New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah’s road show in Kolkata was marred by clashes between workers of his party and those of the Trinamool Congress. The saffron party later complained to the Election Commission, while the TMC accused it of bringing “outsiders” to the state to foment trouble.
The Supreme Court granted bail to West Bengal BJP functionary Priyanka Sharma, who was arrested by the state police for sharing a morphed photo of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The court directed her to apologise for posting the meme on her Facebook page.
How did the media report these stories and more.
Anchor Nidhi Razdan took up “TMC workers, BJP clash in West Bengal” with TMC leader Derek O’Brien. He accused the BJP of deliberately timing the violence during Shah’s visit for political gains. “This is a disgrace, this is an insult to Bengal – they have done this repeatedly,” he said.
Accusing the BJP of relying on “outsiders” for support, he said, “Their leaders can’t even give a speech in Bangla.”
The channel had headlines stating “Students were holding up placards, saying go back” before the clashes erupted.
As Razdan questioned him about BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s tweet asking if Bengal has “acquired a Government of Gangster”, he said, “What upsets me is you ask me about someone’s tweet from Delhi.” O’Brien also accused the Modi government of deploying Central forces is large numbers. “They are going with the BJP candidates into the booths,” he charged.
After a bust of Bengali philosopher and academic Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was destroyed in the violence at Vidyasagar College, O’Brien accused the BJP of insulting Bengali icons Vidyasagar and Rabindra Nath Tagore.
Razdan also raised the issue of BJP youth leader Sharma being arrested for posting a meme and asked if the police action was justified. “You championed freedom of speech, what do you have to say now?” she asked.
O’Brien replied: “SC said what they want. Kolkata police closed the case – that is all there is to it.”
With #SaveSatire and headlines like “Priyanka will have to say sorry” and “Supreme injustice for satirists”, anchor Navika Kumar took up the meme case. She said the TMC’s defence is that Banerjee is a popular leader and nothing can be said against her. “The PM also won a majority, is he not popular or loved. Is this not a double standard?” she asked.
AIMIM leader Waris Pathan said “the law is equal for all and that is why Supreme Court has granted bail”. He said a similar incident happened a few days ago when a Muslim boy was arrested by Santa Cruz police for writing something and he was behind bars for three days.
Political commentator Anand Ranganathan said “it is a sad day for democracy” and lamented that “the fight right now is about who can be more fascist or intolerant – who can ban books, films, satire.”
He said, “Unfortunately those who should be upholding the freedom of speech and expression often themselves stand up against it.” He recalled that former SC judge Altamas Kabir had stated that even “an idea can be punished”.
Advocate Aishwarya Bhati cited two grounds on which she claimed Sharma’s arrest was wrong.
Bhati said, “The FIR was filed under section 66A which was struck down by SC in Shreya Singhal. Also, the second section of IT Act which has been used is for sexually explicit material – where is such material in this meme?”
The channel also questioned “Didi’s free speech hypocrisy”. It said when people were protesting against the movie Padmaavat, screenings were allowed in West Bengal to project a “liberal face”. The channel said the West Bengal chief minister oversaw the arrest of professor Ambikesh Mahapatra in 2012 for forwarding a cartoon of her and pulled down the political satire movie Bhobishyoter Bhoot.
With #ShahRallyTargeted, the channel also took up the Kolkata clashes. Anchor Arnab Goswami claimed that while Banerjee held a press conference in Delhi for “saving democracy”, it has been “attacked in her state”.
The channel also showed BJP leader Nirmala Sitaraman speaking to the media after a delegation met the EC. She demanded that Banerjee be banned from campaigning because of her “provocative” speeches, urged EC to send a special representative to the state and sought “flag marches” by Central forces.
Goswami said “all institutions have been destroyed in West Bengal”, while political commentator Ratan Sharda recalled that customs officials were attacked for raiding Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek. However, political scientist Maidul Islam countered, saying these incidents had nothing to do with the elections and happened long before.
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Anchor Rajdeep Desai spoke to Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar about the controversy around him allegedly reiterating the “neech” remark against Modi in an article in ThePrint.
The Congress leader responded saying, “There is no need for my clarification. Congress party has given a formal statement.”
Stating that only one word in the article was being picked, Aiyar said, “When there is an entire article before you, it is surprising that you are picking on just two sentences. I only recalled what I said then and asked was I not prophetic, you are free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
In 2017, Aiyar termed Modi “neech kisam ka aadmi” (a lowly person) and in the latest article, he called him “the most foul mouthed prime minister”. Also, he asked, “Remember how I described him on December 7, 2017. Was I not prophetic?”
The channel reported the multi-cornered fight in Patiala at a time when its ‘prince’ Amarinder Singh is chief minister of Punjab.
In the 16 Lok Sabha elections fought thus far, the Congress has won the seat 10 times. The party also has seven of nine legislators in the state. The channel thus looked at its prospects this time.
It said the party has again fielded three-time MP and Amarinder’s wife, Preneet Kaur. She lost in 2014 to Dharambir Gandhi of the Aam Aadmi Party. Gandhi was later dismissed from the party and is now contesting as a “commoner” representing his newly floated Nawan Punjab Party. The AAP has this time fielded a businesswoman, Neena Mittal. The candidate of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is Surjit Singh Rakhra.
The channel also spoke to voters, one of whom said, “In the past five years, the business atmosphere has improved, image abroad has changed – and now people are getting visas in 24 hours.”
Another person, however, attacked the Modi government for demonetisation and GST, saying these decisions led to loss of lives and livelihood.
The report by Neeta Sharma said as in 2017, when the Assembly elections were held soon after the Pathankot attack and Uri strikes, this time too, there is no impact of such security issues on the polls and local issues will matter more.
The channel also discussed the violence in Kolkata and asked, “Can’t polls be held in Bengal without bloodshed”. It said that ahead of Shah’s roadshow, banners put up by the BJP were pulled down by the police. When the procession started, there was stone pelting and arson, the channel said.
State BJP leader Mukul Roy told the channel “we want justice”. The channel said Bengal is a “mission” for the BJP and recalled that Modi claimed about 40 TMC MLAs were in touch with him.
The channel said, “Shah reached Bengal to find way to Delhi” and there were “chants of Jai Shri Ram in Maa Durga’s land”. It also showed Shah’s claim that Saraswati puja had been stopped in the state and Urdu was being given preference over Bangla.
But despite all his efforts, the report said, Shah does not know if his chopper would land in Bengal or not, if his rally would be allowed or not, if his “rath” will move or not.
Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary said the Sri Lankan government was “acting tough” on terror and against rioters. He said the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka issued new guidelines for helping the government. It had earlier also criticised the Easter blasts.
The guideline, Chaudhary said, reads: “Recommendations for change in attire and behaviour of Muslims and promote of a common Sri Lankan Identity.” He said at the core there is one thought – that you are first a citizen of Sri Lanka and then a Muslim.
Reading how these guidelines urge Muslims to wear green instead of black; avoid Arabic words and use of certain religious signs; and seek control over the decibel level of azaan, Chaudhary drew a parallel with India, asking if this is possible in the country. A headline also read: “Har Hindustani kay liye mazhab say pehlay mulk kab?” (When will country come before religion for every Indian?)