Why CNN News18 exposé on #PlotToKillPM was a dud

One would think that Big Media had had enough of the so-called plot by now.

BySumedha Pal
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Why CNN News18 exposé on #PlotToKillPM was a dud
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Just when we thought Big Media had enough of the so-called #PlotToKillPM, on Friday, June 15, CNN News18 decided to air an ‘exclusive’ exposé on the ‘dark’ and ‘sinister’ plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi on its primetime show Viewpoint hosted by anchor Arunoday Mukharji. The exposé began with an over-the-top, dramatic introduction with supers like “Now Urban Maoists threaten revolution against Hindu Fascism”, “Maoists conspiracy to unleash protest ahead of 2019” and “plot to weaponise anti-Dalit propaganda to target BJP”.

The debate sought to link the Modi government’s crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to the plot to assassinate PM  Modi. The exposé promised to reveal the masterminds.

Mukharji said there is “direct connection” between the crackdown and the ‘sinister plot’ to kill the PM. This “conspiracy” was just thrown at the viewer without being backed by any fact or proof, leave alone reportage.

He went on to use generic phrases like “connecting the dots” all the while without ever telling the viewer what and how the dots were being connected.

As it is with such things, Mukharji based his theory — or more like a conspiracy — on “people in the Intelligence”. The panel for the debate included activist John Dayal, Delhi University Professor Kumar Sanjay Singh, Congress spokespersons Pawan Khera, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate Desh Ratan Nigam and Vikram Singh, the former DGP of Uttar Pradesh police.

The debate kicked off with Mukharji trying to point at the severity of the threat to Modi. In a bid to label Rona Wilson as the culprit, he brought up the crackdown on the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), where Wilson is a public relations officer. He also connected students’ association, the United Students’ Democratic Front (USDF), with the plot without providing any evidence to back his claim.

Halfway through the debate, a consensus was building up in the panel about the importance of the investigation taking its course with Khera and Singh stressing on the fact that nobody is taking the plot lightly and that the probe must be completed.

Sensing perhaps that the debate was turning out to be a dud since there was little that the anchor could speak of in terms of proof, a face-off was seemingly engineered between the two spokespersons about their party’s stance on Naxals. Trivedi accused the Maoist movement of pushing its agenda and taking undue advantage of the Dalit agitation since they are being wiped out from strategic territories, Khera responded to this with his own sets of allegations. After a point, the Congress-BJP tu-tu-main-main became inaudible with points and counterpoints being hurled without making any real sense.

Meanwhile, Dayal stated that the claims by News18 were ‘irrational’ and ‘reductionist’ and Khera accused the channel of politicising the investigation. What followed was another face-off between the Congress and the BJP after allegations that the BJP is using the letters as a publicity gimmick.

At no point in the telecast did the anchor provide evidence that backed the premise of the debate — which was that a crackdown on NGOs had made the PM a prime target for the Ultras. After the hour-long debate, it became pretty clear that News18 had nothing concrete to offer in terms of real story or a debate.

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