#PrimetimeWatch: TV Channels Debate Narendra Modi’s 'Press Conference'

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

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned up for Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s press conference at the end of campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections. He claimed that his party would get a complete majority but did not take any questions.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi also addressed a presser where he said even non-UPA opposition parties were on the same page and would not support a BJP government.

How did the media report these stories and more?

English media

NDTV 24×7

In The Big Fight, the channel discussed Modi’s reluctance to address even a single press conference in his entire term.

Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said, “What was unprecedented was his attending a press conference – that too at the end of five year term”. But, he quipped, that “even then he doesn’t take questions – it tells you about a PM who doesn’t want to face questions.”

Author and political analyst Shantanu Gupta said, “I don’t understand this obsession with press conference. It is all about communication and the PM has been communication through media interviews, radio talks and speeches.”

Also read | #PollVault: As Campaigning Ends, Narendra Modi Shows Up at a Press Conference

When anchor Nidhi Razdan asked “but all these were one-way communication”, writer-activist Farah Naqvi agreed saying, “Mr Modi has done one way speaking. His “Mann ki baat” is scripted. The idea of citizenship power is growing across the world – in our country too people want answers from him.”

Rajat Sethi, who is an advisor to the Manipur chief minister, said “Modi was there to meet and greet party workers. The party has its own way (of dealing with questions), you may not like it or not.”

Times Now

With headlines like “Modi surprises India’s voters” and “Cong mocks Modi sideshow”, the channel too debated #ModiPressConference.

Anchor Navika Kumar said since 2014, Modi has given 15 television interviews and 16 print interviews and yet people ask about his not addressing a press conference.

“What is this whole question about?”

Journalist Sanjeev Srivastava gave a straight answer. “Everyone assumed that since PM came where Shah was addressing media, it would be a PC – but he chose to not even take questions at the fag end of the tenure.”

Writer Sadanand Dhume said, “Neither side (government or opposition) has been open to tough questions. In some interactions abroad Rahul did field some awkward questions. He became open when his political stock plummeted. Sonia and Manmohan Singh too did not excel in giving access to journalists. PM Modi has been slightly worse as he should have addressed at least one press conference.”

Republic TV

With #ModiOnBharat, the channel discussed “PM’s last campaign interview” and also his stand on Pragya Thakur’s Nathuram Godse statement.

“Show me the conviction in any other person to say that I will never forgive her for Godse statement. Just look at this viewers, an attempt to underplay the PM’s statement is going on,” claimed anchor Arnab Goswami.

As his panellists out-shouted each other, his monologue continued: “For the first time we have a PM who puts nation, principles and values above party. They are angry we have stereotyped Modi in this manner.”

When Goswami accused the “Khan Market gang” of running a campaign on Pragya’s Godse comment, journalist-politician Shahid Siddiqui said, “I do not want this apology, I want her kicked out of the party.”

India Today TV

With “Godse idolised” and “BJP doublespeak on display”, the channel also discussed how BJP handled the issue.

When academician Geeta Bhatt said the Sadhvi spoke because she did not want the legacy of Godse to be erased, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked: “What is the legacy of Godse?”

Bhatt responded: “Whenever Islamic terrorist strike takes place anywhere, this theory of Hindu terror surfaces. Kamal Haasan deliberately raked up the issue – he raised the bogey of Hindu terror when none exists.”

Also read | Will an Anti-BJP Front Be a Reality After May 23? The Congress Seems to Think So

Sardesai then took the question to historian Mridula Mukherjee, saying “Voices like you from Left background use Godse to paint the RSS and Hindus with a brush even when he was punished and hanged?”

Mukherjee responded: “I don’t use the term Hindu or Muslim terror. As a historian I can say no country is immune to most base of ideologies. Germany, which was home of philosophy and music, became a worshipper of Hitler and ordinary Germans supported Nazism. People of any country or religion can become part of such thought process.”

“So the notion that Hindus have some special virtue or quality which makes them non-violent or immune to never becoming attracted to fascism is wrong. We need to guard against becoming victims of fascist ideology.”

Sardesai then asked G.V.L. Narasimha Rao of BJP: “Pragya Thakur has created some polarisation around her. Why not admit she has been an embarrassment for your party.”

Rao replied: “We certainly believe that the Congress coined ‘Hindu terror’ for political appeasement and Digvijay Singh was chosen for the project. We wanted to expose him and have done that.”

Sardesai, chipped in, “but couldn’t you find anyone else?”

Rao then said, “she is the victim of this Hindu terror conspiracy – but giving her a ticket does not mean she can thrust her views on the party.”

Hindi channels

NDTV India

Anchor Ravish Kumar in his primetime show said when Modi and Shah came together, Shah spoke for 22 minutes on deployment of workers, rallies and schemes announced by the party. “He spoke as if manifesto was being launched. PM spoke for 12 minutes about the campaign, festivals and `satta bazaar’.”

Over 15 minutes, he said, Shah answered all questions. “So it was Shah’s PC which Modi also attended”.

Kumar said Rahul also said in his press conference that he also wants to ask questions of Modi and later also tweeted about it.

“The last round of voting is on Sunday. On seeing the press conference you are left thinking if there was anything relevant or not in these. Did they deserve the coverage they got?”

ABP News

The channel reported how in his press conference, Gandhi too avoided most questions.

It also showed the PM speak about creating a new record and saying: “I think it will be after a long time that a government with full majority will return after a long time.”

The channel reported that Congress is calling a meeting of other opposition parties. “The results will pour water over the dreams of at least one – the BJP or the opposition,” it said.

Zee News

The channel took to showing its earlier interviews of Modi and Shah to highlight how they see their prospects and how they campaigned.

In a May 9 interview, Modi was shown speaking to anchor Sudhir Chaudhary. He told Chaudhary: “We will get more seats than last time. On 23rd result will come, NDA will have a meeting, you should start planning how you will cover the next swearing in.”

Aaj Tak

In her report, anchor Shweta Singh spoke about how the Congress has started bringing anti-BJP parties together. “A meeting has been planned on May 23 – the date was suggested by Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. Earlier it was to be May 21 but then they decided to delay it. NCP Sharad Pawar and DMK leader M.K. Stalin have already confirmed their participation.”

Singh said the experience of Goa and Manipur, where an “opportunity was snatched”, has made Congress counter that strategy of poaching by BJP.

The channel also reported how Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad took a U-turn on his statement that the party could sacrifice the PM’s post if need arises. He said when the results will be out, “all parties would want to deliver a better government than Modi did and the biggest party should be given a chance and census should be built around that.”