New Delhi: Malegaon blast accused and BJP candidate from Bhopal, ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya Thakur triggered a political storm by describing Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as a “deshbhakt” (patriot). She was responding to the remark by actor-politician Kamal Haasan that Godse was “independent India’s first Hindu extremist”. As opposition parties slammed her and the BJP, the saffron party condemned the statement and asked her to apologise – which she did.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee traded barbs on the last day of campaigning, truncated by 20 hours by the Election Commission for nine Lok Sabha seats in the state. In the wake of a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar being destroyed in the violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow, Modi promised to have a new one installed at the spot. He also said Vidyasagar is watching who is “protecting infiltrators”.
Banerjee retorted that she would send Modi to jail if it was proved that BJP activists had vandalised the bust. She also called Modi the “biggest liar” and his party workers “hooligans”. She said her government does not need alms and was capable of installing the new statue by itself.
How did the media report these stories and more?
India Today TV
In “Bengal Showdown”, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai discussed the situation arising out of violence during Shah’s roadshow and the subsequent curtailment of campaigning by the EC which has been severely criticised by the opposition parties.
With headlines like “Opposition Backs Mamata” and “EC comes under fire”, he asked if the EC decision was justified, especially since the curb on campaigning came into effect a day after the announcement and once Modi had addressed two rallies in the state.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera accused the BJP of orchestrating the violence. “We go by the evidence we see in videos. Why would the BJP hire six trains to transfer workers to Bengal for the road show? You don’t have workers and so you get them from outside. Will you also get voters from outside?” he asked.
Khera also charged that it is not only the BJP activists who have been killed in the state. “Sanatan Mahaldar, who was killed in April this year, was a TMC worker,” he said adding that two more were killed last October.
Sardesai asked if the time had come to postpone the polls in the state altogether. Also, he said, the opposition has accused the EC of helping the BJP by splitting the polls in West Bengal into seven phases thereby giving the party leaders more time to throw its weight in each constituency.
He also spoke about how a newspaper report said it was ABVP activists who threw projectiles into Vidyasagar College after some students waved black flags during Shah’s procession.
G.V.L. Narasimha Rao of the BJP accused the media of having sympathy for the opposition. “How can you say that the EC is favouring us – when we are the ones being attacked, beaten and killed in West Bengal. It was our road show that was attacked. EC has clearly failed – even after a seven-phase poll it has not been able to contain the violence.”
When Sardesai asked Mahua Moitra of the TMC if her party has “decided to intimidate BJP into silence”, she too accused him of personal bias, asking if he was “delusional”. She recounted how her party’s seats have been growing over the previous elections and asked: “Why does it seem to you that we are losing ground – the only thing we are desperate for is that we want to get rid of Modi.”
Sardesai then asked former chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamoorthy about the “perception that EC is batting for the government”. He said “according to the opposition, the EC is soft on Modi-Shah and has not addressed complaints against them on time, it stretched out the elections to favour the BJP and it delayed the imposition of the model code to allow a spate of inaugurations.”
Krishnamoorthy replied: “Opposition is entitled to its views. They have gone to court against the EC. If you are not satisfied, you should go to the courts. Why attack people and break statues?”
When Sardesai asked if the EC is the “weakest link” and was really a “neutral body”, the former CEC retorted: “Let courts decide if it is neutral or not. Why exchange blows on the streets? Are the political parties not duty bound to protect people. All parties are responsible for breaking the rule of law.”
On a day when Congress leader Sonia Gandhi reached out to non-NDA leaders for discussion before the results on May 23, the channel discussed the issue through #ModiVsCoalitionofPMs. Headlines like ‘There are 10 PMs in waiting”, “Ready to prop rickety ‘sarkar’?” and “Even Pawar throws hat in the ring” conveyed its stand.
Anchor Navika Kumar said: “The legitimate question is ‘Does India need a compromise from the coalition of PMs?” The channel also showed the scathing remarks made by several leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyar, Mayawati, Akbaruddin Owaisi, Sanjay Nirupam, Mamata Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi among others against Modi in the recent past to project how he was being targeted.
She asked if the parties would compromise on anything to keep Modi out.
