*Wah, wah, Election Commission jee, aap ne kamaal kar ditti - says The Tribune
*Sharm karo, koyee akal di gal karo - says The Indian Express
FORGET OPINION POLLS. Here are opinion piece writers arraigned against each other over an exit poll controversy.
Editorial opinion reflected a Split Wide Open today with The Tribune hailing the Election Commission for arresting an editor of Dainik Jagran for publishing "exit polls" related to the first phase of polling, and The Indian Express blasting the EC for the same.
At least one approach reflects a pedestrian understanding of what happened, and tends to be shamelessly preachy. Nuance with this particular newspaper does not really carry much currency, and if you don't believe, the editor thinks he only has to offer you a weekly coffee for you to become a fan.
Telling the media to "Hold the Line," The Tribune said, "Media enjoys no immunity."
The Indian Express, on the other hand, minced no words in saying that "arresting an editor is a dangerous precedent, violates free speech."
While the newspaper, edited by veteran Harish Khare, who has served journalism and government, criss-crossing back and forth with equal aplomb and by all available information equally proud of both, said the "Election Commission of India has done well to move quickly and promptly against Dainik Jagran," and used the occasion to hail it as "institution that adds lustre and legitimacy to Indian electoral democracy." It said the EC is "a formidable bulwark against political waywardness."
The Indian Express used the same occasion to show a mirror.
"Over the years, the media have suitably curbed the tradition of publishing exit and opinion polls. The EC, on the other hand, no longer stands as tall as it used to, going by the frequency and impunity with which allegations are levelled against it by politicians, most recently by Arvind Kejriwal. Its overzealousness in the name of protecting a level playing field only further hurts its hard-won stature and credibility," the Indian Express said.
The Tribune virtually celebrated the arrest of a senior journalist, and said, "No one should be allowed to get away with defying" the EC, and then went on to issue a certificate: "It would, therefore, be wrong to see the action against Jagran as any kind of attack on the media."
Here is what The Indian Express said in terms clear: "For the Election Commission to register FIRs is unnecessary, and to go to the extent of finding cognisable offences in exit polls is an enormity."
The Tribune chose not to see the subtleties like the EC invoking not just Sections 126A and B of the Representation of People Act, but also, and dangerously, Section 188 of the IPC, that deals with a cognisable offence, empowering the police to summarily arrest and investigate without the need for a court directive or warrant.
The Hindustan Times did what it often does - buried the news on page 10 at the bottom. Some things never change.