That’s how TV news covered the prime minister’s US visit
It is October 2, so will write as clean a copy as Swachh Bharat. No mention of anything remotely unclean like the Ganges, which our prime minister referred to repeatedly in New York. Nothing that Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad can swipe his hand across, and glaring at grimy hand demand grimly, “What is this?” as he did at a Delhi post office (CNN-IBN). We’ll be “positive”, like many NRIs were about Narendra Modi in the US.
Seeing the TV news channels’ who’s who anchors — Arnab Goswami (with “the biggest reporting team in New York”), Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Bhupendra Chaubey, Rahul Kanwal, Deepak Chaurasia and even Zee Business News’ Amish Devgan — gathered in New York was “big news”. Not bigger than “the big news is Modi has arrived at Madison Square Garden”(CNN-IBN) but big enough for such eminent anchors to be there for “non-stop, no interruptions” coverage (Times Now). #ModiMadShow (adapted from #ModiMadisonShow).
When Modi landed in New York on Friday, Times Now quite naturally called it a “landmark” event. From there, TV cameras followed the PM’s motorcade to the New York Palace Hotel, where Times Now political editor Navika Kumar gave us “Modi, Modi, Modi”, “I love Modi” from the Modi populi.
Such refrains and adulation rang out over the next four days: Central Park, Madison Square Garden (MSG), outside the White House — wherever TV news went, NRIs and Indians went forward eagerly to be seen and heard. “I am a very happy man, my name is Ahmed Shah, I am from the Republican party”; “Modi is the greatest, I am also from the Republican party and America loves Modi” (Zee News). “He is the greatest prime minister of India!”
“This is a dream come true,” said an elderly Modi admirer. When the anchor turned to other dreamy-eyed NRIs, he tapped him on the shoulder: “Excuse me, how can I view this?” (News Nation).
Inside the United Nations General Assembly, at the Council on Foreign Relations and the White House, Modi was dignified, dressed in black, brown, grey. At Central Park and MSG, he was colourful in more ways than blue and orange. This drew the attention of several TV anchors: “What do you think of Modi’s style, clothes? Is he charming, different?” asked Deepak Chaurasia (India News). “What I like about him is that he’s himself,” replied his female interlocutor, leaving Chaurasia and the viewers somewhat bemused. On both occasions, the people were with Modi. He spoke passionately, pithily. Late night comedian John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) took note: “You’re a cliché, Mr Modi,” he remarked, adding conscientiously that Modi had made “a bigger impact” than other UNGA visiting dignitaries. His “crowning glory” was when he thanked actor Hugh Jackman quoting the memorable “May the force be with you” line from Star Wars — so what if X-Men’s Jackman has never acted in the Star Wars films?
And so what if he called the Mahatma “Mohanlal” Karamchand Gandhi — the force was with him, wasn’t it? MSG resounded with cheers of “Modi”, TV channels gave it the red carpet countdown treatment: “Most awaited event begins in 35 mins 40 secs”, with Times Now’s Natasha at the red carpet interviewing the Committee for Modi T-shirts. DD was outside, where “the whole of India has arrived at Medicine Square Garden”. “What kind of atmosphere is this?” wondered IBN-7. “It’s a crazy atmosphere, like Wankhede,” said a university student (NDTV 24×7).
Truth be told? The coverage was a promo, rather like the one shown at MSG and run live by most TV channels, that boasted of India’s and Modi’s talents, including, “a century of change in his first 100 days”. By Tuesday evening, when Modi and Obama held talks, the world had stopped spinning around, the “dream” run was over: it was back to eight experts at a panel discussion.