#PrimetimeWatch: Channels Debate Polarisation as Modi, Shah Bring up Citizenship Bill, NRC

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

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday raised the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Hindu-dominated Barak valley in Assam, accusing the Congress of caring little for the welfare of Hindus and Sikhs.

Congress, in turn, accused the BJP of polarising the elections and referred to a tweet on its handle, which also has a video with BJP president Amit Shah saying: “When we say we will bring NRC, Mamata di scares Bengali refugees that you will have to go …. I want to say, the Citizenship Amendment Bill means that those who came from Bangladesh and Pakistan, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh, refugees, they will not be sent back.”

The voting for Lok Sabha elections began on Tuesday with 91 constituencies going to polls in the first phase.

How did the media report these stories?

English channels


With the peg, “Voting starts – hate speech spikes”, the channel looked at the polarisation through headlines like “Maya gets notice for Muslim vote remark”, “Notice to Yogi on Ali-Bajrangbali remark” and “PM’s Balakot speech: EC examining report”.

In the discussion, anchor Sreenivasan Jain took up the topic of the first day of polling for Lok Sabha elections. He asked the participants which way they saw the pendulum swinging.

Senior journalist Aarti Jerath said: “This so-called national election is turning to be an aggregate of many state elections.” In 42 of the 91 seats which went to the polls on April 11, Congress and BJP have a minimal presence.

Another journalist, Smita Prakash of ANI, said: “The seats in UP that voted were very important – they could be the game-changer and one could see the nervousness of the BJP on the ground. It had won them all and is now struggling to retain them.”

Jain chipped in, saying it is a “very fragmented election” and probably how the BJP would want it to be – “Modi versus rest”. Lalitha Kumaramangalam of BJP admitted: “It is not a wave election”.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said BJP too wants to see it as them versus rest, “but that ignores the politics of coalition since 1991. It is now unreal to think of doing politics without regional parties.”

Singhvi said it was the Modi wave which brought the BJP to power in 2014. “So now they have great cause to be worried as there is absolutely no wave.”

Republic TV

With #MyIndiaMyVote and headlines like “Who’s spooked by high turnout?” and “Why was opposition edgy in Phase I,” the channel looked at the voting trend.

In the discussion, politician-journalist Shahid Siddiqui spoke about how he travelled to all eight constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. “The situation has changed on the ground. The voting percentage of Dalits and minorities is much higher this time. Others from business communities, Jats and Gurjars did not come out in big numbers like last time.”

To this, anchor-editor Arnab Goswami said: “Arithmetically you are wrong – phase by phase voting from west to east has been more favourable for BJP.” But Siddiqui added quickly, “That is when Muzaffarnagar riots happened”.

Earlier, Goswami said, “I would be more worried about BJP in Assam today than in UP. A 6-8% less voting in Assam is worrisome for BJP because Muslim vote is predictable but Hindu voters may or may not come out.”

This comment of his was objected to by a panellist, who said: “You equated Hindu voters with BJP voters. This is absolutely wrong and scandalous.”

Times Now

With #TughlaqRoadDossier, the channel kept its focus on the “findings” and “recoveries” from the Income Tax raid on Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath’s aides.

Its headlines such as “Book-keepers spill the beans”, “AICC and PCC decoded by sleuths” and “Trail leads to Nath and AICC” spoke about the seizures as it asked, “Can Cong cry conspiracy now?”

It also pointed out that “money to fight malnutrition was being used by Congress for political use”.

Through the programme, anchor Navika Kumar read out from a number of documents to highlight the money trail.

India Today TV

In #IndiaElects, the channel looked at the filing of nominations by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli and BJP’s Smriti Irani from Amethi. “Sonia: Modi is not invincible” and “Cong dismisses Smriti threat” was how it looked at their contests and claims.

Anchor Rahul Kanwal noted that while BJP has left their top leaders to canvass all across the country, some of the Congress top-guns will have to focus hard on their constituencies.

Speaking of Amethi, psephologist Rajeeva Karandikar said: “Congress is working hard and Smriti is ensuring that. It is not going to be a walkover.”

