TV channels spent Monday in Varanasi alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah before returning to Delhi for another spell of Rahul-bashing. They cashed in on the state of confusion in the once grand party — will he-will-he-not resign — and had little airtime for anything else.
The evening prime time shows were equally interested in Modi and Rahul, although several Hindi news channels also discussed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments that the Ram mandir would soon be built in Ayodhya.
Times Now: Anchor Navika Kumar posed the question, #KyaKaregaRahul. She claimed exclusive inside information from the Congress Working Committee’s Saturday meeting, where Priyanka Gandhi reportedly broke down in tears and rushed out of the meeting, imploring Rahul to continue as Congress president. Sonia Gandhi had said a firm ‘No’ to Rahul Gandhi’s resignation.
“The world is crashing around them,” declared Kumar, smiling.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra — who lost the Lok Sabha election from Puri — said that after 2014 failure, Congress had adopted a “hua toh hua” philosophical attitude but after 2019, they should ask themselves, “Ab kya hua”.
Congress sympathiser Tehseen Poonawala insisted that Rahul could not be solely blamed for the party’s debacle — his office was filled with “donkeys”.
Republic TV: Anchor Arnab Goswami delivered a sermon on Rahul Gandhi in #RafGaDrama. He was sarcastic about Congress’s expectations that Rahul could “deliver results”. Now like a “child” who has “flunk(ed)” the exams — “a spoilt child” at that — Rahul was having a tantrum.
Goswami added that dynasty politics is reducing Congress to a joke. When would the Congress be willing to let Rahul go, he asked.
He also claimed that Rahul and Priyanka conspired against Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh who chose to look out for himself, away from dynasty.
NDTV 24×7: One of the few Congressmen to emerge victorious and relatively unscathed by the party’s devastation, is MP Shashi Tharoor. Anchor Nidhi Razdan asked him can Congress be reduced to one person?
Tharoor agreed that the “failure (is) too large to reduce it to one person”. He also admitted that Congress misread the impact of the Balakot air strike on voters. Additionally, Modi’s “magical messaging” had cast its spell.
Tharoor was quite popular, Monday evening, appearing on Tiranga TV and ET Now, as well.
India Today chose to stay away from the “dynasty vs democracy” debates to analyse the PM’s new motto.
Anchors Rajdeep Sardesai and Rahul Kanwal asked if the PM would be able to fulfill “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Viswaas”. Would minorities feel safe after three alleged cases of mob lynching surfaced across the country in recent days?
Zee News: Here, the focus was on Modi’s mammoth victory, the rituals he observed before and after the results and preparations for his swearing-in Thursday.
And NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar stayed away from politics completely to discuss the paucity of “firefighters” in different cities, following the tragic death of at least 22 in last week’s Surat fires. He found that in Delhi, the ratio of firefighters to citizens was 1:4,000.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s list of invitees for his swearing in ceremony, scheduled for 30 May, is this morning’s big news. The Times of India adds of dash of drama, “Neighbouring leaders invited for swearing-in, Imran left out”. TOI focusses on Pakistan’s exclusion from the event, writing, “India is redefining its immediate neighbourhood, without Pakistan… Despite overtures by PM Imran Khan, India has stuck to its position that terror and talks cannot go together”. Pakistan, by the way, is not a member nation of the BIMSTEC, a fact that seems to have escaped its notice.
The Indian Express says in “This time, BIMSTEC leaders are invited to Modi’s swearing in” that this is a departure from the SAARC invitee list of 2014. In ‘Explained’ it writes that “This is another effort to reach out diplomatically to the neighbourhood, diaspora, and the China-Russia led regional regrouping of Central Asian countries”.
Hindustan Times vaguely writes that the BIMSTEC has been selected over SAARC or any other group of nations “because it was felt this was a more active grouping with greater potential” (`Bimstec leaders invited to Modi oath ceremony’).
The Hindu, meanwhile, looks elsewhere for its lead: “Modi scoffs at pundits, says chemistry has trumped math”, it writes on the BJP’s massive win, and quotes the PM, “political analysts ‘must accept that beyond arithmetic, there is also chemistry’”.
Meanwhile, the newspapers offer no clarity on the crisis in the Congress perhaps because the Congress is not clear on its position. The Hindu says : “there was no clarity on whether Rahul Gandhi would continue as party president”.
Express however, says “Firm on stepping down, Rahul asks Congress to look for his successor”. The report writes Gandhi “appeared firm on his decision…. (and) is said to have told the party he will continue till a suitable successor is found”. The accompanying photograph of Gandhi walking, alone, poignantly portrays his predicament.
Express also highlights other problems for Congress: “Kamal Nath aides, 11 Cong candidates including Digvijaya under scanner”, while “minister resigns in Rajasthan, Cong in turmoil”.
Hindustan Times reports that according to its sources, “a clear divide appears to have emerged between a section of the seniors and younger leaders about the future road map for the Congress”. It adds “a section of young leaders maintained that he was adamant on stepping down while several seniors insisted that he would be persuaded to continue”.
TOI’s report sort of agrees: “sources said there was a possibility of his (Gandhi’s) coming around, with the CWC having given him its nod to carry out drastic changes in the organisation”.
333 & Rajya Sabha
HT’s second lead jumps five years ahead with “BJP’s next target: 333 in 2024 with focus on south”. After having won 303 seats in this election, the BJP “wants even more”, it finds in an interview with the party’s national secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh and Tripura, Sunil Deodhar. “Mission 333 can be possible only if BJP overcomes the perception of being a party of and for “Hindi” speakers,” it writes.
TOI, meanwhile, reports on the NDA’s near future plan as its page 1 lead: “Eyeing RS majority by Nov ’20, NDA gears up to push key bills”. “Absence of majority prevented the Modi government in its first term from getting parliamentary approval for some key legislations like the triple talaq bill and amendments to the Citizenship Act”, it explains.
Missing: Dr Payal Tadvi’s death
The Indian Express, which normally reports caste-based violence on page 1 relegates the death of Dr Payal Tadvi, who allegedly committed suicide because of “caste remarks and ragging”, to page 10. No paper, in fact, sees it as important enough for page 1.
Instead, the Express carries an atrocious full page ad on page 2, with the banner headline “What is your caste?”. The ad does nothing to answer the question it has posed, but instead quotes Modi who once said “Country will now have only two castes – the poor and those who want to defeat poverty”. It was put out by Skoch group for its “financial literacy programme”. It praises Sameer Kochhar, the groups chairman, as a “renowned social scientist”, who is “bringing felt needs to policy since 1997”.
The Economic Times: “Overhaul the Model Code of Conduct” argues that the Election Commission’s MCC is “pre-electronic in its design” with many of its restrictions no longer “enforceable” but which end up making the EC look “impotent”. It needs a complete overhaul.
ET cites the ban on public meetings 48 hours in advance of polling in a region. This applied when public meetings were “purely physical affairs”. Now, with TV news and social media, any meeting anywhere during a campaign period – one that stretched into long seven phases this time — is available live across the country. This restriction should be “dumped”, says ET adding that ideally voting ought to be compressed to “no more than a few days”.
Business Standard: “Bring back the Syndicate” suggests that with Rahul Gandhi “adamant about a change in leadership”, the Congress should consider “collective decision-making by a group of state level satraps” previously known as the Syndicate. It says that the “pole” position Congress occupies in politics, is “valuable” to the national discourse and although it won only 52 seats, the larger Congress family needs to be considered: TMC, NCP, YSR Congress along with Congress account for 100 seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha.
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With inputs from Shailaja Bajpai.