#ConclaveOfCowards. Yes, that was the hashtag chosen by Times Now for the national conclave of stakeholders in Kashmir proposed by Former PM Manmohan Singh and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to restore peace in the troubled state. This article however is not about the conclave and whether or not it should be held. It is about the hashtags used by a national news channel.

In the age of social media, hashtag journalism has assumed a lot of importance. We see TV channels creating and promoting hashtags to draw attention to a certain topic and engage with their audience. It is often a race to come up with the most innovative hashtag that can trend on Twitter. From slightly mocking to outright offensive, Times Now hashtags have always been catchy and controversial. However, the hashtag #ConclaveOfCowards with reference to senior opposition leaders is outrageous even by Times Now standards. Many Twitter users have called it a new low whereas others are confident it won’t be long till the channel digs itself lower.

In the backdrop of this outrage over the hashtag, we decided to review the hashtags promoted by the channel in the last three months and see if we can find any pattern. Read on to see how Times Now has used promoted hashtags to shape the discourse on various topics.

When talking about the Opposition and issues raised by it….

The Opposition is mostly mocked, accused of hypocrisy and of playing politics over issues that it highlights.

#AntiModiMela was the name given by Times Now to the Opposition’s attempt to form an alliance. “Opposition or opportunists? This is how foe became friends in Modi era” was the focus of this hashtag. It is therefore no surprise when a proposed conclave by Opposition leaders on Kashmir is named #ConclaveOfCowards.

The hashtag #NetasAppeaseTerror accused the opposition of communalizing terror. “ISIS plots terror in India, Congress blames BJP, are netas appeasing terrorism for votes?” was the question asked by Times Now.

Those raising concerns about EVM were branded as the #EVMBahanaBrigade. As per Times Now, PM Modi was looking at ‘new India’, but his opposition was still stuck in past. “NaMo looks for a bright 2022, rivals are still making bahanas for 2017”, was the tweet of the channel on this topic. Oh! And yes! It was about how “PM Modi sets an example for the #EVMBahanaBrigade”.

Prime Minister @narendramodi sets an example #EVMBahanaBrigade

When talking about leaders: Opposition leaders v/s BJP leaders….

From #KejriwalJasoos to #SidhuStumped, Opposition leaders are almost always shamed when featured in a hashtag in sharp contrast to a very obvious cheering for BJP leaders. For eg: #RajnathUpfront as opposed to a #RaGaOfDenial.

The names or initials of Opposition leaders are often twisted to convey a different meaning to mock them. Eg RaGa – used with a meaning of “Raag” or Sasikala’s name used as KalaKari in #SasiKalaKari. Names of BJP leaders are used in a straightforward manner and even when shortened like NaMo, they are not used to mock.

Interestingly, other than PM Modi and to some extent Yogi Adityanath, there are very few hashtags focused on BJP leaders. In contrast there are numerous hashtags for the leaders of the Opposition and allies. Criticism of the BJP leaders is avoided in hashtag selection and the debate is almost always focused on the Opposition.

Leaders of the Opposition Leaders of BJP

#KejriwalJasoos

#KejriwalKiSafai

#RepublicOfKejriwal

#RaGaSopStory

#RaGaOfDenial

#RaGaTipuTest

#JailAkhileshMantri

#SidhuSideShow

#SidhuStumped

#ConvictChinamma

#SasaKalaKari

#SasiJailRaj

#SasikalaOusted

#LaluLandGhotala

#RajnathUpfront

#JaitleyOnTimesNow

#YogiKaYug

#YogiUPKaNaath

#YogiYogaPush

There were also several hashtags focused on Shiv Sena’s Gaikwad like #GoonGaikwad, #GaikwadMocksIndia and #GaikwadGiri.

When talking about PM Modi….

The image of PM Modi is carefully built as powerful and progressive with hashtags like #NaMoForNewIndia and #NaMoFearUnitesALL. In the hashtags surveyed, he was congratulated for success many time with hashtags like #NaMoMahaRoar after BJP win in BMC polls but none where he was questioned or pulled up for any failure. The cheerleading is evident when even Hafiz Saeed’s arrest a few days after Modi’s phone call with U.S President Trump was positioned as #PMTrumpsPak.

The hashtags used for the PM are #NaMoMahaRoar, #NaMoForNewIndia, #NaMoFearUnitesAll, #PMTrumpsPak, #NaMoSalaryPromise, #ModiBlitzkrieg, #NaMoIsDominant, #ModiDeMoWin, #IndiaVotesNaMo, #NaMoThanksIndia.

When talking about gaurakshaks, Sukma, Anti Romeo squads….

From the hashtags, it appears that Times Now has carefully set the agenda to shape public opinion away from any criticism of the government. Many real issues faced by people don’t find a mention and the reluctance to question the government is quite evident.

When it comes to the major issues that have been in focus in the recent months like killings by cow vigilantes, death of CRPF men in Sukma, beheading of soldiers and controversies over anti-Romeo squads, after an initial reporting of the news, the focus quickly shifts to the hypocrisy of the opposition.

#SukmaSacrifice soon gave way to the hashtag #SukmaHypocrisy that asked “Has the Congress forgotten that its own Govt outlawed ‘Maoist terror’?” Activists and leaders were accused of “Making excuses for cold blooded murder”.

#PoliticsOverMartyrs was the hashtag run on May 2nd after the beheading of soldiers, accusing opposition of playing politics over pyres.

