Rajya Sabha TV editor-in-chief Rahul Mahajan and Doordarshan anchor Ashok Srivastava interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence.
When Mahajan asked Modi about the timing of Russia giving its highest civilian award to him just before elections, Modi replied, “Countries worldwide does not work according to our convenience, if Russia wanted to give me their highest award, I cannot say no and ask them to give the award next year.”
When Mahajan asked what will be the prime focus of BJP if it manages to return back to power. Modi replied, “If BJP comes to power there will be not a single family in India which do not have their own house or electricity connection, basically ‘ease of living’ standards will increase. Also, we will double the income of farmers.”
Mahajan also asked about the “fake news outlets which are trying to raise question marks on our armed force’s capability of performing surgical strikes and the narratives being built around that.”
To this, Modi replied, “I am fine with political vendetta and criticism but the Opposition should not start opposing the country while opposing Modi. Opposition sometimes speak against Hindustan these days.”
Monday’s busy news cycle saw breaking headlines on the Supreme Court’s notice to Rahul Gandhi on his Rafale remarks, Azam Khan’s preoccupation with ‘underwear’, the Election Commision’s gag order on Yogi Adityanath, Mayawati, and late evening ban on Maneka Gandhi and Azam Khan for their uncivil remarks as well as the announcement of India’s World Cup team.
Ironically, in TV studios, the discourse matched if not surpassed the politicians in incivility.
Zee News anchor Sudhir Chaudhary loftily said Zee News couldn’t even play Azam Khan’s remarks about BJP’s Jaya Prada as there were “so filthy”.
— Zee News English (@ZeeNewsEnglish) April 15, 2019
Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami was less temperate. He first attacked Congress’s ‘Mahagathbandhan’ for its language, then invited Rajiv Desai, a Congress supporter and apologist, to speak “…if you can take that dog whistle out of your mouth…”
As Desai launched into a diatribe, Goswami yelled out, “Stop barking” and accused him of being “domesticated” by 10 Janpath (Sonia Gandhi’s residence). He added, “If you stop wagging your little tail…tell us what you think”.
In an interview with NDTV India, former Samajwadi Party member Amar Singh lit into the “dirty people” – “the traitors” — in the Opposition, including his old buddy, Jaya Bachchan: “Why does she say nothing (on Azam Khan ‘underwear’ comment)?”
He praised BJP leaders who never spoke like Khan, or mentioned personal matters. Asked about SP leader Mulayam Singh’s silence on Azam’s remarks, Singh compared him to ‘Bahadur Shah Zafar’ – he has been locked in the bathroom, disrobed (by his son), he said nastily.
Times Now TV anchor Rahul Shiv Shankar was infuriated: he called Adityanath and Mayawati ‘hate mongers’, ‘firebrand leaders’. “Politics is not a party, it is not about demagoguery…”
When BJP’s Shaina NC, defended Adityanath, saying he made his offensive remarks only after Mayawati’s appeal to Muslims for votes, Shankar reprimanded her: “You cannot justify it” and chastised the BJP’s ‘brigade of hatemongers’, including Maneka Gandhi .
He took SP’s Ghanshyam Tiwari to task too: “Your bua (Mayawati) is guilty…” But, Tiwari diverted the topic to PM Modi’s ‘five’ divisive comments. ‘Don’t squirm out of this… no squirming… you should be snapping ties with Mayawati’, Shankar scolded him.
On India Today, BJP’s Lalita Kumar Mangalam ignored her party’s abusive language to attack Congress even as anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked her about BJP leaders’ comments. “…Congress leaders have made several unparliamentary statements against BJP, including calling the honourable Prime Minister a chor.”
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera retorted, “Unlike the BJP we are not dividing the nation on communal grounds, calling chowkidar a chor does not mean dividing the country’s vote bank.”
ET Now anchor Nayantara Rai brought up Rahul Gandhi’s summons to Supreme Court. Congress leader Muhammad Khan said, “(The) language of politics and the language of law are different.” Anyone with common sense will know what Rahul Gandhi meant — that after SC’s Rafale verdict, it had become clear that ‘chowkidar chor hai’, explained Khan.
BJP leader Hitesh Jain wasn’t satisfied: “Chaiwala, neech, chowkidar chor hai and ‘khaki underwear; — this is not the language of BJP. We haven’t lowered the standard of political discourse, our opponents have.”