The channel also reported how the election in Baramulla in northern Jammu and Kashmir passed off rather peacefully with moderate voting at around 35%. “Ballot over Bullet – Voters defy terror threat” and “Separatists fail to stop voters” was its take.

It showed some people dancing at a polling station in Bandipore and described it as “poll dance” or “dance of democracy”.

“North Kashmir gets moving and excited about elections – this in defiance of separatists call for poll boycott and threats from terrorists,” said the report, as it showed people queued up at polling stations.

For the voters, Article 370 was the motivation to turn up. As one of them said, “We have come out to save 370”, some other said they want “development” and want to vote for it.

Hindi channels

NDTV India

As part of his election coverage, anchor Ravish Kumar travelled to Begusarai in Bihar. He trailed the Communist Party of India candidate and former JNU Students’ Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar during his campaign through the villages of the constituency.

Kanhaiya is pitted against Giriraj Singh of BJP and Tanveer Hasan of Rashtriya Janata Dal. “Battle for Begusarai – people are not getting jobs” and “No sadness for not being a part of the Mahagathbandhan” were two headlines which described people’s main concerns and Kanhaiya’s views on not being given a ticket by the grand alliance.

In his report, Kumar said most of the villages are now empty as people have left their homes to be with their children. Everywhere he went, he asked the residents: “Kanhaiya kaa naam sunay ho? Candidate theek lag rahaa hai? Kyon?” (Have you heard Kanhaiya’s name? Is the candidate good? Why?”)

Most women replied: “Dekhay Kanhaiya ko, jeetay huay haain” (We have seen Kanhaiya, he is going to win). Their reason was that they believe he would look after the well-being of the poor.

With a headline “Kya Begusarai ki rajniti ko milegi koi disha?” (Will Begusarai’s politics get some direction?) Kanhaiya was shown addressing people and saying: “You have declared that in the fight between ‘note-tantra’ (currency) and ‘loktantra’ (democracy), you stand for democracy. This fight of yours will resonate across the country.”

ABP News

“Will BJP use polarisation to get across politically – why are its leaders colouring the political battlefield?” the channel asked, as it showed public addresses by Amit Shah and other leaders.

Its headlines also took up the issue: “Manifesto main vikas … zameen par jaat-dharm ki baat” (Development in manifesto, caste-religion on ground) and “Bhoolay kisan aur naujawan – yaad sirf Hindu-Musalman” (Forgotten farmers and youth – only remember Hindu-Muslims) were its headlines as it took on the BJP head on.

Anchor Sumit Awasthi spoke to AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, who said: “Hopefully a new non-BJP, non-Congress government would be formed in Delhi.”

Owaisi accused Shah of “doing politics of fear”.

“He is saying Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists will not be ousted, others would be,” Owaisi said, adding that Muslims were the obvious targets. However, he said, there are districts where the names of non-Muslims figure prominently in the National Register of Citizens. “People are aware – they will decide,” he stressed.

Zee News

The “60-year association with Rae Bareli” of the Gandhi family was the topic of discussion on the channel. It noted that barring 1977 when Indira Gandhi lost, the constituency had never disappointed the family.

The channel showed a hawan being done on the occasion in Rae Bareli and compared it with another in Amethi, where is showed Smriti Irani with her husband performing the rituals. It said this time the contest is tough and that is why Rahul is also contesting from Wayanad.

In 2009, it said Rahul polled 72% votes and his margin of victory was 3.70 lakh votes. In 2014, with Irani pitted opposite him, Rahul polled 47% votes and the margin of victory was reduced to 1.07 lakh votes.

Even after losing, it said Irani kept her focus on the constituency – visiting it 35 times against Rahul’s 17.

Aaj Tak

In “Khabardar”, the channel showed how a Jana Sena candidate in Andhra Pradesh, Madhusudan Gupta, broke an EVM in disgust after the machine malfunction in Anantapur constituency.

“He threw it to the ground and broke it,” the channel reported, adding that he was “arrested from the spot”.

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