As the 2019 Lok Sabha elections enter their final phases, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress are taking each other head-on in West Bengal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has been participating in the campaign quite intensensely. On May 6, he targetted the Trinamool Congress by describing the party as the “TTT” or “Trinamool, Tolabaazi, Tax”. “Tolabaazi” is the Bengali word for extortionists.
Several mainstream media outlets reported that West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee responded to the prime minister’s remark with the threat, “I will slap Modi.”
A clear misquote
As it turns out, the West Bengal Chief Minister was misquoted by several news broadcasters. She did not say, “I will slap Modi” but said instead, “I want to give PM Modi a tight slap of democracy.”
The Trinamool Congress uploaded Banerjee’s video where she can be heard saying, “নরেন্দ্র মোদী যখন বাংলায় এসে বলে মমতা ব্যানার্জী তোলাবাজ, তখন শুনলে আমার মনে হয় দি ঠাসি একটা ভালো করে গণতন্ত্রের থাপ্পড় – “When Narendra Modi comes to Bengal and accuses Mamata Banerjee of being Tolabaaz, I feel like giving him a tight slap of democracy.”
Media outlets that misreported Banerjee
In the May 7 broadcast of her flagship programme Halla Bol, Aaj Tak’s Anjana Om Kashyap reiterated several times that Mamata Banerjee said that she would slap Modi.
In the middle of a heated debate between the spokespersons of the BJP and the Trinamool Congres, Kashyap interupted the Trinamool representative to ask, “अच्छा थप्पड़ वाले बयान पे एकबार बोलिये मनोजीत जी.” “Comment on the ‘slap’ statement, Manojitji.”
Further into the broadcast, she accused Banerjee of sympathising with migrants and “the neighbouring country”. She asked the Trinamool spokesperson, “इतना सम्मान जो कमज़ोर है उसकी देख-रेख करना देश में, जो पड़ोसी मुल्क से आये उससे भी भाईचारा रखना, इतनी महान बाते करने वाली, देश के प्रधानमंत्री को थप्पड़ क्यों मारना चाहती है?” “Giving such respect to the ‘weak’ and taking care of them in the country, maintaining brotherhood with the neighbouring state, a person who speaks so righteously, she wants to slap the country’s Prime Minister?)”
After the Trinamool Congress representative responded that Modi was politicising issues, Kashyap reiterated, “पर पीएम के लिए ऐसा बोलना सही है क्या की मेरा मन करता है उनको थप्पड़ मार दू?” “But is it right for her to say ‘I want to slap PM Modi’?”
Aaj Tak’s broadcast can be viewed below. Anchor Anjana Om Kashyap can be heard making the three statements from 38:30 minutes.
The news organisation also published an article based on the erroneous quote: “आपे से बाहर हुईं ममता बनर्जी बोलीं- मोदी को थप्पड़ मारने का मन करता है’” or “Mamata Banerjee lost her temper and said I feel like slapping Modi.”
The popular Hindi news channel, ABP News, ran an over 10-minute broadcast about Mamata Banerjee’s recent remark. Despite the show being titled, “PM Narendra Modi needs a ‘slap of democracy’: Mamata Banerjee”, anchor Rubika Liyaquat’s translation of Mamata Banerjee’s statement omitted the word “democracy”.
At around 8:35 minutes into the programme, a member of the audience asked the BJP spokesperson if his party plans to winning elections on the planks of Hinduvad and aantankvad, political Hinduism and terrorism. As soon as he asked, “Is the BJP even concerned about small traders?”, Liyaquat interrupted and said, “A big news is coming our way.”
The “big” news was Mamata Banerjee’s statement that Liyaquat had misquoted. “आपको पता है क्या हुआ है अभी? ममता बनर्जी ने प्रधानमंत्री मोदी पे बड़ा हमला किया। वो कह रही है मैं पीएम को थप्पड़ मरूंगी.” (Do you know what happened just now? Mamata Banerjee massively targetted Prime Minister Modi. She said, ‘I will slap the PM.’”
“West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will slap Prime Minister Modi’s face as he was saying that Mamata Banerjee’s party is a party of extortionists…” reported CNN News18 at the start of its May 7 broadcast. The statement attributed to Banerjee was repeated throughout the over 7-minute broadcast, with the channel flashing the claim “Mamata threatens to slap the PM” on TV screens.
CNN News18 later took down the broadcast (archive) and tweeted a correction with Banerjee’s original statement.
The Hindi outlet of the Indian Express – Jansatta – also published an article on the false quote attributed to Banerjee. Jansatta’s report was titled, “अलग दौर में पहुंचा ‘वर्ड-वॉर’, ममता बनर्जी ने कहा- मोदी को थप्पड़ मारने का मन करता है .” (The battle of words has taken a different turn, Mamata Banerjee said- I feel like slapping Modi.)
Among those who misreported West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement, CNN News18 was the only one to have uploaded a clarification. Aaj Tak and ABP News, on the other hand, used the misleading quote to defend the Prime Minister and the BJP.
Banerjee’s remarks were correctly reported by several other media organisations.
This article first appeared on AltNews.in.