Telescope: Gabbar Singh returns

Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat and Rajasthan’s proposed ‘media gag’ got the channels interested.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: October 26, 2017 10:52 am
Rahul Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi Congress president, Congress, Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017, BJP, Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi, Congress legacy, Congress states in India, India news, Indian Express Gandhinagar: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addresses a public meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. (PTI Photo)

This has been one interesting week. One when the BJP gagged in public, faced bribery charges, lost face in Gujarat — and then there was Mersal’s GST — before handing the Congress a media management lesson — while some news channels were hoist on their own petard but gamely kept the Indian flag flying, no matter what the Supreme Court said.

But first, did Rahul Gandhi meet Hardik Patel? On Monday afternoon, channels like India Today, Republic and Times Now swore they were meeting in the Taj Hotel, Ahmedabad. Hardik denied it. By evening, the likes of Zee News and India TV offered the hotel’s CCTV footage of a man in the foyer as proof that Patel met Rahul. Hardik denied it. Congressman Ashok Gehlot accused the hotel of unethically parting with the footage which prompted at least one channel to ask on Tuesday, “Is the BJP spying?” (News 24).

Wednesday morning, CNN News 18 showed CCTV footage of a set of gentlemen exiting a lift on a certain floor in said hotel — more proof of the same meeting, it claimed. Hardik denied it, with the hurt air of someone whose modesty, sorry “privacy” had been outraged. So, did he or didn’t he meet Rahul? Three days of TV coverage and we were none the wiser.

On Monday morning, bad news broke all around the BJP: Rajasthan’s “media gag” ordinance (which Arnab G likened to Indira G’s Emergency — ouch!), Narendra Patel’s Rs 1 crore bribery allegation, a Patidar leader leaving the party set the stage for Rahul’s rally in Gandhinagar where he flaunted another young man in a white shirt and neat moustache as a comrade in arms against the BJP: OBC leader Alpesh Thakor.

Rahul G then rolled up his sleeves — they have a bad habit of slipping frequently — adjusted the microphones and turned up the volume on the BJP. News channels tuned in — except, of course, DD News and Zee News. As everyone sniggered at his “Gabbar Singh Tax”, the BJP, or rather Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad interrupted him with a press conference. A laughable spectacle followed as channels accommodated both: On NDTV, Times Now, Republic, we heard Rahul and read Prasad’s lips; on News X and CNN we heard Prasad and read Rahul’s lips. A ventriloquist’s delight!

As RG bad-mouthed, BJP Home Minister Rajnath Singh appeared to announce an interlocutor for Kashmir. News channels obviously and immediately switched to him. Singh’s briefing could have been before or after but was timed to stop Rahul in mid-speech. Later, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani gave interviews to anyone who asked. So it was Ravi Shankar, Rajnath and Rupani versus Rahul… Expect more such jousts during the Gujarat campaign?

The interlocutor didn’t please some news anchors. They had spent the better part of a year raging against the “Valley’s villains” (India Today), in support of the Centre, and now the NDA wanted to talk to those “traitors”? Navika Kumar was scathing: What kind of message was being sent to the NIA that had rounded up the “villains”? She quoted three-month old Arun Jaitley and Ram Madhav comments against these “dalals”, and asked the BJP, “What has changed?” (Times Now). What, indeed.

The same news channels have also been wearing the national flag on their faces like war paint or the tricolour on fans’ faces at cricket grounds. For the Supreme Court to question why people must wear patriotism on their sleeves by singing the national anthem in cinema halls, thus added insult to the injury inflicted by the government’s offer of talks in Kashmir. Enough was enough: “#AnthemFirstNoCompromise” declared Republic; “#StandWithAnthem” sang out Times Now.

To end: If Radhe Maa sat on a red velvet throne, unable to shed unshed tears during interviews, she really wasn’t as tortured as she claimed (India Today, CNN News 18, India TV). If Anushka Sharma isn’t marrying Virat Kohli, they have no business appearing in the Manyavar “Naye rishte naye vaade” TV commercial, exchanging (nuptial) vows and deep sea diving into each others’ eyes. If Bipasha Basu didn’t ooze sensuality in a condom TV commercial that she is being trolled for (CNN News 18), she shouldn’t have been chosen for the ad in the first place.

And what do viewers find so titillating about two women throwing each other around like clothes discarded after a gym workout and before a shower? Sunday saw Hina and Arshi in an ugly wrestle and the uglier it got the more the Bigg Boss house inmates squirmed with pleasure (Colors).

Hillary’s smile stretched a mile on The Graham Norton Show (Comedy Central) prompting The Guardian to remark that Clinton is a nice human after all…

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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