Modi 3.0 hall of fame: The special guests and what they did to get there

It wasn’t just a ‘leopard’ that was unexpected at the swearing-in ceremony.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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The dress code was floral or summer ceremonial. The invites were in cursive. The guest list was over 9,000, including heads of states, filmstars, sports celebrities, and corporate honchos. And there was an afterparty, with an elaborate vegetarian menu.

The oath ceremony for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government had all the arrangements in place. However, a mystery animal – who some thought was a leopard but turned out to be a house cat – sent theories running wild. It wasn’t the only unexpected guest though

Also in attendance at the Rashtrapati Bhavan that evening was Suresh Chavhanke, a connoisseur of Haldiram bhujia and hate speech, and Abhijit Iyer Mitra, who calls himself as the Orry of intellectuals but without the genteelness the paparazzi usually likes – on one occasion, he wondered if he could flash at Alt News co-founder’s mother and spit on her.

The event also had anchors like Aman Chopra, who has repeatedly faced action for hateful content, apart from several prominent members of club godi media.

But since they were all invited to witness a landmark moment in India’s history, it seems there’s more to their skillset than meets the eye. So we decided to take a brief look at what they have done to come this far.

Nupur Sharma, OpIndia 

It’s no surprise that Hindutva blog OpIndia’s editor-in-chief got an invite. The holding company has ties, after all, to the BJP and the RSS. 

Sharma’s talents include using the word ‘jihad’ in every other tweet and triggering FIRs against herself for promoting hatred and misinformation. In Tamil Nadu, for example, she was booked in a case for “promoting enmity between groups” after OpIndia circulated a claim that Hindi-speaking migrant workers, especially those from Bihar, were being assaulted and killed in the state. 

Her work isn’t without recognition. Over two dozen companies had earlier withdrawn advertisements from OpIndia in 2020, citing “insidious content” and “hateful views”. Even the prime minister follows her on X.

The most recent FIR against Sharma, filed last year, is a small badge of honour for the role she has played for long: promoting enmity between groups, statements conducing to public mischief. 

Suresh Chavhanke, Sudarshan News chief

Loaded with swords and overloaded with hate speech FIRs, the Sudarshan News chief is (in)famous for his war on jihad and common sense. Be it bhujia or civil services, the man has gone down the rabbit hole to find whatever it takes to show he is the last saviour of Hindutva. 

It may have gone too far at times, such as his calls for economic boycott of Muslims, and oaths to kill if needed for the cause of Hindu Rashtra. But mostly he has been upright in his crusade.

Years after he received an international journalism award, the investigative journalist disappointed viewers when his channel told the Supreme Court that a show on UPSC jihad was “fact-based journalism” but it “could be wrong”. To his credit, Chavhanke understood what the U-turn in court could mean for his brand value. So he later told a gathering that he was “proud” that it became the “first show to be banned by the judiciary”.

His presence at the swearing-in sends a message about the rewards of fake news and hate.

Mr Sinha, geopolitical and general expert

Right-wing’s favourite Twitter account has many accolades to his name – from calling a dead Palestinian baby a “plastic doll” to receiving a warning from the Tamil Nadu police over spreading fake news over a woman’s death, to hundreds of Islamaphobic tweets. He is followed on X by PM Modi. 

Roshan Sinha was most appreciated when his “simple tweet” exposed three Maldives ministers and triggered the India-Maldives diplomatic spat.

More recently, he implied that the Hindus who voted for Congress leader Imran Masood in large numbers in UP “wouldn’t mind these Islamists entering their houses, taking away their sisters because Modi ko sabak sikhana is more important.”

But it’s not like he doesn’t know how to use words of endearment at all. “Dear Modiji, Pakistan has challenged you by doing attacks on Hindu devotees. Now it’s time to finish it forever…I’m sure you must be having a plan.”

He is also very hardworking. Even at the oath ceremony, he shared a photo of India Today journalist Rajdeep Sardesai standing around a sanitation staffer with the caption, “Sanitation staff was at the right place.”

Modiji too understands that hard work is more powerful than Harvard.

J Sai Deepak, hidden legal luminary

A reply below lawyer Sai Deepak’s tweet sharing photos of the invitation read, “Congratulations. Well deserved.” It’s unclear if the X user meant “well-deserved” due to Deepak’s work in the courtrooms, his published books, or for taking forward the Hindutva line – which is what he is most famous for. 

Intellectuals Romila Tharpar, Irfan Habib, and senior journalist Barkha Dutt featured on Deepak’s list of “people who should leave India and never come back”. He is a famous subscriber of the assumption that “caste is a western construct” and has claimed that the SC-ST Atrocities Act was causing “reverse casteism”.  

The advocate’s selfie from Rashtrapati Bhavan pondered upon what the new term for Modi may mean for Hindutva. “I just hope now ‘coalition dharma’ isnt offered as the reason for not being able to do much for Hindutva.”

