#PrimetimeWatch: Channels Discuss Poll Rigging, Haasan's Godse Comment and Mamata Meme

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

New Delhi: A BJP polling agent was arrested in Faridabad after he was caught on camera influencing voters and pressing the button on the EVM for at least three of them. The Election Commission later ordered a re-poll in the polling station.

Actor and founder of Makkal Needhi Maiyam, Kamal Haasan, said independent India’s first “extremist was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse”. He was addressing an election campaign in Tamil Nadu’s Aravakurichi.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioned her silence on the Alwar gangrape of a Dalit woman, BSP chief Mayawati launched a personal attack on him. She said “married women in the BJP” were afraid that Modi might make their husbands “leave their wives, the way he did his wife.”

How did the media report these stories and more?

English channels


The channel took up the “Booth capture caught on camera”.

Anchor Nidhi Razdan asked if it was fair to judge the elections when names are not on rolls or bogus votes are cast – or were these only aberrations.

Former CEC S.Y. Quraishi said dozens of re-polls are ordered by the EC on the basis of reports of election officers. This incident, which was recorded, should be seen as just one of them.

Raghav Chadha of the Aam Aadmi Party, however, insisted that “there is a pattern to this – with each election, BJP is getting more proficient at such rigging.” Having contested the south Delhi election, he said, he found numerous cases of “people saying their votes are not on the list”. He also said: “I caught a BJP person red-handed – he was casting multiple votes.”

Besides, Chadha said, “There were so many cases of voters reaching booth and denied their right as their votes were already cast.”

Vivek Reddy of the BJP said his party condemns the Faridabad incident. “If at all there is malpractice, EC has done right to order a re-poll. Illegal acts cannot be condoned, fairness of election is important.”

Reddy also pointed to “how in West Bengal, TMC goons were holding guns and threatening voters. If this is the state of affairs, it is very dangerous.”

Mohammad Khan of Congress said the EC had addressed the “mechanical” failures related to EVMs or VVPATS and cases of rigging. “But I am more worried about ‘institutional failures’. Here, grotesque precedence has been set where no action is being taken against the prime minister and president of the party.”

He accused them of violating the model code, by building a two-fold narrative – of hiding their failures behind achievements of armed forces, and dividing the nation “to win a few more seats”.

Razdan commented that “the story of EC has also been a story of these elections. Has EC failed to do its job and act against senior politicians for their speeches?”

Times Now

With #KamalHinduTerrorJibe, the channel discussed religion and terror. Anchor Navika Kumar asked if Nathuram Godse and Pragya Thakur are being called Hindu terrorists, then would it be right to call Burhan Wani, Ajmal Kasab, Dawood Ibrahim and even Osama bin Laden Muslim terrorists.

Senior advocate Mehmood Pracha insisted that “they were all just born in a religion – some as Hindus and others as Muslims” and so this would be an incorrect description.

Headlines such as “Is bashing Hindus secularism?” and “Hindus protest insulting link” indicated how political parties supported and criticised the statement.

Kumar then asked: “Is it sad that in the 21st century we are relating a person to religion and calling him a terrorist?”

President of Muslim Council of India, T.A. Rehmani, replied: “I agree that Burhan and Osama were Muslim terrorists. But will you now agree that Godse was a Hindu terrorist?”

He added, “What I don’t agree with is the term ‘terrorism’. I treat it as a global religious war – this is about fighting injustice and indiscrimination.”

Republic TV

With #HindusSoftTarget and headlines like “Kamal fires, Cong gives cover fire”, the channel also took up Haasan’s comment.

During the debate, actor and BJP supporter Vivek Oberoi questioned why the saffron party was being attacked. He said it was the West Bengal CM who was attacking people for saying ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and yet no questions were being asked.

Anchor Arnab Goswami then went on a monologue: “You people have to be exposed. You say RSS was a terror organisation because Godse was from there, but he had quit. Congress put tyres around Sikhs and set them afire in 1984, is it a terrorist organisation? I have freedom of expression, I will expose you all.”

A panellist then pointed to the alleged bias of Haasan, saying he did not even use the word ‘terror’ in his tweets after the Easter attack on churches in Sri Lanka.

Another put across a different view, saying: “Hindu Mahasabha even today celebrates the anniversary of Godse as Shaurya Diwas – nothing can be more shameful.”

India Today TV

With “What explains Maya-PM faceoff?” anchor Rajdeep Sardesai discussed the BSP leader’s sharpening of her attacks on Modi.

He asked why a Dalit could not become the prime minister.

Amit Malviya of the BJP responded, “If a Dalit can become president then why not PM?” However, he claimed that: “Mayawati does not represent the aspirations of Dalits; she did not raise the issue of Alwar gangrape of a Dalit vote due to political considerations. BJP represents Dalit aspirations much more and this is what explains her attacks.”

Sardesai said, “It is increasingly apparent that the final battle is being fought in UP and West Bengal. After being subdued for weeks, Mayawati has taken on PM in sharp terms.”

The programme also raised the issue of another leader, this time in the south, having already begun looking for post-poll alliances. Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao met DMK leader M.K. Stalin during the day. Last week, he met Communist leader and Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan to discuss prospects of forming a non-Congress, non-BJP “federal alliance”.

A report from Chennai said DMK remained tight-lipped after the meeting. Stalin is considered as being close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi. He had declared Gandhi to be a prime ministerial candidate last year and reiterated this recently.

The report also mentioned how Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, KCR and Naveen Patnaik are keen on a Federal Front, but Stalin is probably not.

Sardesai, in his final comments, quipped: “Maybe these leaders are running ahead of themselves. Will we really get a hung parliament on May 23?”

Hindi channels

NDTV India

In his show, anchor Ravish Kumar looked at the history of e-mail as he analysed Modi’s claim in a television interview that he sent an e-mail when the facility had not even started in India.

The channel referred to a comment from Congress leader Ahmed Patel asking how when public internet service was launched in 1995, the PM says he sent an e-mail in 1987-88.

Kumar said the debate suits Modi. “PM is happy to keep opposition engaged in other things”.

He noted that “Modi said in 1987-88 he sent a photo – in an attachment. But how did he send it – when e-mail came in 1992.” Kumar said Patel was also slightly wrong to talk about 1995 as the year the e-mail service was launched. “Internet service was launched in 1995, e-mail came before that in 1992, but it was not there by 1987-88.”

The PM did not rectify his statement after the mistake was pointed out.

Kumar also asked if the interview to News Nation was “pre-written and approved”.

Kumar said when the anchor asked Modi if he had written anything over the past five years, Modi said he had penned a poem the same day. However, the paper on which it was supposedly jotted and from which he read it out was printed.

“If questions were pre-decided then technically it was not an interview,” asserted Kumar, asking, “What is the credibility of such an interview?”

Zee News

Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary took up the issue of West Bengal police arresting Priyanka Sharma, convenor of BJP’s youth-wing in Howrah, for sharing a morphed image of the CM. In the meme, Banerjee’s face was superimposed on actor Priyanka Chopra’s body. Following a complaint by a Trinamool Congress leader, Sharma was arrested and sent to 14-day judicial custody.

With headlines like “Hinsa par sahansheel, meme par asahansheel” (Patient on violence, impatient on meme) and “Bengal main abhivyakti ki azadi par Mamata ka apatkal” (Mamata’s emergency on freedom of expression in Bengal), the channel criticised the action.