#PrimetimeWatch: After Exit Polls, Channels Debate Congress's Role in Opposition Alliance

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

New Delhi: The Sensex surged by a record 1,421 points a day after most exit polls predicted a return of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government to power.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav met Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati in Lucknow to discuss the “next step”. This followed their meeting with Andhra Pradesh chief minister M. Chandrababu Naidu, who is trying to bring all non-NDA parties together ahead of the counting of votes on May 23.

The exit poll results also started a debate around the ability of the Congress to dislodge the BJP and whether its presence was in some ways obstructing the rise of other political parties.

How did the media report these stories and more?

English channels

India Today TV

In his primetime show, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai discussed “What does a Tsunamo 2.0 mean for this country” and “Will winning a huge majority make BJP a bully party?”

The debate also saw Sardesai taking up the issue of the presence of Congress coming in the way of the other parties. He asked Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, “You last night made a point saying if these results hold, the Congress must die – it is the biggest obstacle to challenging Modi. Do you stand by your statement?”

To this Yadav responded that “this comment hurt many friends and well-wishers, but I want to reiterate that it does not come from any anti-Congressism.”

He stated that “in order to take on this bigger challenge – what we face is nothing but a challenge to the idea of India – Congress has not been able to play the role it is supposed to – and so it is the single biggest obstacle. If this broad picture (of exit polls) is true, Congress could not take on BJP and would not allow anyone to take on BJP – its presence will ensure that no one else would be able to come up.” Therefore, he said, there is a need to create an alternative.

Sardesai said “if the exit polls are true, it would mean two consecutive elections where Congress does not reach three figures.”

Sanjay Jha of Congress said remarks made by Yadav were a “reflection of personal frustration”. He added: “If India has remained a secular, democratic and vibrant republic it was because Congress remained in office for the longest time. It is pathetic to say that Congress is preventing anyone else from battling the BJP.” Questioning the authenticity of the exit polls, he said, if the Congress is unable to stop Modi then he would take it as a “monumental failure”.

Nalin Kohli of BJP said “to believe that there would be lack of national alternatives is not correct. We ourselves came up from just two seats in 1984.” He also noted that “writing of the obituary of any individual or a political party is uncalled for.” As for alternatives, he said, “the rise of hope and its complete decimation” was seen with the way Kejriwal government was formed and performed in Delhi.


The channel debated “Regional parties, national unity: Unrealistic?” and “Congress – Glue or hurdle in opposition unity” in the backdrop of “Yogendra Yadav – Congress must die”.

Politician and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni said “one issue is this election was ‘Modi nahin to kaun (If not Modi then who)’. There was no question about leadership in the BJP or NDA but on the other side there was complete confusion.”

Journalist Sagarika Ghose chipped in saying even Congress faced a dilemma in places like Uttar Pradesh. “It did not know whether to work for its own revival or take on Modi.”

In the backdrop of another headline, “Does India need a new opposition”, anchor Srinivasan Jain said “the issue is not that Congress does not form alliances – it is how it behaves with them. It is not the best of an ally.”

Also read: Why the Exit Polls Could Be Badly Wrong This Time

The debate then veered towards Karnataka. To a question if the alliance there has been a disaster, Ghose said there has been “open infighting in Karnataka”.

Kulkarni reasoned that “for a long time Congress enjoyed certain supremacy which it no longer does – the political landscape has changed.”

Times Now

With #ElectionSuper20, the channel discussed the possible outcomes and even upsets in seats being contested by political stalwarts. It also asked: “Are the big guns winning”.

In Gulbarga, anchor Navika Kumar said Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, is likely to lose to Umesh Jadhav of BJP. “Cong rebel to defeat Rahul’s top gun,” went an accompanying headline.

Likewise, in Tumkur, it noted that former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Deve Gowda is facing a tough fight from Basavaraju. The channel also debated the infighting in the Congress-JD(S) alliance in the state.

Tanveer Ahmed of the JD(S) said he hoped that the people of Gulbarga have voted for Kharge.

Amit Malviya of the BJP said that the number of times Ahmed referred to Kharge and Devegowda as ‘very very tall leaders’ was itself indicative of the fact that he was banking on legacy of these leaders to take them through.

Republic TV

With #ModiAgain, the channel gave out some of the “10 reasons for Modi landslide”. Its headlines stated that two of these were “The Amit Shah master strategy” and “Abuse became Modi armour”.

It also asked “Is opposition handing Modi the victory”. The debate was largely around West Bengal. As one of the participants called it “wild, wild Bengal”, the others went hard after him for using the derogatory terminology.

Also read: Ground Report: Did Hindus in West Bengal Really Flee Before the Elections?

A participant speaking on behalf of Trinamool Congress accused the BJP of being anti-Bengali and of destroying Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s bust during Amit Shah’s road show.

Another questioned why development was not debated at all during these elections. “Vikas was born in 2014, abducted in 2019,” he remarked.

Hindi channels

Zee News

Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary did an analysis on “India going through a new political change?” He looked at various aspects he viewed as “gamechangers” and which indicated what the voters accepted and rejected.

Chaudhary said the elections showed that “voter no longer needs free money or doles – and votes for what is good for the country.”

He also insisted that “people took Modi’s ‘Abki baar 300 paar’ (This time more than 300) slogan seriously. This created a silent wave. Journalists, people and opposition did not see this wave or undercurrent.”

On the other hand, he claimed that anti-BJP slogans like “BJP bhagao, desh bachao”, “Kattar soch nahin, yuva soch” and “Lathi, haathi or 786” all flopped.

Aaj Tak

In Prime Time, the channel focused on the increasing gang wars on Delhi’s streets. It said there have been five incidents of firing in such shootouts in the past two months and these have bred a sense of insecurity among citizens.

The channel also asked how criminals continue to roam the streets of Delhi fully armed.

Gangwar kay baad Delhi Police par uthay sawal (Questions on Delhi Police arise after gang war)” read a headline.

The story also noted how two criminals were killed in a shootout in Dwarka. How they were both part of a same gang earlier but later became sworn enemies when one moved out. It also stated that one of those killed had 17 cases on him.

While one of the gangsters shot the other dead, he himself was taken down by a cop who rushed to the spot on hearing the firing.

The police later recommended the cop for out of turn promotion.

But the report did not question why this `brave’ cop was openly shown on camera when this could pose a risk to his life as also those of his family members from the other gangsters.