Political analyst Garga Chatterjee answered back that “When we talk about a new PM, it is because we do not need a PM who offers blood money for destroying Vidyasagar’s statue; it is also because he shamed us by claiming to have better knowledge than our air force and army about operational matters.”
He added: “We want a PM with whom India can identify, who takes everyone along and whose sidekick does not call Bengalis ‘termites’.”
Amit Malviya of the BJP said: “Who will be the PM will be decided by people and they have invariably made up their mind to bring Modi back.” As of now, he quipped, none of the opposition parties appear to be in a position to even have a leader of the opposition post in the Lok Sabha.
Malviya said: “The argument to keep the BJP-NDA out is frivolous as it doubts the wisdom of the people who vote for pro-incumbency.”
Journalist Sanjeev Srivastava said: “We can’t be presumptuous about who would win – and whether a strong party with a ‘mazboot’ leader will form the government or there would be a ‘khichdi sarkar’ (alliance government).”
However, he reminded that in the past three-and-a-half decades, there have been only two governments with an absolute majority – those of Rajiv Gandhi and Modi. “We have also had a number of successful coalitions in the past – of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh – and so these are nothing to be afraid of.”
With #ModiObsession, anchor Arnab Goswami took up the issue of “too much abuse thrown at Modi” and “Mamata wants Modi out of India”.
During the debate, he asked Left leader and academician Kamal Mitra Chenoy if he had earlier seen the kind of “visceral venom” being spewed now. “Even during the JP movement, they said ‘Indira hatao’ (remove Indira), not ‘haath pakad kar desh say nikalo’ (hold the hand and throw out of the country).”
Chenoy replied that during the Emergency, “the person who hounded us was Maneka Gandhi. I was throughout of my university [JNU] and sent to Manipur, where the insurgency was on.”
He said he had “some respect for what Modi has done – the way he has built NDA.” Chenoy also said, “Left underwent collapse because ideology became outmoded – the problem is we are not able to counter his kind of argument sometimes.”
Speaking for the BJP, a Mumbai-based lawyer said: “the language being used against the PM, which says he should be thrown out of the country, is the language spoken in Pakistan.”
After an exchange of words with a panellist, Goswami concluded by saying: “Problem with the opposition is – they are vituperative, venomous and have lost their sense of humour.”
In “Countdown Bihar”, the channel editor Prannoy Roy travelled to the state and spoke to a lot of people, especially women about their views on the elections.
He also asked: “Why do parties nominate so few women candidates?” As the channel gave out the figures of women contestants in various parties, the channel’s editorial adviser and analyst, Dorab Sopariwala said this was a global phenomenon and barring some Scandinavian countries everywhere else, women were underrepresented in the legislatures. “In the US, there are more women and more women voters but fewer women in the Congress,” he noted.
Roy said India too was a male-dominated society and this reflected in women candidates numbering just about 7%.
Journalist Shekhar Gupta said despite women like Jayalalithaa, Mayawati and Mamata heading political parties, this representation remains low. “Even the BSP does not reach out to women,” he said, adding that 33% reservation was not the solution as it only seeks to pit women against each other.
Another participant said that in Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar gave 50% reservation to women in panchayats – but did not train or empower them, and as a consequence, in most cases, it is their husbands who rule by proxy.
The channel interviewed Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Patna. Catching up with him near his helipad, the correspondent asked Gandhi how he takes the views of people about him. “What people say I listen and do, I get power from the people,” he replied.
The correspondent then asked if he has finally understood politics because in 2012 he could have become PM but he refused by saying that he would go to the grassroots and understand things first.
To this, Gandhi replied: “It takes a lifetime to understand things, some experience has been gained. I can’t say like Modi that I have understood all.”
Asked about thoughts about farmers, Gandhi said he intends to “make a separate budget for farmers.” Also, he pointed out, “in our states, we have waived their loans and after forming the government we will be legislating a new law that would ensure that farmers will not be arrested for not repaying their loans. We want to work with them, start a continuous dialogue with them – they will also get Rs 72,000 per year in direct benefit transfer under ‘Nyay’ (minimum income scheme).”