The biggest news in the mainstream media, today, is that the Election Commission sprang into action to ‘bar all campaigning by election code violators’ (Hindustan Times).
Times of India (‘EC gags Yogi for 72 hrs, Maya for 48; he stays unapologetic, she cries foul’) and The Indian Express (‘After SC prod, EC cracks whip on Yogi, Maya, Khan, Maneka’) make the commission seem like a stern watchdog.
Their reports, however, explain that “EC’s actions came shortly after it was pulled up by the Supreme Court” (Hindustan Times). HT writes that “Ranjan Gogoi took a dim view of its submission that it didn’t have much powers and wasn’t in a position to take any action other than issuing advisories.”
TOI says it was only after “it drew flak from the SC for failing to rein in controversial statements of politicians” that the EC cracked the whip on the complaints.
Express frames this almost as a coincidence, writing “on the day that it was asked searching questions by the Supreme Court” the EC “invoked its extraordinary powers to temporarily ban” the four political leaders. “This is only the second time that the EC has imposed a temporary ban on a political leader’s poll campaign. In 2014, it barred Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan for making inflammatory speeches in defiance of notices”, writes the Express in its ‘Explained’ box.
TOI and Express also carry reports of the SC asking Rahul Gandhi to ‘explain’ his remarks on its recent Rafale verdict, concerning Modi’s involvement in the Rafale deal.
“Lenders Fail to Reach Consensus Over Emergency Refuelling of Jet” is the Economic Times’ lead today.
“Some lenders to Jet Airways have demanded more pledged shares of founder Naresh Goyal and planes owned by the airline as collateral for advancing further loans, even as the banks’ consortium remains sharply divided on additional debt assistance to Jet,” writes ET.
Other newspapers also report the worrying news on the carrier.
HT writes that though “Etihad Airways PJSC, India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners were shortlisted on Monday to place binding bids for Jet Airways…there is no clarity on the eligibility of founder Naresh Goyal to bid for a stake in the cash-strapped airline.”
Also making front pages is “The 15 who could make it an Indian summer in England” (HT) – the team India will send to the cricket world cup this year. TOI does a Page 1 SWOT analysis on the team, asking, “They make the cut, can they lift the cup?”
In other news, “The uncertainty over a possible tie-up between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls was heightened on Monday” (HT — ‘Rahul, Kejriwal take Delhi alliance hardball to Twitter’).
The two had a spat on Twitter over the alliance falling through, although it remains unclear if the two will patch things up before Delhi goes to vote.
Azam Khan’s ‘khaki underwear’ remark draws the ire of the newspapers in their editorials.
HT and Express both agree that Azam Khan’s comment that his BJP counterpart Jaya Prada wore “khaki underwear” is incorrigible. “This is the kind of raw deal that women of calibre, regardless of their political affiliation, are offered in Indian politics”, HT seethes in ‘Demeaning women is an assault on our politics’.
Both focus on women in politics in general. HT cites examples of sexism directed at Union Minister Smriti Irani, Mayawati, and former chief minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje. “Politics needs a quantum increase in women to be genuinely representative. But the viciousness faced by women politicians is bound to deter other women who might want to consider politics as a career”, it writes.
Express opens by firing a salvo at the Samajwadi Party (SP). It writes that even though “old order had reluctantly yielded to the new”, the party can’t seem to rid itself off the “musty odour of feudalism” that “still clings” to it.
“While barriers to women’s entry into politics remain extremely high, the ones who find their way in are relentlessly policed and put in place”, the Express observes.
The Express warns, “If the SP fails to censure Khan for the rancid political discourse he is guilty of, it will have taken a few steps backward on its rocky path to becoming a modern, more equal political party.”
HT ends by saying demeaning women when it has nothing to do with political discourse is “repugnant”.
Tweet of the day
How many stitches did they put on @ShashiTharoor’s head today? @asianet says 6; @News18Kerala says 6; @mathrubhuminews says 8; @manoramaonline says 11. Viewers may kindly treat this as a full dress rehearsal for exit poll results. #GeneralElections2019 pic.twitter.com/GJoe8xYDJ7
— churumuri (@churumuri) April 15, 2019
With inputs from Shailaja Bajpai.