When Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the nation Tuesday evening, we knew what to expect — TV news anchors falling over each other trying to outdo all comers in praise of the PM.
This, at a time when US President Donald Trump is getting ‘jootas’ (how else would you describe what he faces each day?) from the ‘fake news’ liberal media. He is cross-questioned so persistently and relentlessly that he walked out, again, from his White House briefing.
Questions? Nothing could be further from the minds of our TV news anchors. No sooner had Modi announced a Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package, than the accolades poured in.
This is “unprecedented”, exclaimed anchor Navika Kumar on Times Now, “a never seen before package”.
“This is massive,” declared Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami, who is on air despite having shared space with a police officer now Covid-19 positive, during his interrogation by the Mumbai Police a few weeks ago.
“Biggest ever stimulus,” said NewsX.
No, agreed-disagreed News 18 India, “Biggest announcement.”
“A gift” to the poor and the middle class, said Zee News, as if Modi was Father Christmas.
“This government is sensitive,” added Anand Narasimhan, soothingly, on CNN News18, “it is listening to the problems we are all facing….”
“New look, new deal,” added the channel.
Rahul Shivshankar at Times Now was full of admiration too, but he also wanted his channel to live in reflected glory: he said his colleague Navika Kumar had told viewers before the speech what to expect — that this would be “dedicated to the most hard-working…” people in the country (that is, the labour and the middle class). Modi, he felt, “has really lived up to that promise”.
Kumar, herself, thought it was better than that. “More than anyone bargained for,” she observed, adding for good measure that it was a “game-changer… the beginning of a new India”.
Given how impressed Navika Kumar was by the stimulus, it was no surprise that she expected others to be equally awestruck. So, when she spoke to Aam Aadmi Party MLA Atishi, she asked, “Would you like to congratulate the PM on his package…?”
Atishi’s expressionless face said she didn’t, but she didn’t want to sound churlish, either. “We definitely welcome the size of this package,” she said as though it was an Amazon or Flipkart delivery. Then she gave a standard political reply: “But it is too early to comment on the nature of the package… I believe that the devil lies in details.” “Devil”? Didn’t Zee News say this was a “gift”?
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Some anchors felt their chests swell with patriotic pride.
One such was Arnab Goswami. “We should all feel proud to be Indians tonight. Proud because as a self-reliant nation we all should be marching ahead with a strategic plan… A sense of belief that we will rebuild India,” he said as if he was delivering the PM’s speech.
Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today also saw a plan for a “self-reliant India”, but he wasn’t sure how effusively he should welcome it since Modi had left the “devils” and details to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
He didn’t need to bother. BJP participants in TV debates did all the boasting for the PM. “This is massive,” said Zafar Islam on NewsX, praising the PM for caring about India.
It was the “mission and vision of a new India”, said Nalin Kohli, looking more enlightened than the anchors or viewers (Times Now).
Modi’s TV interpreters
Still other anchors appeared to be the PM’s interpreters. India TV’s Rajat Sharma spent his 9 pm show patiently explaining the speech to viewers: when Modi says be ‘self-reliant’ he doesn’t mean depend on the government. It means being, well, self-reliant — DIY. It means reforms, improving infrastructure, etc. Sharma then decided to share the recipe for a “new” India: for starters, Make in India needs investors and quality control of products.
In the Zee News studio, Sudhir Chaudhary also delivered a summary of PM Modi’s speech, explaining at each stage what the PM meant by what he said. He then offered some of the highlights of what the stimulus package may offer: tax benefits, EMI relief, and money in the hands of the poor.
Back on the lawns of the White House, Monday, President Trump walked away from his briefing after crossing words with an ABC correspondent on her “nasty” question, refused to take questions from another reporter, and then strode off with a curt ‘Thank you very much’.
This kind of exchange occurs almost daily at the White House and news channels such as CNN International challenge every sentence President Trump utters or find fault with his response to the coronavirus.
In this respect, at least, Trump would be happy to exchange place with his friend Modi.
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