The issue of cow vigilantes was covered with a mild hashtag of #CowConflict. The focus soon shifted to Congress with an exposé on its #GauHypocrisy “#WATCH | The hard facts on Congress’ #GauHypocrisy on #IndiaUpfront” tweeted Times Now.

When the Hindu Yuva Vahini members disrupted the Mass in a church in UP, the hashtag #SabkaSaathSabotage seemed to convey an attempt to sabotage of the government’s progressive agenda. Hindu Yuva Vahini is an organisation founded by Yogi Adityanath himself, how does Times Now see Hindu Yuva Vahini as an independent entity from the Govt when the Chief Minister of the state was the main force behind its formation?

#RomeoBandi and #KebabBandi were the hashtags for anti-romeo squads and closure of illegal slaughterhouses.

There are a large number of hashtags focused on Indian army and Pakistan, drumming up the nationalist agenda. For eg. #LawlessPak, #BarbaricPak, #KhooniPak, #PakPlotsMurder, #PakTerrorCell, #PakKidnapStunt, #AnswerTheArmy, #ArmyFirstNotNetas, #StandWithArmy, #NetasSnubArmyChief etc. The human shield incident was only covered as #ArmyVideoDebate.

When talking about Congress….

Hashtags about Congress sooner or later turn into an exercise of mocking the Gandhi family or questioning Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. The choice of words is interesting.

#RaGaOfDenial was trended after Congress failed to form government in Goa. It was focused on Congress insiders questioning Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. How Rahul Gandhi’s narrative has changed over the years was also covered as part of this hashtag.

#GandhiVIPSaas referred to security being provided to Robert Vadra’s mother. “India’s daughters ignored, VVIP ‘mum-in-law’ secured” was the key theme of the hashtag. #BaapKaRaaj again referred to the same topic. Meanwhile scores of political, religious leaders who are close to BJP have been given Z security including Amar Singh, Ramdev Baba, Mata Amritanandamayi which escaped the attention of Times Now’s hashtags.

#DigvijayBetraysIndia was the hashtag for Congress Leader Digvijay Singh, accusing him of ‘Samjhauta’ with Pak. Like “anti-national” a word like “betrayal” is an important part of the “nationalist” vocabulary and routinely hurled at the Opposition.

And then there was the#RaGaSopStory about Congress appeasing voters with sops. No such hashtag was trended when Yogi Adityanath announced farm loan waivers.

When talking about AAP

AAP seems to be a favorite with Times Now and there are several hashtags ridiculing it. Every loss, every scandal is celebrated with a hashtag.

When trends started to come in about BJP nearing victory in Delhi MCD polls, it was #AAPkiChutti.

The Kapil Mishra bribery allegations were trended with #AAPkiSafai. The hashtag #KejriwalJasoos accused Arvind Kejriwal of spying. And Kejriwal’s comment about BJP bringing filth to Delhi was trended as #DengueForVotes.

When talking about JNU….

No discussion about politics can be complete without bringing in JNU into it and projecting it as anti-national.

#MartyrsInsultedInJNU was trended when a JNU professor’s car vandalized. The professor claimed it was because he attended a condolence meeting for Sukma martyrs. A case was registered against unknown persons and nothing is proved till date. Yet the whole institution was maligned with this hashtag without any proof that it was indeed it was a JNU insider who did it.

When talking about BJP….

There is a distinct change in the tone of the hashtags when it comes to BJP or its leaders. There is no ridicule and no mention of any hypocrisy. Successes are lauded and the tone is almost always celebratory.

#ModiBlitzkrieg “Has Modi rattled his rivals?” was the focus of this hashtag on UP election campaign.

#GujaratWelcomesPMModi was the hashtag for PM’s visit to Gujarat that accompanied the message, “PM Modi’s roadshow attracts a huge audience”.

The hashtag, #YogiUPkaNath was devised when Yogi Adityanath was announced as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. .There was a #BJPWinsGoa too but no similar hashtag for Captain Amarinder Singh and his victory in Punjab. When BJP met the Governor to claim it has numbers to form government in Goa, it was celebrated it the hashtag #NaMoForNewIndia.

When Yogi Adityanath said no to Lal Batti, it was #YogiKaYug. Similar initiative by Congress in Punjab was ignored.

A selection of the hashtags run by Times now in the last three months for different parties are summarised in the table below

Congress AAP BJP

#RaGaOfDenial

#PriyankaLandDeal

#GandhiVIPSaas

#BaapKaRaaj

#DigvijayBetraysIndia

#RaGaSopStory

#AAPKaDepositGaya

#AAPKaReferendum

#KejriwalKiSafai

#AAPkiSafai

#AAPkaApmaan

#AAPKeTukde

#AAPkiChutti

#AAPKaFreeFund

#RepublicOfKejriwal

#DengueForVotes

#KejriwalMustPay

#KejriwalJasoos

#AAPKaKharcha

#AAPKeBahane

#AAPKaNuksaan

#IndiaVotesNamo

#NamoThanksIndia

#ModiDeMoWin

#GujaratWelcomesPMModi

#YogiKaYug

#YogiUPkaNath

#YogiFirstTest

#YogiYogaPush

#NaMoForNewIndia

#NaMoIsDominant

#ModiBlitzkrieg

It is clear that Times Now has done a great job of holding the Opposition to account. The Opposition is questioned, its hypocrisy is exposed, and its leaders are mocked at every opportunity. After this heavy dose of courageous journalism, the only question that comes to mind is “who will hold the government to account?” Sadly, the name of some will go down in the history of journalism as the ones who chose to crawl.

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