Republic TV frequently asks its viewers to participate in online polls. One would think that a national TV channel would use this as an opportunity to highlight the critical issues facing the citizens and hold the government to account. Republic TV polls are instead all about the opposition parties, opposition leaders and any voices of opposition from the liberals.
“The Nation wants to know” was a phrase that Arnab Goswami of Republic TV became identified with during his stint with Times Now. It seems that the nation no longer wants to know anything from its government. With almost no questions are addressed to BJP, the focus of Republic TV polls is the opposition. The channel relentlessly tracks every move of the opposition and attempts to build public opinion against it. Opposition leaders are hounded, questioned, shamed and asked to apologise.
Let us look at the questions the channel asks its viewers. Which issues does it pursue? Who does it hold to account? Alt News looks at some themes and patterns.
Rahul Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi is a recurring feature on Republic TV polls. Such is the obsession with him that it leaves one wondering who is running the country. Rahul Gandhi is constantly pressured to clarify his position, act, condemn and demand arrests. Not a single such demand is made of those in power.
#EndCastePolitics | Should Rahul Gandhi demand the arrest of Jignesh Mevani?
— Republic (@republic) January 2, 2018
— Republic (@republic) November 23, 2017
Republic TV completely overlooks any governance issues that have to do with the ruling party and directs its questions at Rahul Gandhi’s so-called mistakes. Despite its own very obvious agenda, Republic has taken the moral high ground of labeling the liberals as #TukdeTukdeGang. And somehow in the minds of Republic TV, it is Rahul Gandhi’s fault once again.
#TripleTalaqBillBlocked | Has Rahul Gandhi made a mistake by not backing Triple Talaq Bill?
— Republic (@republic) December 28, 2017
Has Rahul Gandhi made a mistake by backing the #TukdeTukdeGang?
— Republic (@republic) January 4, 2018
Even Exit Poll results end up as a question for Rahul Gandhi.
#ExitPollResult | Should the projections be accurate, could Rahul Gandhi have blown his best chance to prove his mettle?
— Republic (@republic) December 14, 2017
Calls for apology from Rahul Gandhi
The channel is fixated on extracting an apology out of Rahul Gandhi for real and imaginary insults. A similar demand has never been made of any politicians of the ruling party. Guess the number of times anyone from the ruling party is asked to apologise for anything? The answer is zero.
#RahulDoklamPolitics | Should Rahul apologise for ‘Dhoka-Lam’ insult?
— Republic (@republic) January 19, 2018
— Republic (@republic) November 21, 2017
The Congress president is accused of trying to malign India’s image and apologise for it.
Should #NewIndiaPlan work, will Rahul Gandhi apologise for trying to malign India’s image?
— Republic (@republic) October 24, 2017
Rahul Gandhi is also asked to apologise for his party members. Same standards are not expected of the Prime Minister even though daily news is full of excesses and controversial statements by BJP leaders.
#CongLeaderAbusesPM | Should Rahul apologise for top Congress leader’s abuse?
— Republic (@republic) September 17, 2017
What about Congress
On days when Republic is not running a poll on Rahul Gandhi, chances are that it is running one on Congress. Congress is “exposed”, accused and maligned on a regular basis using the polls.
#CongBlocksParliament | Is Cong taking revenge for poll losses by blocking Parliament?
— Republic (@republic) December 19, 2017
#CongExposedOnAyodhya | Did Cong conspire to delay an amicable resolution on Ayodhya?
— Republic (@republic) December 6, 2017
Targeting opposition leaders
The channel’s obsession with Arvind Kejriwal has subsided of late and given way to new leaders like Jignesh Mevani.
#CongSponsorsJignesh | Should Jignesh Mevani openly accept his links with Congress?
— Republic (@republic) January 5, 2018
Shouldn’t Arvind Kejriwal resign after corruption allegations? #IsKejriCorrupt
— Republic (@republic) May 7, 2017
Calls for apology from liberals
Liberals are also favorite targets of the channel. They are unmasked, referred to as pseudo liberal lynch mob and frequently asked to apologise.
