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Decoding NDTV’s mysterious U-Turn: India above Politics

NDTV, once the chart-topper of English news channels, has for long slipped way below the leaders. One of the reasons for its continuous downfall is the channel’s perceived anti-India stance. Social media has only amplified the various moments when NDTV did not back India and its priorities. As a result, the audience gave it a go-by.

Who can forget the infamous episode during the horrific 26/11 terror attacks when Barkha Dutt, NDTV’s top-most anchor was seen reporting sensitive information regarding counter-terror ops on live TV, thereby compromising the security of our armed forces? Barkha was so brazen that years later, she even admitted to doing something wrong, but chose to blame the Government of the day for not “warning” her:

NDTV has also gone way beyond its brief, that of a normal media house, and has donned the role of an NGO. Just last month we reported how NDTV had filed a case in the National Green Tribunal to stall the entire Sagarmala project which was expected to give rise to large economic benefits to India. They even demanded that “civil and criminal action” be taken against authorities, governments and private companies for taking part in such a project! A nation-wide project being threatened by a media house! Eventually they withdrew the application, pleading that they need to study the matter better.

Even in relation to the recent Uri attack, this article showed how NDTV played to the gallery initially by playing the role of a “hawk” but slowly went back to a dovish stance, censuring the Government for possible moves such as tinkering with the Indus Water Treaty.

And the all of a sudden, last week,  the following graphic played out at the top of the 9 pm bulletin of NDTV 24×7 on October 6, 2016:

img_6110
India above Politics?

Further, NDTV also decided not to telecast an interview with former Home Minister P. Chidambaram – apparently because he was critical of Modi government’s political handling of the surgical strikes the Indian army had conducted across the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Lets go back a bit, NDTV, a channel which prides itself in not being “jingoistically nationalist”, which doesnt mind airing views and opinions which may hurt India’s diplomatic stance, suddenly goes all out pro-India so much that their editorial line decides to just not air any anti-India comment? Do remarks like “Khoon ki dalali” or “proof release karo”, compromise “national security”?

Some reports suggested that NDTV had been bullied into this by the Government. That seems hard to believe given the numerous anti-Government hit-jobs NDTV has been party too. Not to forget the Sagarmala petition asking for criminal prosecution of Government of India officers. Then what caused this sudden change of heart?

Before we answer that, let us take a stock of the recent political situation after the Indian army’s daring surgical strikes. Modi and most of the top level functionaries from the BJP-led Government, had steered clear of extracting political capital from the surgical strikes. The press conference announcing the strikes was devoid of any political leader, and was handled purely by the army and bureaucracy. It was only the supporters, who obviously were thrilled to see India finally give it back, who chose to beat the figurative drums over this issue. Majority of Indians were happy that India had found its spine, and naturally the credit (as would the brickbats) accrued to the ruling party.

This led to massive heartburn among the opposition. Congress leaders chose to call the attacks “fake” and asked for proof. Kejriwal too followed the Pakistani line and tried to sugar-coat his attack, similarly calling for proofs. Rahul Gandhi stumbled into yet another embarrassing situation with his “Khoon ki Dalali” remark.

The end result: The BJP got the credit for being at the helm when the army executed a near-perfect and unexpected surgical strike. The opposition lost tremendous face for making anti-India, anti-army statements. The damage worsened as media gave fire to such comments by holding debates on these statements and playing them ad nauseum.

In this situation, only one thing can save a politician who has committed a faux-pas of making an anti-India anti-army statement, while trying to attack the Government: Living in the hope that the media ignores or forgets to play up his controversial remarks. Or even better, if some channels completely skip playing out those remarks.

Get the hint?

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Gaurav
co-founder, OpIndia.com

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