Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is having a major media meltdown. At various times in the year gone by, he has threatened not to speak to the press, railed against TV shows that satirise him, sought laws to regulate the media.
But the debacle in #GeneralElections2019, or specifically the debacle for his family, has brought out the best in him, with a first information report (FIR) being filed by Bangalore police against a right-leaning newspaper editor.
On Saturday, May 25, Vishwa Vani, the Kannada newspaper edited by Vishweshwar Bhat, a former officer on special duty to the late Union minister Ananth Kumar, reported on page one (screenshot, above, right) of an alleged drunken brawl involving Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy in a hotel in Mysore on May 23.
The report, without a byline, claimed that Nikhil, who was the losing JDS-Congress candidate in Mandya:
# created noisy scenes in Radisson Blu on the day of the results;
# let fly at being humbled by a “woman”; and
# blamed his grandfather H.D. Deve Gowda for not being able to win over Congress leaders to facilitate his victory.
All very predictable gossip and as the generally accepted standards of political journalism in India go, par for the course. And all very predictable stuff considering Nikhil Kumaraswamy first made it to the media with a restaurant brawl.
Moreover, Kumaraswamy, a former film producer, owns a Kannada entertainment channel Kasturi through his wife Anitha Kumaraswamy.
But the innocuous report in the struggling Vishwa Vani, hinting at intra-family trouble, has touched several raw nerves.
Kumaraswamy himself tweeted against it on Saturday.
Inter alia, Kumaraswamy said he had brought the “pain caused by the character assassination of his son” to editor Vishweshwar Bhat’s attention. He also urged the media to desist from playing around with the feelings of people with such fabricated news.
In response, the next day, Vishwa Vani published news about the CM’s son in the same slot on page one, with the same headline (Nikhil ratri rampata). It incorporated Kumaraswamy’s tweet and the paper’s rebuttal.
Not to be outdone, a Janata Dal worker filed a police complaint clamingintt that the report “was meant to tarnish the political career of Mr. Nikhil and to extract money”, on the basis of which Bangalore Police have filed a first information report (FIR).
Karnataka has emerged as the ground zero of “fake news” with right-wing media—owners, editors, journalists aligned to the RSS-BJP—playing a central role in creating a fake “narrative” in cahoots with RSS-BJP leaders, past and present.
With their tails up after the election victory, and sensing a return to power in Karnataka, BJP leaders were quick to create the hashtag #EmergencyInKarnataka following the FIR on Vishweshwar Bhat.