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File photo of four persons who were arrested for assaulting a Kashmiri in Lucknow | PTI
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Prime Time

Thursday saw wide circulation of the video of a Kashmiri dry fruits seller in Lucknow being beaten up by men in saffron – from the Vishwa Hindu Dal, said India TV — before a passerby intervened.

The video evoked considerable outrage on Hindi and English news — from News 24, India TV to Times Now and CNN News18.

India TV called the incident “scary” — committed by people filled with “hatred”.

On News 24, the anchor suggested “ultra nationalism”, used for election purposes, had resulted in the attack.

(An India TV poll suggested post Pulwama, the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party alliance was losing 14 more seats in Uttar Pradesh.)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Sambit Patra denied this and condemned the incident — Kashmiris are “our brothers”, he added.

SP’s Juhi Singh yelled at him: “Your government spreads fear” — your party specializes in “maar peet”.

Republic TV discussed, “Is the Opposition toeing Pak line by not calling out terror?” with the Twitter handle “#ProPakMatchFixers”.

Earlier, Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad had said the Pulwama attack was the result of “match-fixing between Pakistan PM Imran Khan and PM Modi”.

Political analyst Shantanu Gupta felt it was, “…shameful that Indian politicians are giving them fodder”.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) spokesperson Syed Asim Waqar was still concerned with numbers: when the IAF had not put a figure on casualties, “how did Amit Shah come to know about it?”

Telugu Desam Party spokesperson Dinakar Lanka counselled sobriety: “It was a conspiracy by JeM to attack our brave CRPF jawans, we should not question it. But BJP is using this for political gains.”

India Today anchor Rajdeep Sardesai wondered if the Modi government was ignoring the job crisis. According to a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report, unemployment increased to 7.2 per cent in February 2019 from 5.9 per cent in February 2018.

BJP spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam said he didn’t believe the report: “Jobs (are) being created…there are other reports, why don’t you believe those…”

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said, “The GDP figures are artificially hyped by the government… There is unrest across the country — Marathas, Jats, Gujjars — everyone is negatively affected by this government’s policies.”

Coincidentally, ET Now anchor Supriya Shrinate interviewed CMIE CEO Mahesh Vyas.

Mahesh Vyas said, “There is a scarcity of jobs but good jobs are even more scarce… Capital gains are supporting more households than the wages are.”

He added, “GST and demonetisation have hit small enterprises badly. A substantial part of employment was in these small scale units.”

Front Page

No major news uniformly dominates Friday’s newspapers.

However, Centre and state government advertisements continue to increase in Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Indian Express with between 14-17 government advertisements in the three newspapers, mostly full page.

The Hindu, whose Rafale expose had the government threaten it with the Official Secrets Act, highlights “Rahul leads Opposition in backing expose on Rafale deal”.

The Hindu was being targeted for having been “brave” enough to expose the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal,” it writes, quoting Rahul, in its opening paragraph. It cites opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee and N. Chandrababu Naidu who “expressed disquiet over the government’s threat to invoke the OSA, condemning it as a move to muzzle the media”.

The Indian Express’s “Balakot strike: each warhead had 70-80 kg net explosive quantity” quotes a “top military officer” who says this NEQ value “could explain the nature and extent of damage to the buildings as revealed by commercially available satellite footage”, though the paper doesn’t clarify what it means by this.

It goes on to quote another official who says, “…it (IAF) did the job”.

The Times of India and Hindustan Times have similar leads, but different approaches.

HT in “Cabinet clears ordinance on teachers’ reservation” writes that the Cabinet “rolled back a controversial faculty hiring system for universities and colleges that had angered Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) communities” — namely the 13 point roster system, whereby faculty reservations would be considered at the department level, instead of university level.

With elections due, “…the ordinance is the latest in a slew of attempts by the government to reach out to the SC/ST groups,” it writes.

TOI does a count: “Modi cabinet takes 30 decisions just ahead of EC calling elections”. The cabinet “approved a raft of decisions”, it says, it is “racing to beat the model code of conduct that will kick in after the EC unveils the poll schedule”.

Sonia, Rahul in Congress list

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are newsmakers with Congress naming both in its first list of candidates for UP and Gujarat.

TOI’s opening sentence says this ends “speculation that she (Sonia) may retire from electoral politics”. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s absence in the list “suggests that the odds are against her contesting…”

HT adds the list comes “at a time when functionaries say back channel talks are on over joining the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance in the state”.

Hindi Dailies

Amar Ujala and Dainik Bhaskar dedicate their front pages to Women’s day.

Ujala leads with a horrifying story of road rage in Ghaziabad, involving a software engineer Rohan Mittal, whose car hit a cab twice and dragged the cab driver for two kilometres. He has now been booked for attempted murder.

Teachers’ reservation ordinance is its other prominent story

Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran lead with Delhi’s Metro Phase 4 being approved, bringing “ache din” to unauthorised colonies (Bhaskar). The other prominent story is the blast at the Jammu bus stand resulting in one death and 31 injured.

Jagran’s editorial comments on the teachers’ ordinance: it was necessary for the central government to bring an ordinance because the Supreme Court’s decision on the appointment of teachers was being blamed on the Modi government — no government could deal with the anger STs SCs and OBCs when the general elections were round the corner, it says.

Opinion

Two incisive comment pieces on the opinion pages, today.

In “A means of re-invention” (Express), Pratap Bhanu Mehta, vice-chancellor, Ashoka University, says for opposition to succeed, “Coalition politics has to be an idea, not just an adjustment”. “Coalition” should be means of “reinvention”, not “status quo”, he writes.

He blames Congress’s “besetting sin” — its “culture of entitlement” and Rahul Gandhi’s inability to bring his party “to heel” — in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and in Delhi — as either “an indication of entitlement or weakness of the leadership”.

With “nationalism a big theme” a major poll issue now and BJP projecting itself as the only “national party”, the opposition must project itself as “a cohesive force”, not a “divided Opposition”.

Mehta writes that in today’s media environment “spectacle and narrative” domination matter. Therefore, opposition needs to be: “More public, more spectacular, more united, more programmatic and more generous.”

In Hindu’s “The imperial cabinet and an acquiescent court,” lawyer Gautam Bhatia warns that two Supreme Court judgments on the “money bills” (Aadhaar judgment) and Delhi-Centre power distribution — both about “constitutional structure… (and) the balance of between different organs of state” — have “concentrated great power in the hand of the executive”.

By expanding the scope of what counts as money bills, the court has “set the cabinet… (towards) transforming itself into a Roman style imperator”. It’s ruling on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government-Centre dispute, “bears very little evidence of democratic concern”, he writes. SC has “squandered the chance to strengthen the federal structure”, he writes. These judgments might be “judicial facilitation of an imperial executive”, he fears.

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