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#PrimetimeWatch: PM's 'Rahul Fears Hindus' Statement Dominates Coverage

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

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who fought from Vadodara and Varanasi in 2014, attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for choosing Wayanad in Kerala as his second Lok Sabha seat. Addressing a rally in Wardha, Maharashtra, he held that after tarnishing the image of “peace-loving Hindus” by coining the term “Hindu terror”, the Congress was now taking “refuge in places where the majority is a minority.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also attacked Gandhi for choosing a seat in Kerala, where the Left is in power, instead of contesting against the BJP in some other state.

How did the media report these stories?

English channels

India Today

The channel reported how Thushar Vellappally, president of Bharath Dharma Jana Sena, will contest against Gandhi from Wayanad.

On Modi’s attack, it’s headlines said “Wayanad move ammunition for PM”, “Modi says Rahul is now scared of Hindus” as “UPA branded Hindus as terrorists”.

The channel also recorded Left anger through headlines like “Rahul upsets Left”, “CPM says Rahul is only helping BJP” and “CPM mouthpiece calls Rahul ‘Pappu’”.

It showed earlier speeches in which Modi spoke about “kabristan-shamshaan” as anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked: “Are we back to ‘kabristan’ and ‘shamshan’, was not the campaign to be about development? This is fear mongering.”

The channel also noted that the Congress is planning to move the Election Commission against Modi’s statement. Party spokesperson Shama Mohamed said for the Congress, key elections issues still remain “NYAY, increasing spend on education and health, improving women security, addressing farmer crisis and giving loan waivers.”

Sardesai then asked, “Where does this low level rhetoric fit in with PM’s ‘vikas purush’ image?” To this, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli answered: “His entire speech is about development, you just pick two-three minutes on other issues to create a sensation.”

Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said, “It would be tragic if we are to surrender our sense of judgment and propriety.” He said, “Everyone knows what Modi means when he refers to religious issues. Of course, it is rabble rowing and an attempt to distract the entire election”.

Times Now

The led with #RahulWayanadDebate. Its various headlines suggested its view of the decision: “Rahul fleeing Hindu anger”, “Rahul picks ‘minority’ dominated seat” and “Modi links choice to Cong’s Hindu fear”.

Anchor Navika Kumar asked: “Why did he go to a Hindu minority seat.” She speculated, “Why are you scared of Hindus – because you coined a term and accused the entire community of fake Hindu terror.”

Reading out figures of various communities in Wayanad, the channel looked into reasons why Congress may be feeling unsure about Amethi.

“Has Rahul’s Congress maligned Hindus?” it asked, adding that the decision has come close on the heels of the Samjhauta blast case verdict.

The channel also took up past events that may have “angered Hindus”. It said in 2007, the party “termed Ram a mythical character”; in 2010 it coined “Hindu terror”; in 2018 it opposed construction of Ram temple and the same year, it also backed the Supreme Court’s order allowing women to enter the Sabarimala shrine.

NDTV 24×7

Anchor Nidhi Razdan interviewed CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat about her party’s reaction to Rahul fighting from Wayanad.

Karat said, “It’s really a question as to what is the Congress’s political thinking, because Rahul and the party have publicly stated that they are working for the defeat of BJP – they were saying this is an election to save India.”

But then she asked, “Why is he coming to fight in Kerala, there is no BJP there. Across the border in Karnataka, there is a strong BJP presence. The Congress is also in the alliance government in Karnataka but he chooses not to fight from there.”

Also Read: #PollVault: BJP Ramps Up Communal Campaign, Congress-AAP Finally Go Separate Ways

Karat also accused Rahul of joining hands with the Muslim League, saying such “forces which can be termed to be fundamentalist forces.” She added that, “This weakens the secular democratic consensus.”

Asked about the Congress saying that it is eyeing the 2022 polls in Uttar Pradesh and the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, she said, “SP-BSP-RLD have made strong statements about the way the Congress is contesting all seats in UP. These cannot be ignored now.”

Republic TV

With #IntegrationistVsSecessionist, the channel discussed the prospects of Congress and its allies picking National Conference leader Omar Abdullah as the country’s prime minister in the event of a hung parliament.

Anchor-editor Arnab Goswami said the country would be ‘compromised’ in such a scenario.

As headlines like “Cong and ally for breaking India”, “Will Cong and ‘Mahagathbandhan’ back Omar?” and “Cong ally wants Kashmir PM” flipped quickly on the screen, Goswami asked: “Can you and I allow our country to be compromised like this?”

As one of the participants tried to speak, he shouted: “Will you stop screaming. You sound somewhere between Donald Trump and Omar Abdullah.”

Hindi channels

ABP News

The channel picked on Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi for not visiting “Ram Lalla” at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

It also showed UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath commenting on the issue, saying: “They (Congress leaders) have no right to play with the sensibilities of Hindus.”

The channel then ran headlines declaring that religion has once again come to dominate political discourse. “Akhirkar – laut kay chunav Hindu-Muslim par aaya” (In the end, the election returns to Hindu-Muslim politics”.

It also had a programme on political leaders indulging in showmanship to connect with their voters. “Vote kay liye kuchh bhi karnay wali Rajniti” (Politics of doing anything for votes), was the channel’s take on the issue.

In Mathura, it showed BJP’s MP Hema Malini cutting wheat in a field. The report quipped that she reached there in an expensive Mercedes, wearing designer shades and an expensive necklace with someone holding an umbrella for her.

It also showed Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore cutting mustard crop in Jaipur and interacting with women farmers there.

The channel also aired a clip of party spokesperson Sambit Patra having food cooked on firewood with a family in Puri, Odisha. This visual triggered a debate, as Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi took a dig at him saying the PM’s Ujjwala Yojana appears to have missed the family.

NDTV India

The channel had a story on the State Service Commission chairperson and Gujarat-cadre IAS officer Ashim Khurana being given an extension by the Modi government despite the law ministry’s objections.

Swaraj India leader Anupam said the extension to Khurana, whose resignation was demanded by students following paper leaks last year, was approved by Modi despite the law ministry and the Union Public Service Commission opposing it multiple times. The information was revealed through an RTI application.

Also Read: Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh Supported ‘Illegal’ Term Extension of SSC Chairman

Anupam also charged that to extend Khurana’s term, the Appointments Committee of Cabinet amended the SSC rules retrospectively.

Zee News

Editor Sudhir Chaudhary interviewed Amit Shah. The BJP president said after “the way the country was run for 70 years,” it is essential that BJP rules it “for some more years”.

On China disrupting India’s bid to get Masood Azhar listed as a “global terrorist”, Shah accused former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of “offering China the veto power on a platter”. He insisted that the power was offered to India but Nehru passed it to China as he wanted friendly relations.

Chaudhary quipped that “Nehru’s name is now taken so many times that it feels he is contesting the elections.” To this, Shah replied, “His name now figures because earlier, the Congress hid his faults because it was in power. The Kashmir problem is also due to Nehru. When our forces were doing well and almost annexed PoK, who stopped them and took the matter to the UN?”

Likewise, “In Junagarh and Hyderabad there was similar resistance, but there, Sardar Patel was handling these issues and so they were tackled differently.”

On the “big accusation” that the Modi government has “weakened institutions like RBI, EC, SC, CBI”, Shah instead of giving an answer, accused the Congress of doing so. “We never brought impeachment against SC chief justice despite getting many unfavourable decisions, Congress did. Who cracked down on political opponents, not us. Even in JNU, it was Indira Gandhi who had it locked down, we only lodged an FIR on those raising anti-India slogans.”