Gabbar Singh, Hindutva turncoat

Gabbar Singh aka Abhishek Asthana’s X account is synonymous with bad takes. His old tweets recently surfaced, including one where he said, “1984, 1992, 2002. The chief conspirator assholes are still at large. Kis baat ka shaurya...”

His other old tweets mention expletives for Lord Ram and his love for beef. “The last time someone was screwed so bad with a score of 5-1, it was Drapuadi against the Pandavas,” he posted. “OnePlus5 - when Draupati booked a table for a date.”

The entrepreneur went to Shark Tank to pitch for investors for an anonymous app for “more democratic conversations”. It received funding from Ashneer Grover and Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

We don’t know how much of that money was used for “more democratic conversations”. But Asthana is not cracking blasphemous jokes anymore. He only takes digs at “anti-India” forces now.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra, the Orry of intellectuals

He calls himself the “Orry of intellectuals” but the paparazzi may disagree. For one, Orry isn’t trying hard, unlike Mitra who once told Alt News cofounder Mohammad Zubair that if he agreed, Mitra would come to his house, flash his mother, spit on her, piss in his living room, and demand pork vindaloo.  

Also, his takes are far from intellectual. His interpretation of Congress’s manifesto was that it is an “ISIS manifesto” and that he considers Muslims “a tyrant majority or a deeply disturbed minority who like different rules applied to them”.

But since he stood strong when all the other intellectuals cowered during the first decade of the Modi government, that’s the best the ceremony could perhaps get.

Mitra is also obsessed with Newslaundry. His “insults” include comparing the organisation to a brothel, wondering if Abhinandan Sekhri has AIDS, and calling us an “ISIS front”. Profound.

String Reveals, but more like a noose 

String Reveals is run by Vinodh Kumar – at least it was, until it was terminated by YouTube for repeated violations of community guidelines. 

Before that, the channel was most famous for its extreme videos calling for action against alleged left wing journalists. In a video in 2021, for example,  the YouTuber called for several Indian journalists “to be hanged”.

String Reveals also cares deeply about India and its industry. Last year, it came to the rescue of the Adani Group when the Hindenburg report accused it of pulling a major corporate con. It did try its best to expose the “hit job” and “satisfy all dogs”.

The invite is only a small acknowledgment of such sustainable solutions. 

Vijay Patel, fact-checker for the right

Patel runs Only Fact, a fact-checking website that spends most of its time targeting left media organisations.

His conspiracy theories include claims that Fab India has CIA links after they used Urdu for a Diwali campaign, the allegation that Newslaundry and The News Minute are engaged in a propaganda war against India, and that Muslims were “sleeper cells of radicals”. He is also invited on news channels to speak about his social media posts.

Patel calls himself an investigative reporter but his explainer videos and long threads can be easily mistaken for satire. Such as this one thread from April, where he claimed to have the “leaked chats” of the WhatsApp group of Dhruv Rathee (his favourite YouTuber this season), or this wordy thread examining if the Nehru-Gandhi family had Muslim origins. Or an excel sheet pointing to “the price list for posts regarding All Eyes on Rafah” for celebrities for which they were allegedly paid in cryptocurrency. 

With a hardworking and dedicated fact-checker like Patel, the Modi government could maybe downsize its fact-check unit and save the taxpayers’ money.

Anand Ranganathan, professor on a mission

The professor’s most recent idea was calling for an “Israel-like solution” in Kashmir.

In May, he had advised Modi to “do Hindu Muslim,” and said that because he didn’t, Hindus were “ignorant of reality, actively discriminated against, and are guilt tripped into becoming eighth-class citizens”.

He has come a long way since he left Newslaundry, where he wrote articles, did some doodling, argued for the rebuilding of the Babri Masjid on NL Hafta, and spoke of the deterioration of TV news.

Let’s now move on to the list of godi-jeevis and their walk of fame.

Aman Chopra, News18 India

One can hardly forget Chopra’s gleeful counting as the screen showed Gujarati Muslim men being publicly flogged by the police for “faking their identities” at a garba event. He has been penalised multiple times for his communal shows, with action ranging from Rs 50,000 fines to takedown orders. 

But nothing changes “Zehreela Chopra” – the moniker he has earned at Newslaundry for his shows on various jihad conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated allegations of Hindu victimisation. Asked for evidence, he stings. Otherwise he is happy to revel in his bigotry. 

The invite rewards his special efforts for national unity. He also is one of the few lucky ones to be followed by PM Modi. 

Rubika Liyaquat, News18 India 

Rubika’s reports may not be extraordinary but she knows how to tell a story. Last year, when she landed in Israel instead of Gaza, for reasons best known to her channel and her, she knew how to make the most of the trip. She asked confused Israelis their favourite Bollywood songs, and put on a cheerful song while sharing a video of her travelling through the country’s streets on Instagram.

Considering her popularity, her transition across networks has been smooth – from ABP to Bharat24 to News18 India, all within a year. And she knows how to ask the most difficult questions to PM Modi, including the contentious subject of his “komal mann (soft heart)” and inquiring why he doesn’t get tired.

