It was a ‘Holi Special’ (Times Now) or a ‘Holi dhamaka’ as the festival of colours was painted saffron (ABP) Thursday evening when the BJP grabbed headlines by releasing its first list of over 180 candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, at a press conference at 7.30 pm.
Major news channels suspended whatever they were doing to also release the names of the BJP candidates and then discuss them.
CNN News 18 said the BJP had “retained” most of its MPs, with Bhupendra Chaubey noting that the party had selected those “best equipped to return to Parliament”.
Republic TV remarked “BJP rewards performing MPs”, while News X declared that in the second “Modi wave… Brass to hold fort”.
For India Today, the “newsmaker of the day” was BJP president Amit Shah, who was named the candidate from Gandhinagar, Gujarat, replacing ‘margdarshak’ and seven-term MP L.K. Advani.
Zee News was quick to point out that it will be the first time the BJP president will be contesting from the Gandhinagar seat.
“Very significant,’’ said Bhupendra Chaubey (CNN News 18).
“Very interesting,’’ corrected Athar Khan (Times Now).
On India Today, journalist Javed Ansari was asked if this was an “odd farewell” to Advani.
“It’s an unceremonious farewell… well, that’s how it is (in politics),” Ansari replied. He then delivered an obituary on Advani’s political career, saying he was among the best in Parliament — adding that he thought he was better than even former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee.
NDTV India’s Kamaal Khan echoed a feeling that was widespread among news channels, that Smriti Irani versus Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Amethi was the most intriguing battle — “quite interesting”.
Republic TV said not only would it be interesting, it would make “headlines throughout the elections”. No wonder Union Minister Irani, interviewed by Aaj Tak and CNN News 18, said what was expected of her — that she would win.
News 24 wondered why, if all the names for UP had been finalised, they had not been released.
On India Today, Javed Ansari thought it was “very curious” that the candidate for Sultanpur had not been released, especially since it abuts Amethi — “There is a lot of speculation about Varun Gandhi,” he added.
Aaj Tak also highlighted the fact that although the BJP had finalised all its 17 candidates for Bihar, it would release the names along with those of its ally, the Janata Dal (United), in Patna.
As the dust settled on the BJP’s first list of names, news channels returned to their regular discussions.
Times Now discussed the “mood of the nation” for the 2019 elections. Anchor Navika Kumar set the tone of the discussion when she said they would analyse what she called the “smart moves” of the BJP and the “flop shows” of the Congress and other opposition parties on five parameters, including social media use, alliances and the election campaign.
On the Congress slogan, “chowkidar chor hai”, journalist Sanjeev Srivastava said, “’Chowkidar chor hai’ was a brilliant thing but people were never convinced that Mr Modi is corrupt. Aap kya sochte hain log ‘acche din’ ke naare bhool gaye kya (Do you think people have forgotten the chants of ‘acche din’?)
Senior journalist Shekhar Iyer added, “Social media is… complementary… to the main campaign”.
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia pointed out, “In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena is with us. In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK is with us. Rahul Gandhi cannot inspire confidence.”
On Mirror Now, the discussion was on electoral bonds. Anchor Faye D’Souza wanted to know it these bonds had actually made political funding “worse”.
Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav was brutal in his verdict: It is the “biggest regressive step” taken in electoral reforms, he stated.
On Republic TV, anchor Arnab Goswami discussed why the opposition continues to harp on proof for the Balakot strikes, referring to Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav’s comment that the 40 CRPF personnel who died in the Pulwama attack were “killed for votes”.
“Dr Ram Gopal Yadav’s statement is condemnable,” said political commentator Sumanth C. Raman. “No Indian will agree with what he has said. But the entire incident is extremely politicised so the opposition feels compelled.”
Major General G.D. Bakshi (Retd) said, “We have lost 45 boys [sic], instead of doing a court of inquiry, realise that, for 30 years there was no retaliation. And then we struck them — it should have been done earlier.”
Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) commented, “What we did not learn in Army training is how to collect proof. This level of discourse is extremely disgraceful.”
The Telegraph and The Hindu are in print today while Hindustan Times, Times of India, and The Indian Express took the day off for Holi.
The Hindu highlights the candidature of Amit Shah in its report, “Modi gets Varanasi again, Shah replaces Advani in Gandhinagar” . So does Telegraph: “Shah replaces Advani in fort”.
“The marginalisation of BJP patriarch L.K. Advani appeared complete on Thursday with the party replacing him with Amit Shah as its candidate for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat,” Telegraph states in its opening paragraph.
Hindu says Shah is “throwing his hat in the ring from Gandhinagar, represented six times by former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.”
Telegraph also highlights the 2019 World Happiness Report in “India unhappier than before”. India is among the five countries that have dropped the sharpest since the 2005-2008 average ranking”. It now stands 140th out of the 156 countries surveyed. In 2015, India ranked 117, “Every year since, the country has slipped down the list, dropping 23 positions through the Modi years”, it writes.
Hindu’s front page focusses on the elections, from “BJP’s first list has 21 names” to “Three sitting MPs dropped in TRS list” in Telengana.
BJP’s first list is also the main story, here, with PM Modi, Shah leading the way.
Dinamani writes, “Modi to contest again from Varanasi”. This report also focuses on the five BJP candidates for Tamil Nadu. It runs subheadings like ‘Amit Shah (contest) from Advani’s constituency, Smriti Irani against Rahul, Tamil Isai Vs Kanimozhi’ in Tamil Nadu.
Daily Thanthi says “Amit Shah – Gandhinagar, Rajnath Singh – Lucknow. Modi to contest again from Varanasi”.
Dinamalar does not carry any of these developments, it has a sensational story on, “SPY! DMK-ADMK election strategy leak”.
Dinamani has a front page report on Pondicherry assembly speaker Vaithiyalingam’s resignation and predicts that he will be Lok Sabha candidate from Puducherry constituency.
Tweet of the day
— Nistula Hebbar (@nistula) March 21, 2019
With inputs from Shailaja Bajpa and Aananth Daksnamurthy.