New Delhi: On Wednesday, fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi was arrested in London.
On the same day, the four accused in the Samjhauta blast case were acquitted.
How did the channels cover these big stories? Were they given equal space? Who was given credit for Modi’s arrest?
In its programme Left, Right and Centre, the channel ran various headlines to convey the news on Nirav’s arrest: “Nirav Modi arrested in London on Tuesday”, “UK court denies bail”, “Judge cites access to means of escape” and “Nirav reiterates willingness to cooperate”.
Anchor Nidhi Razdan said while Nirav Modi is not going to be back in India before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the question is “will BJP be able to sell it as an achievement”.
Participating in the debate, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said, “It was the Daily Telegraph reporters who confronted him after they got a tip off from their fashion correspondents. I can’t see why the Indian government could not get him back for so long.”
Lalitha Kumaramangalam of the BJP remarked: “Wheels of justice grind slowly but when they do they grind well.”
India Today TV
India Today too focused on “Action against Nirav Modi”. Anchor Rajdeep Sardesai said despite the arrest, the “question will be raised if institutional integrity was compromised”. In his final comments, he said: “The arrest of Nirav could not have come at a more opportune time for PM’s image” and that “politics at election time is also about optics and BJP can claim victory”. But he went on to ask, “what was the government doing for a year” and said “VVIP fugitives can’t be allowed to wink at the law so easily”.
The channel also took up the “Chowkidar versus dynasty pitch” while referring to how during the day, Narendra Modi had accused the Congress of dynasty politics and denigrating `chowkidars’ by calling them thieves.
Various headlines like “Cong’s chowkidar attack blunted?”, “PM: Congress insulting chowkidars”, “PM: All citizens are chowkidars” and “Boost for chowkidar?” indicated that Modi may have managed to get the better of the Congress in this round.
The channel ran two hashtags – #ChowkidarJailsNirav and #NaMoAgainAngersCongress.
The channel said within three days, Congress workers in different places attacked or heckled BJP supporters for raising pro-Modi slogans. “They can’t tolerate Modi. The Congress mob is allergic to the Modi wave. Today they manhandled, heckled and left a college student in tears for supporting Modi,” said anchor Arnab Goswami, as the channel reported an incident in which a woman supporter of BJP was allegedly harassed in Benares for wearing a T-shirt with “Namo Again” printed on it.
“Three days, three attacks on Namo backers, who is intolerant now – let’s debate,” shouted Goswami, projecting this to be the biggest story of the day.
The only channel to cover the Samjhauta train blast acquittals in detail was Times Now – but made its stance very clear. #HinduTerrorHoax, said the channel’s hashtag.
“Opposition alleges fixing”, “UPA floated ‘Hindu terror’”, “UPA framed Hindus for votes” and “BJP lashes out at Congress” were the headlines.
Anchor Navika Kumar said 68 people were killed in the blast in 2008, but “Today, we do not have an answer to who killed them”.
She asked: “Why was there a saffron terror bogey being raised?…How will lives of those acquitted today but who spent 12 years in jail be compensated?”
The channel ran a headline “Chowkidar wali jang main Rahul par Modi bhari (In fight over chowkidar, Modi steals the show over Rahul)”, which too indicated that the war of words over ‘chowkidar’ has probably boomeranged on the Congress.
It also showed Priyanka Gandhi and other opposition leaders questioning how the arrest of Nirav Modi was an achievement for the BJP.
Union BJP minister Ravi Shankar Prasad countered by questioning the credentials of Priyanka and Rahul, alleging that their party was instrumental in the escape of “Quattrochhi mama”.
Taking the focus away from ‘chowkidars’ to jobs and unemployment, the channel showed the Congress, through its spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, questioning how “470 lakh people have been left unemployed by the chowkidar” and that “people will have to understand that Modi is harmful for their work”.
However, referring to a poll conducted by it, the channel said ‘chowkidar’ remains the biggest poll issue, with only 14% of respondents saying it was a “useless issue”.
In its Master Stroke programme, it also focused on Priyanka Gandhi’s Benares visit as part of her three-day boat campaign.
It appeared as though channels are projecting her to be one of the biggest players in UP, despite the fact that the Congress is a minuscule force in the state in comparison to the SP-BSP alliance.
Ravish Kumar’s primetime show analysed the lives of real watchmen while politics is being played in their name. “Kaisay halat main kaam kartay hain chowkidar (In what conditions do watchmen work)” read one of the headlines. Another said, “Kya chowkidar wala mudda bhi chunavi stunt? (Is the chowkidar issue also an election stunt?)”
Kumar talked about how there is buzz around Modi holding talks with 25 lakh watchmen. However, he said, it is actually difficult for him to speak to even 50. Also, he wondered if the real questions would be taken up.
The anchor asked if Modi would be allowed to interact with Bihar and Jharkhand ‘chowkidars’ who have not received salaries for three months.
The programme also showed some watchmen narrating their plight. One asked: “What are the safety measures for us?” Another said with Rs 1,500 salary, he found it difficult to make his children study.
However, the channel said it was good that the plight of these watchmen was being discussed. “Kya isi bahanay chowkidaron ki halat sudharegi? (Will this help improve their condition?)”
In its programme anchored by Sudhir Chaudhary, the channel had two very different stories. One was on politics in Tamil Nadu and how parties there are willing to grant pardon to murder convicts for their political goals.
It also had a story on how pollution is not an election issue in India despite it being one of the largest ‘killers’. It drew a comparison with South Korea, saying a Bill was passed there recently to allow for the use of emergency funds to fight pollution. Will India follow suit, the channel asked.