun’ (silence) on the issue and said multiple surgical strikes had taken place during his tenure as PM. However, he added, “for us, military operations were meant for strategic deterrence and giving a befitting reply to anti-India forces than to be used for vote garnering exercises.”

Congress spokesperson Rajiv Shukla gave out the dates and location of these “six surgical strikes” – conducted across the border into Pakistan between 2008 and 2014.

How did the media report these stories?

English channels

India Today TV

The channel debated how “Modi flaunts security card” and “Manmohan guns for Modi”. Anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked: “What is the need for chest-thumping?”

Former diplomat K.C. Singh explained that “what happened with Modi is that he came with a more muscular policy, and has tried to project that image all through”. He said it was sad that in a national election, the forces are being put into domestic parlance. “We should not be doing this. Azhar is a success – but treat it as a process.”

Singh also said that the government was “entitled to more muscular policy”, but it should take parliament into confidence and not make it an “us and them” issue with the opposition.

GVL Narasimha Rao of the BJP said: “a bipartisan consensus is not possible because Congress compromised national security at the altar of political expediency”. He also asked, “Why should we be silent? Why should we not talk about these strikes, they are a major part of our national governance?”

Abhishek Manu Singhvi agreed with Singh saying, “I could not endorse more the reference to continuity”. He said he also tweeted congratulations to Modi who, however, appeared busy with his “constant chest thumping and making self-congratulatory raucous noises about surgical strike”.

He recalled that one such strike was also carried out when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister and six under the UPA government. “The only difference is that the previous government was never so insecure.”


In “Left, Right and Centre”, anchor Nidhi Razdan said “BJP will continue to tom-tom the Masood Azhar ban but is this something that opposition will be able to counter? Is India any safer in the last five years?”

The programme showed clips of finance minister Arun Jaitley saying that “Congress says they did invisible surgical strikes – those are ‘unknown’ invisible strikes”. It also ran the details of the six strikes put out by Rajiv Shukla.

The report also stated that the “the prime minister says that since 2014, the sounds of blasts can’t be heard”, but in these five years, there have been “942 bombings” in which 451 people have been killed. Even the MHA told parliament that from 2014 till 2018 end, there were six terror attacks nationwide.

This apart, there were 1,708 attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and over 4,600 by Maoists. In light of this, a headline said, “Opposition questions government claim on national security”.

During the debate, journalist Rasheed Kidwai said: “the BJP is very carefully curating the narrative by blurring the difference between the Indian state and BJP government.” The exercise, he said, may not bring in new voters for the party, but it “enhances PM’s image as someone trustworthy”.

Razdan also noted that during the day, Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore also stated that the whole army stands with the BJP and Modi. “They are trying to say you need to be safe first,” she insisted.

Defence expert Ajai Shukla compartmentalised security during the Modi rule into four parts. On the issue of “internal cohesiveness of India”, he said, “internal fault lines have widened, we are more vulnerable now than ever before”.

As for Kashmir, he said, “Every measure of violence has gone up – all proclaimed grand successes, surgical strike or Balakot, actually had roots in a security debacle.”

Regarding Naxalism and insurgency in the Northeast, Shukla said: “They have dragged on at the same level over the past five years”.

The biggest threat, he said, now was “saffron terrorism”. “There is a new dimension it is bringing – intelligence agencies are very worried about this, particularly about the way earlier cases have progressed.”

Vivek Reddy of the BJP said: “What needs to be seen is the situation pan-India regarding terror – this is where BJP scores. We have kept the borders safe and the interiors safe.”

“The second aspect,” he said, “is the way we reacted. The objective of Pakistan was to have a 1000-cut war against India. The previous government did not act, but today the Modi government has replied in a strong manner. It has shown how a new India can respond.

Razdan said if this were true, “the situation should have improved in the last five years – it hasn’t.”

Times Now

Through #PollCashTrailConfession, ‘The Newshour @9’ reported how “for the first time since the income-tax raids in Madhya Pradesh, two of Rahul Gandhi’s very senior leaders, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Digvijay Singh have been named in the report of the Central Board of Direct Taxes.”

The channel said it has accessed “explosive confessions by Kamal Nath’s aides that link unaccounted cash recovered in these raids allegedly to top Congress beneficiaries.” The programme also carried headlines “Report: Digvijay got Rs 90 lakh” and “Report: Surjewala got Rs 25 lakh” to insist that “State coffers are Congress ATM?”

During the debate, political analyst Nishant Verma questioned the authenticity of the document being shown but added that “if the details have indeed emerged in an income tax probe report, then investigate, find the trails and put the accused behind the bars”.

He, however, demanded that BJP leaders accused of corruption also be acted upon. “Put the others behind bars too,” he said, noting that in Telangana, Rs 8 crore withdrawn from the BJP’s bank account was seized and Rs 1.8 crore was found in Arunachal CM Pema Khandu’s convoy.

Achor Navika Kumar said the story was based on computer shots taken of the investigation reports. The channel also ran headlines like “Congress has a long history of using departments as cash cows”, “Three months 280 crores channelled through hawala operators” and “They loot you for your votes?” during the discussion.

Republic TV

With #SabootGangBack, the channel had a ‘discussion’ on internal security. In a break from the routine, it allowed a caller, Colonel (Retd.) Shurojit Debnath, who had served in Corps of Engineers, to give his inputs from Pune.

Strategic affairs expert Sushant Sareen said: “Over the last few years, foreign policy and security policy have been democratised. A lot of people can say what they have to say on various channels and social media and policy is responding to voices from the streets and tweets.”

“That is a fine point you made,” said anchor Arnab Goswami before placing the credit where he felt it was due: “That is what has changed in Modi’s time – you may hate Modi but recognise what has happened under him.”

Hindi channels

NDTV India

Anchor Ravish Kumar in his primetime show spoke about the alleged double standard of the BJP on the issue of raising the slogans, “Vande mataram” and “Bharat mata ki jai”.

The episode discussed “Vande mataram bolne say kyon bach rahe hain Nitish” (Why is Bihar CM Nitish Kumar wary of saying ‘Vande mataram’).

Ravish showed how in his election rally in Barrackpore in West Bengal recently, Modi urged people to not vote for those who think a hundred times before saying ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande mataram’.

However, when it comes to Bihar, Ravish charged that Modi and BJP adopt a different yardstick. “Kya Vande mataram ko lekar BJP itna adjust kar sakti hai?” (Can BJP adjust so much when it comes to Vande Mataram?) he asked.

Ravish asked why is it that the PM targets Mamata over Vande mataram but spares Nitish for not raising it in his rallies.

The channel, he said, also spoke to Janata Dal (United) leader K.C. Tyagi who clearly stated that these two slogans should not be raised during NDA rallies as they were primarily of the BJP and RSS.

Zee News

Editor-anchor Sudhir Chaudhary did a “Masood Azhar par rajniti ka DNA test” (DNA test of the politics over Azhar).

During the show, he pulled out an interrogation report of Masood Azhar, prepared following his arrest from Anantnag on February 11, 1994. Chaudhary cited how the report said Azhar visited Lucknow, Deoband and Saharanpur after entering India on a Portugal passport in which his name was mentioned as Wali Azam Isa.

The report also provided his Bahawalpur address in Pakistan and how he was 25-years-old then, measured five feet seven inches and had a pot belly. It mentioned that he had studied up to Class VIII and declared that he was a maulvi and editor of Sada-e-Mujahid.