#LobbyUnmasked | In your view, has the Lobby been unmasked?
— Republic (@republic) January 17, 2018
Should #PseudoLiberalLynchMob show evidence of Gauri’s killer or else apologise?
— Republic (@republic) September 8, 2017
— Republic (@republic) August 21, 2017
Three cheers for BJP
With all those questions addressed to the Opposition, there are no surprises about who the channel is batting for. An occasional poll reconfirms any doubts.
#CorruptionHighOrLow | In the fight against corruption, does Modi Government still hold the edge?
— Republic (@republic) October 8, 2017
If BJP must be accused of dumping the development agenda, the channel cleverly makes sure that Congress is also dragged into the question.
#WhoDumpedVikas | Did both Cong and BJP dump development this election?
— Republic (@republic) December 10, 2017
Oh and yes, Rahul Gandhi’s recent popularity on social media must be due to bots.
#RahulBotAttack | Should Congress declare if it deployed bots to manipulate Rahul’s popularity on social media?
— Republic (@republic) October 21, 2017
Has political support emboldened the fringe in the lawlessness over Padmaavat release? Even though states where the trouble is brewing under political support are BJP ruled, the channel is careful not to mention the party.
#FringeAttacksDeepika | Has political support emboldened the fringe?
— Republic (@republic) November 16, 2017
There are rare instances of polls targeting BJP leaders but they are without damning hashtags that always accompany references to opposition leaders. Here is an example of soft questioning of Adityanath’s priorities with a neutral hashtag.
With UP healthcare in shambles, should a #RamStatueAtAyodhya be Yogi Govt’s priority?
— Republic (@republic) October 18, 2017
Given the repeated instances of misgovernment in Haryana, Khattar has been an exception. Haryana Chief Minister has left the channel with little choice in this matter.
— Republic (@republic) January 17, 2018
Nationalism is truly the last refuge of Republic TV. Not content with hashtags alone, the channel also runs frequent polls on the topic.
#NationFirst | Is the lobby that constantly criticises nationalism misguided?
— Republic (@republic) January 13, 2018
#MyAnthemMyPride | Showing pride in the anthem and the flag should be mandatory. Do you agree ?
— Republic (@republic) January 9, 2018
When all else fails, what better topic than Hindus being soft targets?
#AreHindusSoftTarget | Is the perception that Hindus are a soft target correct?
— Republic (@republic) October 15, 2017
The questions for these polls are framed in a manner of eliciting a desired response. As can be seen from all the polls that are questioning the opposition and it leaders, the poll results are almost always heavily lopsided and end up in a predictable result. However, Republic TV polls don’t always go as expected. The news channel has been caught rephrasing its poll and even deleting it when it finds that the results have not gone the way it would like them to go. A Facebook poll asking their viewers if they would stand with Varnika Kundu who accused the son of Haryana state BJP president of stalking and attempting to kidnap her came up with unexpected results from its viewer base with more people choosing “no”. A red faced Republic TV deleted this poll.
Republic TV has also been accused of changing the question in UP statue v/s healthcare poll when the results are not as per their expectation of its right wing fan base.
In yet another poll, the channel deleted the original question when it became clear that the results were not going in line with its agenda. Looking at the usual responses to the polls, this was perhaps a case of its core viewer base misunderstanding the question.
The question was rephrased so that it could get expected results, in line with the narrative the channel was trying to build.
The above review of Republic TV polls reconfirm the agenda that the channel is running under the guise of journalism. Far from holding those in power to account, hounding the opposition voices seems to be the priority of this national news channels. Leading the pack of cheerleaders, the channel goes on with its daily business of building public opinion against the opposition. With the fourth pillar of democracy playing such a sycophantic role, is India’s ranking on the press freedom index any surprise?