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After Himanta’s ‘Saddam’ jibe at Rahul, Urdu press praises Iraqi dictator, calls him ‘tall leader’

ThePrint’s round-up of how the Urdu media covered various news events through the week, and the editorial positions some of them took.

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New Delhi: As political temperatures soared in the country over the coming elections in Gujarat and for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, politics remained the flavour of the week in the Urdu papers.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s act of comparing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein caused an editorial to comment that leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party need to refrain from using Hussein, whom it referred to as a tall leader, to disparage someone. 

This came after Sarma’s dig at Rahul, who is currently on the 3,500 km Bharat Jodo Yatra. While campaigning for the BJP in Ahmedabad on 22 November, Sarma compared Gandhi’s looks to that of the Iraqi dictator and said that if he had to change his looks, he should “at least make it like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, or even Jawaharlal Nehru will do”. 

Among other news that made the front page of Urdu newspapers were the proceedings in the Supreme Court on the choice of chief election commissioner, the Guwahati High Court’s strictures on the use of bulldozers, and celebrity presence at the Bharat Jodo Yatra. 

ThePrint brings you snapshots from the Urdu press.

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Gujarat elections

The impending Gujarat elections got front-page coverage throughout the week as bigwigs from parties across the political spectrum toured the state. Gujarat votes in two phases on 1 and 5 December. Votes will be counted on 8 December.

On 21 November, Inquilab quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll pitch in his home state. While campaigning in the state, Modi said the BJP had forced all political parties in the state to talk about development. 

The elections, the paper quoted Modi as saying, weren’t just about the next five years but would decide Gujarat’s fate for the next 25 years.

In its lead story titled ‘Political temperatures peak in Gujarat Assembly elections’ a day later, Siasat reported Modi as describing himself as a “man without any stature, a servant of the people”. 

The report also carried Rahul Gandhi’s retort in Surat where the former Congress president targeted both Modi and the policies of his government.

On its front page on 25 November, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara covered Home Minister Amit Shah’s pitch for the Uniform Civil Code at an election rally. 

The paper reported that the BJP’s campaign had put a great deal of emphasis on the UCC.

On 21 November, Sahara quoted Modi as having described the election as a festival of democracy while campaigning in  Gujarat. 

On 22 November, Siasat reported Rahul Gandhi’s speech on government policies on its front page. The report quoted Gandhi as saying that the policies had left farmers and youth harassed. 

This, the paper highlighted, was his first campaign in Gujarat after having taken a break from the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The next day the paper carried a photo of Gandhi’s Rajkot rally on the front page.

In an editorial on 23 November, Inquilab wrote that the Gujarat elections are a battle of dignity, arguing that for that reason alone, the Congress, regardless of what perceptions may be, cannot remain indifferent to it. 

It’s just that there has been a change of guard at its helm, the editorial said — a reference to Mallikarjun Kharge taking over as Congress president. A question looming over the elections is also whether the people of Gujarat will embrace the Aam Aadmi Party and to what extent, the editorial further said. 

On 24 November, Siasat’s editorial said Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma compared Rahul Gandhi’s appearance with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The editorial added that Sarma and other BJP leaders need to refrain from using Hussein as a means to denigrate somebody else given that he had been a global leader, and during whose regime — regardless of the US’s dislike of him — ties between India and Iraq had been strong and friendly. 

Also Read: ‘If agencies work at BJP govt’s behest, public will lose faith’, says Urdu press after Raut’s bail

On EC appointments 

On 25 November, Siasat reported on its front page that the Supreme Court asked Attorney General R. Venkataramani, who represented the Union government, why retired IAS officer Arun Goel was appointed as the election commissioner in such a hurry. 

In its front page lead on 24 November, Sahara reported that the Supreme Court remembered former chief election commissioner T.N. Seshan. 

A “T.N. Seshan happens only occasionally”, the court said, according to the report. The court added that although it’s been more than three years since Seshan’s death, the echo of his work done three decades ago is being heard in the country’s Supreme Court, the report said.

In another column, the newspaper reported that the Supreme Court had called for the file on Goel’s appointment — news that Inquilab also reported on its front page. 

Bharat Jodo Yatra

Despite the election heat, the Bharat Jodo Yatra managed to make the Urdu front pages throughout the week. On 21 November, Inquilab, on its front page, quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying that the yatra is against the “hate being spread by BJP”. 

The paper also carried a photo of Rahul with actor Amol Palekar, who joined the yatra with his wife Sandhya Gokhale in Maharashtra. 

Siasat reported on its front page on 23 November that Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi could join the yatra in Madhya Pradesh. 

In an editorial the same day, titled ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra is the target once again’, Siasat wrote that with celebrities joining the march and it now set to enter Madhya Pradesh — where elections are approaching — the BJP is targeting the yatra because it is also aware of the public mood.

However, the paper argued, given that the BJP is in power at the Centre, it should act against irregularities instead of making allegations about celebrities being paid to participate.

On 24 November, both Sahara and Inquilab reported that the yatra had entered Madhya Pradesh. The papers also reported Rahul Gandhi as saying that hatred, violence, and fear were being spread in the country and that the Bharat Jodo Yatra was against it.

Book on Tipu Sultan

On 24 November, Sahara reported on its front page that a court in Karnataka had imposed an interim ban on the sale and distribution of a book written on former Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan.

The report said that the ban, imposed by the Additional City Civil and Sessions Court of Bengaluru, came on the back of a petition by B.S. Rafiullah, former chairman of Zilla Waqf Board Committee. 

The petition alleges that the book contained “false information” about Tipu Sultan.  

Gehlot vs Pilot

The ongoing feud between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot also got coverage on the front pages of Urdu newspapers.

On 25 November, Sahara reported Gehlot as having called Pilot a “traitor” and saying that he shouldn’t become Rajasthan’s chief minister. 

On 25 November, Siasat said in its editorial said that Gehlot needs to pay more attention to the Gujarat elections. 

The paper said that all leaders of the Congress must strive to ensure the party’s success there but Gehlot was giving more importance to targeting Sachin Pilot. He also called Pilot a traitor despite the fact that he owes his position as chief minister to Pilot’s hard work, the editorial said. 

It was the efforts made by Pilot that helped the Congress win, the editorial further said, adding that the party couldn’t win a single seat in the state in the general election held in 2019 while Gehlot was chief minister.

Assam-Meghalaya Conflict

Sahara dedicated an editorial to the firing at the Assam-Meghalaya border.

On 24 November — two days after six people were killed when Assam police and forest guards allegedly opened fire at Meghalaya’s Mukroh village — Sahara said in its editorial that BJP was in the ruling alliance in both states. 

Assam, the editorial said, had a BJP government while in Meghalaya, the party was part of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government. This meant that both states had a “double-engine government”, the editorial said.

Since 2014, the editorial said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed repeatedly that his government appears to have gone much for the development of India’s northeastern states but the ground reality has always been different.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: ‘BJP trying to drown out talk of inflation & unemployment’, says Urdu press on Gujarat UCC panel


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