File photo of Priyanka Gandhi | Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File photo of Priyanka Gandhi | Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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News channels pecked at Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment as general secretary, East UP for the Congress.

Before Wednesday afternoon, had you asked anyone, ‘Priyanka who?’ the most likely answer would have been, ‘Chopra’.  If you typed ‘Priyanka’ for a Google search, you would have got the same result.

Not any longer.

At 1 pm Wednesday, all that changed. If you repeat the question, the answer would be TV newspeak: ‘Priyanka Gandhi enters active politics’ (NDTV 24×7). Is there any other kind (of politics), you may be tempted to ask, but forgive TV news people for they knew not what they did or said in their excitement at this mouth-watering prospect.

Bhai-behen v/s Modi-Yogi’ (CNN News 18): wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the media, at lunch time? Honestly, it doesn’t get any spicier than that.

And the news channels feasted upon it. All Wednesday, morsel by morsel, they pecked at Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment as general secretary, East UP for the Congress.

Senior editors abandoned lunch. Rahul Shiv Shankar was the first to enter the ‘hustle and bustle’ after the announcement (Times Now). Rajdeep Sardesai followed (India Today).

Every single news channel, even DD News, yes DD News, reported on ‘Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joins politics’—a prim headline for the usually combative Republic but don’t be fooled by it: the Vadra insertion was intentional and would be debated by Arnab Goswami, later.

Then the politicians joined in: BJP’s Sambit Patra, ever ready to chew out Congress, said this was more proof of ‘parivar politics’ by the ‘naamdaar’. Pawan Khera, Congress called it ‘brilliant’ — and for your information Patra ji, you become a naamdaar by first being a kaamdaar. Go do some work.

Sardesai thought it was a ‘huge gamble’. No, it was an ‘audacious gamble’, replied journalist Javed Ansari. ‘Masterstroke’, concluded News 24.

Also Read: Four reasons why the classier, smarter Gandhi has finally joined politics

It wasn’t even 3 pm and we were into ‘tukde-tukde’ TV, as Priyanka Gandhi became a bone of contention and everyone wanted a piece of her.

It would continue through the early evening into the nightly TV debates.

And as it did, the photographs of Priyanka from the album of her life – many of her with her grandmother, Indira Gandhi — splashed across the screens (ABP, News 24)  faded in the glare of accusations against her ‘Àchilles heel’– that husband named Vadra, from NDTV 24×7 to CNN News 18 and all the others.

Journalist Shesh Narayan Singh jokingly called her ‘Mrs Vadra’, and added that her very name caused `tension’ on the faces of BJP leaders (News India 18).

Clearly, Priyanka’s ‘charisma’ had worked its magic, like we thought only Modi’s name could. Anchors and journalists alike felt it: Rahul Shiv Shankar, Pallavi Ghosh (CNN News 18), Ajit Jha (India Today), Zakka Jacob (CNN News 18) and Nidhi Razdan (NDTV 24×7). Not bad for a woman without any `qualifications’ for the job as Goswami rightly pointed out (Republic).

Also Read: Is Priyanka Gandhi the greatest victim of patriarchy in Indian politics?

There were questions galore, as if everyone was desperately seeking answers and hadn’t found them in Modi, Shah, Rahul, Maya or Mamata.  Suddenly, Priyanka was Obama’s ‘audacity of hope’. ‘Will she bring acche din?’, asked ABP? ‘Can she stop Modi’s Vijay Rath?’ (Surya TV); Will ‘behen outshine Bhai?’ (India TV); Is she Congress’s ‘brahmashtra’, Rahul’s ‘safety net’ (India Today).

All these queries led to the predictable rage-and-outrage game news channels play to keep viewers engaged. Khushboo, Congress, Nupur (BJP) and political analyst Sonam would have pulled each others’ hair out if they had been in the same studio (News India).

If you could tear yourself away from them, you could have heard sensible analysis of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s ‘official’ entry into politics, as News X termed it, on India TV with Rajat Sharma who was surprised by Priyanka’s name being announced in a press release alongside other leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia; her UP East assignment, the absence of time for her to make a real difference and what would happen if she lost?

Alternatively, there was NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar. He took the elephant in the room – dynastic politics –by the trunk and swung it, this way and that way to include Congress, BJP and other parties who also promoted families in politics. He and later Goswami, spoke to JD (U) Vice President Prashant Kishor who had earlier welcomed Priyanka to politics – something he has only recently joined so maybe he felt a degree of kinship with her. Kishor said Congress could gain from her appointment.

ABP and Aaj Tak did a spot of psephology on eastern UP and explained how Priyanka’s ‘Aandhi’ (remember the film about Indira Gandhi?) could make a difference in a number of seats where Congress lost by just a few thousand votes and the Brahmin vote bank.

Senior journalist Neerja Choudhury also dissected the ‘bold’ move by Rahul Gandhi and thought it made sense for the party (NDTV 24×7, Mirror Now).

Also Read: Is Priyanka Gandhi Congress’ brahmastra for 2019 or will Vadra scandals weigh her down?

In the midst of this upheaval, India Today’s Karvy Survey predicted that if elections were held now in UP, the BSP-SP combine would be a clear winner with 58 seats, BJP would have 18 and Congress four.

Oh well, it’s just TV.

To end with an absurdity: the first ODI between New Zealand and India had to be suspended for a while but not due to bad light or rain. ‘We lost play because of sunlight!’ exclaimed the Star Sports commentator.

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