A news channel went after Rahul Gandhi for watching new Star Wars film. Are you serious, Times Now?

While watching The Last Jedi, he was doing exactly what PM Modi wanted all of us to do.

 |  6-minute read |   20-12-2017
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“No day, no day is routine on Times Now. A day after India’s biggest political news event, Times Now is set to make a dramatic disclosure, which viewers must watch. This exclusive story on India Upfront in NewsHour captures the philosophy that best describes two leading contenders of the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections,” proclaimed Times Now editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar with misplaced complacence.

What massive exposé could this possibly be? It is driving everyone to the edge of their seats.

“The Congress ended up losing two states, but not without significantly jolting the BJP in the prime minister’s home state, Gujarat. But unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who underlined the day’s salience by spending time with his colleagues and party workers in the evening to analyse the close verdict, before launching a withering attack on the Congress, Rahul Gandhi virtually abandoned his party workers, and undermined his new position as Congress president. This is a story of two leaders and just how seriously they take their jobs.”

But what exactly did Rahul Gandhi do that should warrant a comment as scathing as this?

As it turns out, according to this massive exposé by Times Now, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “thanking the BJP's workers who worked hard to ensure the party's twin victory and boosting their morale last evening”, Rahul Gandhi was busy watching a Hollywood flick, and not just any Hollywood flick — Star Wars: The Last Jedi no less.

For shame.

rahul-gandhi_122017051625.jpgPhoto: DailyO

This report takes the cake as it touches a new low. Siddharth Singh, a researcher and DailyO columnist, referred to Times Now as disguised unemployment, a condition where part of the labour force is working in a redundant manner: where worker productivity is essentially zero. He wasn’t alone. It is, after all, hard to sympathise with a news propaganda channel that chooses to attack a politician for watching a movie, and not just any movie, Star Wars. Add to that their whole TV report, as is the case with all their reports, came with a unique hashtag: AreYouSeriousRahul.

While Congress spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala tried to address the fact that Rahul Gandhi, like all citizens, has a right to enjoy a movie in his free time:

Others chose to go ahead and use the channel’s tactics back on it. The hashtag “AreYouSeriousTimesNow” came into being:

Others criticised the news channel on what it considers newsworthy.

The matter also turned into a discussion around acceptable behaviour. Many rightly pointed out unwinding post months of gruelling campaigning makes a leader look more relatable. BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao may like to claim that the workaholic PM works 19 hours a day and does not take a holiday, but that does not make Rahul Gandhi bad because he decided to watch a two-and-a-half hour movie.

And one really cannot deny that it is the choice of film that really endears Gandhi here.

It is not surprising at all that Times Now would take potshots at a Congress leader, after all the channel has been, for quite some time now (since the days of Arnab Goswami, in fact), accused of behaving like a propaganda machine and often a BJP mouthpiece.

It should not be forgotten that this is the same channel that tried to pass off, in a “Super Exclusive” investigative report — a year-old WhatsApp message — alleging religious conversions and Islamic radicalisation, adding fuel to the existing communal paranoia. It’s the same channel that conflated ISIS recruitments with student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Shehla Rashid.

It is, perhaps, because of repeated antics of this sort, that Times Now, along with Republic TV, recently found itself banned from Congress pressers.

The Times Now report also raises another important question. While it is true that politicians, especially elected representatives, should be held accountable by their voters, is it really okay for voters to dictate what they do in their leisure time, as long as it is within the bounds of law?

Political analyst Meghnad S, in his column, noted that Modi has created a benchmark not just for leadership but also political branding, and has come to define “the ideal politician (adarsh neta)”. Any deviation from that model leads to an immediate interweb-driven backlash.

But most importantly, something that Times Now clearly failed to acknowledge is that Rahul Gandhi, while watching The Last Jedi, was doing exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted all of us to do. Wasn’t he, after all, the one who decided to quote the famous Jedi saying, “May the force be with you”, while sharing the stage with Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) in New York?

Well, Rahul Gandhi, may the force be with you.

Also read: Three years after BJP govt, hate-spewing trolls have come to a head


Pathikrit Sanyal Pathikrit Sanyal @bucketheadcase

The author is a culture writer who likes talking about the internet, memes, privacy and all things pop culture.

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