She also understands how to break down the most complex questions with little spending on research and with the simple use of props. Like the time she used a sandwich to explain the close link between the government and the opposition.

Liyaquat’s hard work has earned her a spot on BJP’s list of favourite journalists - a study from University of Michigan tracking endorsement of journalists from politicians shows that she was retweeted over 150 times within a span of one year. But since she is also followed by PM Modi on X, it’s no surprise. 

She was among the 14 anchors the INDIA bloc decided to initially boycott last year. But it’s difficult to ignore her, as they may have realised at the oath ceremony.

Amish Devgan, News18 India

Amish Devgan is everyone’s favourite. And how could he not be? He is the king of memes, and wants to further expand his community of followers among the Gen Z – maybe that’s why he asked Modi who his “BFF” was. 

He loves maryaada but has some haters in the system. Like the time he faced FIRs across the country in 2020 for calling a Sufi preacher to his show and then calling him an attacker and lootera

The Supreme Court had refused to quash the FIRs, saying that persons of influence, due to their reach, “owe a duty and have to be more responsible”. 

Devgan hosted 49 debates between February 1 and April 12 on News 18, out of which 25 were anti-opposition, 15 pro-government, and four on communal issues.

Devgan too is followed by PM Modi on X. 

Navika Kumar, Times Now

She is a diligent journalist who has been frequently set up by her enemies to amplify WhatsApp forwards. It’s only because of such traps that she once ended up naming fictitious Chinese prisoners, and blamed the Covid crisis in India entirely on the Tablighi Jamaat.

Her questions are always pointed. Can Taimur give us a flying kiss? Does Neeraj Chopra have a girlfriend? Does Deepika Padukone do drugs? Since PM Modi follows her on X, there’s a small chance he missed her outstanding reportage. 

She has several FIRs against her for merely doing her journalistic duty, for only allowing then BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma to speak her mind on Prophet Mohammad. It was a difficult call, after all, between ratings and ethics. 

In the run-up to elections, a Newslaundry analysis found that Kumar hosted 51 segments on her show the Newshour on Times Now, out of which 33 were focused on criticising the opposition. Twelve segments were devoted to praising the government, such as when she said that the PM “roars against those who slander Sanatan.”

While there is no shortage of anchors praising Modi and ripping into the opposition, Kumar stands apart as a favourite and it shows. She has, after all, had nearly one-fourth of the cabinet attend her son’s wedding last year. 

Sudhir Chaudhary, Aaj Tak

With a PhD in jihad and a background from Tihar, Chaudhary is the poster boy for the “godi media”. His detailed charts on the different types of jihad would put prominent academics and data miners to shame. There’s land jihad, education jihad, movies and songs jihad, to name just a few.

He called an FIR that followed that episode “his Pulitzer prize for reporting the truth”. His other accolades include cases for “instigating communal hatred” and several warnings for spreading communal hatred by the news broadcasting authority. 

He is the quickest of investigators. In January, for example, after the arrest of former Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Chaudhary said that he and his family were not “Advisasis” as they lived in “big bungalows” – strangely, an FIR was filed under the SC ST Act. Forget Indian heads of states, he has also linked former US president Obama to the “tukde tukde gang,” and “Khalistanis.”

In the run-up to elections, Chaudhary, who hosts Black and White on Aaj Tak, did 27 segments which were anti-opposition, 15 that were pro-Modi, two on communal issues, one on Pakistan, and eight on other topics. On the rare moments that he did discuss education and unemployment, he framed them as topics that were isolated from the government’s accountability. 

It’s not as if he doesn’t question Modi. Like the one time he asked whether the PM has philosophical thoughts about his journey when he looks at the aeroplane window.

Bhakti for PM Modi is in his DNA, perhaps that’s why he has earned him as a follower on X as well. 

Chitra Tripathi, Aaj Tak

Where she lacks in talent, as compared to her colleagues who can hop on bulldozers to talk about justice, Tripathi makes up for it with earnest efforts. She too, like her esteemed colleagues, is followed by the prime minister on X. 

She sincerely claimed that the St George Cross was brought back on the Indian Navy flag by the Manmohan Singh government, and asked the Congress spokesperson in her debate the reason for the party’s love for all things colonial.

It wasn’t easy for her to find a place in the INDIA boycott list.

She has also had her fair share of controversy. A case about airing an allegedly obscene video of a minor went on for 10 years, and a court framed charges against Tripathi and several other journalists last year.

She finds herself in the limelight for no fault of her own. Like in 2021, when her husband, the editor of a Hindi paper, had claimed he was robbed at gunpoint in Noida. But the UP police refuted this claim after investigation, claiming that the story was “fabricated”. 

Apart from these stars, there were several reporters at the event too. But their journeys are yet to invite a follow on X by the PM. And also maybe they are just too journalist-y to feature in this hall of fame.

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