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Why Congress is missing in TV debates

Only one party leader appears on television: Abhishek Manu Singhvi

  • Published 8.09.19, 1:40 AM
  • Updated 8.09.19, 1:40 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Abhishek Singhvi has been appearing on all channels regularly, including those infamous for having an anti-Congress agenda The Telegraph file picture

Silence is golden. The adage seems to be the present mantra of the Congress. The party’s boycott of television media continues even as the Narendra Modi-led government has completed 100 days of its second term. That’s long enough as a honeymoon period and many senior Congress leaders feel that the time is ripe to expose the government’s follies. But spokespersons of the party are yet to take part in TV debates. Office-bearers say that the party is putting across its point of view at press conferences and on social media, but no decision has been taken on the resumption of participation in TV debates. They insist that there has been no improvement in the attitude of popular anchors and that a majority of news channels are still engaged in worshipping Modi. “There is no point in going there for humiliation, to accord legitimacy to their agenda of defending the government,” one leader said. But there is an exception to this rule: Abhishek Singhvi has been appearing on all channels regularly, including those infamous for having an anti-Congress agenda. Some leaders are upset about his defiance but Singhvi insists that he goes with the precondition that he will not participate in a debate, simply make his point and leave. Also, his TV appearances are primarily on legal issues as a senior advocate. This logic has been digested by the party leaders with great reluctance as they feel his regular appearance on TV dilutes the impact of the boycott.

Amit Shah, in spite of being a diabetic and hypertensive, is doing well
Amit Shah, in spite of being a diabetic and hypertensive, is doing well (PTI)

Information is power

The Congress is not alone in considering silence to be golden. The Bharatiya Janata Party has mastered the art of suppressing information since it swept to power in 2014. But earlier this week it put out a peculiar press release. The brief press release was on the letterhead of the KD Hospital, Ahmedabad, and it said that Amit Shah, the “Honourable Home Minister of India”, had undergone a minor surgery. It went on to inform that Shah had been admitted to the hospital at about 9 am on Wednesday and that “[h]e was successfully operated for Lipoma at the backside of neck under local anaesthesia. After this minor surgery he has been discharged.” This note was officially released by the BJP.

Given the saffron party’s penchant for depriving journalists of even the most basic information, it could have easily suppressed news of Shah’s surgery. Coming on the heels of the untimely demise of two key leaders, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the party sought to nip the scope of any rumours about Shah’s health in the bud. Party leaders said that Shah, in spite of being a diabetic and hypertensive, was doing well. “He does heavy workouts in the morning and is full of energy and enthusiasm all through the day,” one leader close to Shah said. He added that they cannot let rumours swirl about the health of the “future prime minister”. Clearly once the silence is broken there is no stopping the kinds of information that tumble out.

Whistle blowers

The student wing of the Congress, National Students’ Union of India, is fighting the Delhi University election on larger political planks like women’s empowerment and social justice. It has tried to cash in on the gender and caste identities of its candidates running for president — Chetna Tyagi — and vice-president — Ankit Bharti, who is a Dalit. The NSUI is telling students that the RSS and BJP, as well as their students’ wing, ABVP, have never been headed by a woman. (This is only partly true as Nupur Sharma did win on an ABVP ticket in 2008). It hopes to win over girls as the present Congress president, not only the NSUI candidate, is a woman.

The vice-presidential candidate has made social justice his main plank, talking about Rohith Vemula and the demolition of the Ravidas temple to woo Dalit and backward voters. On issues related to the university, the NSUI is running a unique campaign called “Awaaz Uthao, Seeti Bajao”. They are blowing the whistle against discrimination and inequality on campus, in addition to privatization of education, difference in fees in different colleges and streams and the backdoor privatization of universities.

Smell the roses

At least half a dozen ministers in Karnataka have asked their supporters and visitors not to bring garlands when they visit. People traditionally carry bouquets or floral garlands when they go to meet ministers. Instead, the ministers now want visitors to drop cash in donation boxes. They feel it would be better if visitors made cash donations that could be used for flood relief in the state battered by landslides and heavy rains just a month ago.

DK Shivakumar clearly foresaw his arrest
DK Shivakumar clearly foresaw his arrest (PTI)

Footnote

DK Shivakumar clearly foresaw his arrest, at least so it seems from a video clip that is doing rounds in political circles. While debating HD Kumaraswamy’s confidence motion in the state legislature, Shivakumar had said: “Jail and bail are common for politicians. I have come prepared for everything. Anyway, I was a jail minister once.” His legion of admirers, especially those from his Vokkaliga community, have been protesting and praying for his quick and safe return to public life.

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