New Delhi: The weekend programming on most leading news channels found some newsy help in Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the hashtag #MainBhiChowkidaar on Saturday morning. It trended on Twitter and was the hot topic of debate on most channels in the evening.
While some saw in it as an apt response to Rahul Gandhi’s ‘chowkidar chor hai’ charge against him, others questioned if the prime minister has for once gone on the defensive in the face of corruption charges being levelled against his government.
Modi also shared a video in which he is shown saying “Your Chowkidar is standing firm and serving the nation”. He went on to tweet: “But, I am not alone. Everyone who is fighting corruption, dirt, social evils is a Chowkidar. Everyone working hard for the progress of India is a Chowkidar.” His video also appealed to people to join him for a “Main Bhi Chowkidar” programme on March 31.
On Sunday, he also changed his Twitter handle to ‘Chowkidar Narendra Modi’.
In response, the Congress responded with the hashtag #IndiaBewakoofNahiHai. And party president Gandhi tweeted “You feeling a little guilty today?”.
Defensive tweet Mr Modi!
You feeling a little guilty today? pic.twitter.com/ztVGRlc599
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 16, 2019
Almost all the leading English channels played-up the Modi story on primetime. NDTV had a discussion on #MainBhiChowkidar in which senior journalist Smita Gupta and Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera spoke about how the campaign smacked of vigilantism.
Khera also claimed that “this country is a victim of a self-appointed chowkidar”. Stating that the prime minster has been stalling the process of appointment of a Lokpal, he also asked “how did the ‘chowkidar’ let the Rafale file disappear?”
On the other hand RSS analyst Desh Ratan Nigam and ‘right wing analyst’ Shantanu Gupta defended Modi’s retort to Rahul. Gupta said the campaign was only in response to Rahul’s attack on Modi through the #ChowkidarChorHai campaign.
Anchor Ankita Mukherjee also took up the issue of how a fake ID was created and ‘Nirav Modi’ showed up on the prime minister’s Twitter timeline.
The channel also had the headings “Rahul to PM: Are you feeling guilty?” and “From Chaiwala to Chowkidar” which indicated its willingness to question Modi.
The Newshour special edition of the channel was hash-tagged #ModiChowkidarChallenge. It had various headlines like “Modi sets 2019 narrative” and “Urges India to take the pledge” as also “Opposition slams slogan” and “Calls Modi `Suit Boot Chowkidar” to give the arguments from both sides.
A picture of Rahul Gandhi with the words “Defensive Mr Modi feeling a little guilty” brought to the fore the Congress president’s pitch.
The channel also questioned why 25 financial offenders were still outside India and have not been brought back.
Taking a more pro-Modi stance on the issue, the channel ran headlines like “the Chowkidar attack turns tables” and even a “Chor versus chowkidar” that sought to portray Rahul in a negative light.
The channel also ran the #ModiChowkidarCampaign tag and in its Vote For India programme and said the effectiveness of the campaign will only be known on May 23, the day Lok Sabha results would be out.
It also had a story on Rahul welcoming former Uttarakhand chief minister and BJP leader B.C. Khanduri’s son Manish into the Congress. There was also a story on a rift between Congress leaders in Delhi on the issue of aligning with Aam Aadmi Party.
Finally, the channel also spoke about how former Congress leader Alka Lamba, who is an AAP MLA right now, wants to go back to the Congress. It showed her saying that for 20 years she was in the Congress and still retains firm faith in the party’s ideology. Also Lamba, who is eyeing a party ticket from Chandni Chowk, declared that, given a chance, she would like to oppose the BJP once again.
The channel’s take on the Modi hashtag story was that it was endorsed by scores of senior BJP leaders who took to Twitter soon after the prime minister’s tweet. It also ran a headline: “‘Everyone working hard for the progress of India is a Chowkidar’: PM Modi.”
As for the Congress, it said the party’s Twitter handle responded with the hashtag #IndiaBewakoofNahiHai. The channel also noted that Rahul Gandhi termed the Twitter campaign of BJP “defensive”.
In its DNA weekend edition, Zee News largely focussed on how its stories were being widely quoted by al-Qalam, the mouthpiece of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Its main story was on how the world stands with India in getting Masood Azhar declared a global terrorist. It said it was only China which was standing in the way of his name being put on the global list of terrorists.
“Cheen ki diwar kay peechay ab nahin bach payega Masood (Masood will not be able to survive behind China’s great wall now)” read the heading, capturing the essence of the programme.
The story said US, France and Britain were mounting pressure on China and changing the language of the text of the declaration was being worked out before the next UNSC committee meeting. The three countries, it said, could also press for open voting on the issue.
The channel also showed defence expert P.K. Sehgal saying that world’s opinion on terrorism was changing and even China did not criticise India’s recent air strikes on Jaish camps in Pakistan.
Like the other Hindi channels, it also did not focus on the Modi tweet alone. In its “Vyakti Vishesh” (particular personality) programme, it featured Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi.
With headings and tag-lines like “Chunavi taiyyari, Chori ganga kinaray wali (Election preparations, for the girl from Ganges banks)” and “Kitni kathin hai chunavi dagar Priyanka ki (How difficult will be the political journey of Priyanka),” the channel looked at how her campaigning in Uttar Pradesh is impacting voters.
The programme spoke about how the BJP was unnerved by Priyanka’s entry and was even targeting her name to ensure that its voters did not slip away.
It said Priyanka presented a new definition of nationalism as “awareness,” “right direction” and “exercising the right to franchise.” It showed UP minister Sidharth Nath Singh saying that BJP agreed with these ideas and had no objection to them. But in the same breath he also posed six questions on corruption and nationalism to Priyanka, especially in light of the Pulwama suicide attack.
The programme also showed Congress leaders P.L. Punia and Sanjay Singh slamming the BJP for attacking Priyanka because of her being a Gandhi and a Vadra.