From pointing to ‘evidence’ of assassination conspiracy to proximity to Pakistan, our news anchors were bursting with theories.
Hours after the Prime Minister’s convoy was delayed in Punjab, there was a political slugfest between the Congress and BJP, and of course, our TV news channel anchors were not going to take it all lying down.
On Wednesday, PM Narendra Modi’s convoy was stuck on a flyover for nearly 20 minutes while he was on his way to Ferozepur in Punjab as protesters blocked the road. He was scheduled to visit the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala, according to a report by Scroll.in. While the incident has since been branded as a security lapse, and the Ministry of Home Affairs has sought a detailed report from the state government, Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi has said “there was no attack or any danger to the Prime Minister or any security lapse”.
Even as the authorities probe the issue, the news channels made all sorts of claims: from a conspiracy to murder the PM to a Maoist role to a bid to insult Modi.
Among the English channels, on Times Now, Rahul Shivshankar held a debate on the incident on his show India Upfront, where he tried to prove that the lapse was a conspiracy and not a coincidence. He also spoke about how the Pakistan border was just 20 km from where the PM had to wait for “20 whole minutes”.
On the panel were author Anand Ranganathan, Major General (retired) GD Bakshi, lawyer Manasvi Thapar, BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala, senior journalist Ashutosh Mishra and advocate Abhishek Sudhir. During the debate, GD Bakshi said, “My great fear is that a very permissive environment is being created in Punjab to facilitate the return of Khalistani terrorism.” It was also suggested that the lapse was caused by a leak of information.
Over at Republic TV, editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami’s show, the debate with Arnab, centered around the Congress “celebrating” the breach and the existence of a conspiracy. The screen saw phrases such as “biggest ever security breach” and “security deliberately compromised”. In one of the debates, Goswami called for a national investigation into the matter.
On NDTV 24x7, anchor Vishnu Som discussed the issue on Left, Right, Centre with BJP leader Alok Vats, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, AAP MLA and spokesperson Raghav Chadha and former IGP C P Singh. While there were no suggestions of a conspiracy, there were questions about whether the breach was a political slight or a serious security lapse.
India Today also held a debate along similar lines. Host Rajdeep Sardesai held a discussion on his show News Today with BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli, Congress spokesperson Charan Singh Sapra and former UP DGP Vikram Singh. There were some questions about how the protesters found out the PM’s route. Sardesai called it a wrap with an appeal for accountability and expulsion of partisan politics.
Over at the Hindi channels, Aaj Tak’s Anjana Om Kashyap held two discussions on the breach on her show Dangal. The anchor discussed the details of the standard security protocols and traced where the lapse had taken place. For the second discussion, much like her India Today counterpart, Kashyap also concluded it while calling the breach a non-partisan issue.
During his show on Zee News, Sudhir Chaudhary emphasised on how the lapse could have caused the death of the Prime Minister. He brought up a purported “Naxal” letter which was discovered during the Bhima Koregaon investigation. Chaudhary spoke about how the letter allegedly mentioned a conspiracy to assassinate the PM. The host then went on to connect Maoists to the farmer protests and asked whether the breach was a conspiracy or an attempt to insult the PM.
News18 India’s Amish Devgan claimed with conviction that the breach was a conspiracy to murder Modi. He boomed about “evidence”, and presented two videos﹘one of a witness who was allegedly on the same highway and the other shot from a distance. While both videos showed the convoy waiting on the highway, thereby showing a possible security lapse, none conclusively showed how or why the incident could be an attempt to murder the PM. Throughout the show, Devgan called the incident a “big conspiracy”.
On ABP News, host Rubika Liyaquat detailed standard security protocols on her 9 pm show Master Stroke. She did not have a debate but presented a report, and went on to ask whether the incident was a security lapse or a conspiracy. Referring to Punjab CM’s dismissal of a lapse, the show suggested that Channi did not understand the seriousness of the matter.
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