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Budget 2023, BBC, Bageshwar Dham have a common link – being ‘high’ on TV channels’ agenda

On Times Now, one ‘expert’ saw conspiracies everywhere: he alleged that the BBC employs a 'disproportionate' number of Pakistanis. Ahem.

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What do Budget 2023, BBC and Bageshwar Dham have in common?

Well, nothing besides the letter ‘B’ – and that they’re in the news. For the British Broadcasting Corporation and the ‘Baba’, it’s the second successive week in the headlines.

While television news channels were on a high with ‘Budget 2023 Mission 2024’ (NDTV 24×7) all of Tuesday and Wednesday, calling it ‘A Budget for Amrit Kaal’ (CNN-News18) in the world’s ‘Fastest Growing Economy’ (NewsX), Aak Tak’s expectations, literally, soared sky high: its ‘Budget ki Udaan’ team sat suspended, mid-air, over Greater Noida, sipping tea from kulhads, served by liveried waiter no less (!). They were up there, ostensibly, for a “bird’s eye view” of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s economic roadmap, although it looked like a gimmick to raise the channel above the others.

Were the anchors and their guests buoyed, held aloft by all the hot air from BJP’s Narendra Taneja and Congress’ Gaurav Ballabh, you wondered. Would they fall off the ‘aircraft’ during the heated exchanges? What if, you know, someone had drank too much chai during charcha?

As it happens, Aaj Tak wasn’t alone in flying high: according to Times Now, Budget 2023 was for ‘Bharat’s udaan’.

Indeed, judging by its reception on news channels, we are all laughing our way to the bank. It was welcomed as ‘massive bonanza for the middle class’ (CNN-News18). It was also, mercifully, short – just under 90 minutes – and Sitharaman appeared relaxed, smiling often, the brightness of her mood reflected in her red saree with its black border. She spoke in English but channels like Aaj Tak, News 24, News18 India had a Hindi voice-over – good idea.

The new tax regime was hailed by news channels and became the centrepiece of early discussions on the budget’s highlights. Going by the headlines, news channels were mighty pleased with what they saw: ABP News and NewsNation said this was Modi’s ‘gift’, while Times Now Navbharat termed the tax changes a ‘masterstroke’, and took to rhymes — “Duniya mein mandi hai/Bharat mein Modi hai (world has economic slowdown, India has Modi)”.

NewsX asked if ‘politics and economy both won?’, while it termed this as ‘A year of India’s rise’. Republic TV summed up the glad tidings with ‘Super #AmritKaalBudget’.

Also read: In week of BBC documentary, Parchi Baba and his ‘chamatkar’ was ‘breaking news’ on Indian TV

Baa Baa…

Let’s move on from the bonanza in the budget to the bizarre spell that ‘Baba’ Dhirendra Krishna Shastri seems to have cast on some Hindi news channels.

Last week, channels like ABP News and News18 India swooned at his ‘mind reading’ exploits – made you think that if only he had read Sitharaman’s mind, we’d already know what was in this year’s budget– and marvelled at his ‘chamatkar’.

Now, we were treated to his pronouncements on Hinduism, the Ramayana, the controversy surrounding Ramcharitmanas, photocopies of which were allegedly burnt in Lucknow, and his “plan” for a “Hindu Rashtra”.

There was more: TV9 Bharatvarsh interviewed this self-proclaimed ‘guru’ who shared his lengthy and learned views on Ramcharitmanas. India TV then profiled the chief of the Bageshwar Dham Sarkar in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, going back to his ‘humble’ beginnings and ABP News regaled us with his ‘Bollywood avatar’ which consisted chiefly of his singing and entertaining his audiences.

Can’t wait for the next installment in the baba’s mann ki baa…

Also read: TV channels paid less attention to Tawang clash than Amit Shah’s salvo against Congress


Can the ‘baba’ beat the BBC – and the “stunning” ‘revelation’ that the BBC is ‘funded’ by China (Times Now)? This twist in the tale over its docu-series, India: The Modi Question, which has witnessed Hindu protests in the United Kingdom and “unabated” screenings in some Indian universities (CNN-News18), unravelled Tuesday afternoon.

Just when English news channels were lauding “Modinomics” and the “robust growth” predictions by the Economic Survey 2023, Republic TV broke with ‘BBC lands in big controversy’. The channel said BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Mahesh Jethmalani had tweeted a link to a Spectator article about BBC still accepting advertisements by Huawei despite US sanctions on the Chinese company.

‘Is BBC following China agenda?’ asked Republic TV, and does this explain what BBC is doing to India, asked its anchor. It was a rhetorical question: clearly, Republic TV, Times Now and CNN-News18, which spoke darkly of the ‘China link’ to the BBC, were suggesting that the documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as the state’s chief minister and communal strife since he became PM in 2014, were ‘linked’ to Chinese funding.

On Times Now, one ‘expert’ saw conspiracies everywhere: he alleged that the BBC employs a “disproportionate” number of Pakistanis. Ahem.

Also read: ‘Expose Congress’: News channels’ stories change but the script remains the same

Rahul baba

Let’s end on a happier note: Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) may have been buried in snow at its last destination, but it was rather fun to watch the snowflakes whitening Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s beard as he bid farewell. News channels went live to Srinagar for the ‘finale’ and they, repeatedly, telecast a video clip of Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka fooling around in the snow. That was a feel-good moment.

Let’s leave you with this question from India Today: has Bharat Jodo Yatra seen a new Rahul Gandhi emerge from the snow?

The author tweets @shailajabajpai. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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