Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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TV news had an odd week with no BJP for a change—AAP in Punjab, Congress protests, TMC scam

Sonia Gandhi's ED coverage was the same old story. But Arvind Kejriwal has joined Mamata Banerjee on the news, and that doesn’t look too good.

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The Opposition is making news in India. For all the wrong reasons. As usual.

If you watch television news, you will learn about ‘Satya and Satyagraha’ (India TV) as Congress president Sonia Gandhi is questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the party holds protests across the country.

You’ll hear lots about the ‘#BengalCashHaul’, in which Trinamool Congress minister Partha Chatterjee and his assistant Arpita Mukherjee were ‘grilled together’ by the West Bengal Police — rather like, er, fish, perhaps? (Republic TV).

And you will find yourself riveted (ha ha!) by how the ‘CM Kejriwal–LG Saga’ explodes (CNNNews18) after Delhi’s ruling duo clash on several issues — including the CM not attending an official function because Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph was added to the posters — and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia being investigated for irregularities in Delhi’s new liquor excise policy. ‘Sharaab Policy Pe Sawaal’ as Zee News put it — why does ‘sharaab’ always sound more criminal and distasteful than ‘liquor’?

These three stories almost overshadowed the ‘most glorious’, ‘majestic journey’ of newly elected President Droupadi Murmu from a village to the Rashtrapati Bhavan for a ‘historic’ swearing-in ceremony on Monday. ‘Historic’ was the favourite adjective for most news channels to describe her elevation to the highest office in India. News 24 offered ‘History in the Making’ as a variation. It was a ‘majestic’ show, start to finish, and really worth watching. Also, we heard from the President, so opposition leaders like Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav can stop being rude about Murmu’s silence.

There was a guided tour of the Rashtrapati Bhavan on several channels, including Aaj Tak, where newly appointed anchor Sudhir Chaudhary did the honours. Yes, Zee News’s 9 pm DNA show stalwart has left the channel. He looks just a little more restrained in his manner so far, but that could be just nothing.

Not the BJP, for a change

It’s been that odd kind of a week where we haven’t seen much of the PM or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for a change. Instead, the Indian media has trained its attention and ammunition on the three opposition parties that rule five states (two by the Congress, another two by the Aam Aadmi Party, and one by the TMC).

While Sonia Gandhi’s questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the suspension of 19 opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha dominated television channels on Tuesday, it was the TMC that got the most coverage over the last few days with AAP getting a look-in on all days.

The main political opponents of the BJP, at least in the north, have been targeted by television news.

‘Bengal’s SSC Scam’ (CNN-News18) got the widest and most concentrated coverage. Not only did we see the hapless Partha (as every channel called him) in his wheelchair with sensational headlines like ‘Foul Stench of Corruption’ (Times Now), but we also saw withering observations about how Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was not taking his calls in the ‘Super Bengal Investigation’ on Republic TV that led it to a ‘black diary’, which has a ‘money collection list’ in the school teacher recruitment scam. Remember, Republic has a Bengali channel too, so it can put much more effort into it.

Mamata Banerjee and the TMC in Bengal have been the regular target practice of the BJP and the news channels since they returned to power in the state in 2021. Not a day goes by — okay, occasionally, one does go by — without them being on a news channel. And, for the wrong reasons.

Also read: TV9 Bharatvarsh’s going places. Hindi viewers now get foreign news first, live, and exclusive

Who’s next after TMC

Ever since the AAP won the assembly elections in Punjab earlier this year, it has joined the TMC on the news, which, again, is largely negative — especially about its performance thus far in Punjab. Arvind Kejriwal gets more coverage, after Mamata, of course, than any other chief minister probably because he is Delhi’s CM. Thus, his public videotaped messages also get telecast by news channels.

The murder of musician Sidhu Moose Wala and the subsequent effort to discover his killers has been the focus of Punjab coverage on TV. The other odd highlight is the constant appearance of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann in a promotional video across all channels, and that too, frequently. Does he really need this kind of publicity?

Manish Sisodia’s alleged perfidy in the liquor excise policy and Kejriwal’s non-appearance at a function in Delhi excited everyone over the weekend. On Monday, the BJP’s protests over ‘sharaab’ took over.

Tuesday/Wednesday saw ‘High Hungama’ (CNNNews18) at Congress headquarters — what does `high hungama’ mean, anyway? And in the day, we were treated to the coverage of Sonia Gandhi’s car leaving her residence, arriving at the ED office in Delhi – a long stretch of a road was all that we could see. We haven’t actually seen Sonia Gandhi unless footage of her vehicle’s window counts as catching sight of her.

Then there was Rahul Gandhi on ‘dharna’ and the Congress’ clashes with the Delhi Police — ‘Cong Workers on the Rampage’, said CNN-News18. A video showing Congress workers, including Indian Youth Congress president B. V. Srinivas, getting roughed up by the Delhi Police, however, didn’t feature much, if at all, in the coverage. The suspension of 19 Opposition MPs was in focus much of Tuesday afternoon and the ‘inside scoop’ on how Sonia Gandhi was asked ‘35 questions’ by the ED on Day 2 (CNN-News18). Curious, how the `questioning’ of individuals by the ED is always available to the media like a dollop of ice cream at a parlour.

Much the same thing happened the last time Sonia Gandhi was questioned, so we knew what to expect. Wednesday began on the same note with most channels following her vehicles as they left the ED office.

It’s the same old story….

Views are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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