Times Now Report On Congress’ Telangana Manifesto Is Misleading
Congress’ Telangana Manifesto has been in the news recently
Congress’ Telangana Manifesto has been in the news recently(Photo Courtesy: Facebook Page Bharat Positive, Facebook Page Uttam Kumar Reddy/Photo altered by The Quint)

Times Now Report On Congress’ Telangana Manifesto Is Misleading

On Tuesday, 27 November, the Congress released its election manifesto for Telangana, which goes to polls on 7 December. No big deal, right? Wrong. Because the manifesto was the news – nay, the prime time news – for an entire weekend.

CLAIM

On 26 November, Times Now claimed that it had accessed the Congress’ draft manifesto for Telangana, adding that the party ‘has promised seven 'Muslim-only' schemes’. Times Now went really big on the coverage of the story, with the channel’s Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar and Managing Editor Navika Kumar engaging in panel discussions on the issue, which they believed ‘sabotaged secularism’ and ‘pitted Hindus against Muslims’.

TRUE OR FALSE?

The pages from the Congress manifesto on the basis of which the channel has made its claims are, in fact, genuine. However, The Quint accessed the final manifesto and found that the pages are only one part of the manifesto – a separate section on minorities – and therefore the claims by Times Now are misleading. Moreover, several of the schemes highlighted by the channel as 'Muslim-only' are actually in the manifesto for all communities, or at least for communities from other backward groups as well.

WHAT WE FOUND OUT

Social media lapped up the story and it went viral, with the discourse devolving into vitriol.

A Facebook page ‘Post Card Fans’ posted a clipping from Rahul Shivshankar’s show. Till the time this article was written, the clipping had attracted 5,500 views and 344 shares.

Another page Bharat Positive put up a post based on Times Now’s coverage. The post had been shared 2,300 times up to the time of writing this article.

But what are the facts and where does this confusion come from?

To understand this, The Quint reached out to Times Now Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar. In response, Shivshankar said that the channel had reported on the basis of the draft version of the manifesto in Telugu, and they are aware that Congress has made “cosmetic changes” in the final English version.

Shivshankar also sent us two images – one of the draft Telugu manifesto, the other of the final Telugu manifesto.

Part of draft manifesto, as claimed by <i>Times Now</i>
Part of draft manifesto, as claimed by Times Now
Photo courtesy: Rahul Shivshankar, Editor-in-chief, Times Now

The image above, Shivshankar claimed, is from the draft manifesto, on which Times Now “based the report”.

Part of draft manifesto, as claimed by <i>Times Now</i>
Part of draft manifesto, as claimed by Times Now
Photo courtesy: Rahul Shivshankar, Editor-in-chief, Times Now

On the other hand, Shivshankar claimed that the second image above is from the final manifesto. He said that the highlighted points are the ones they “picked up”.

Shivshankar further said that there was no difference between the two and that a Congress spokesperson appearing on his show “confirmed what was on the draft and justified the contents”. (Refer to the YouTube link above)

The Quint contacted Congress Chief Spokesperson and Convenor of the Manifesto Committee, Dr Dasoju Sravan, who verified that both the images sent by Shivshankar are from the party’s manifesto. Mr Sravan said, however, that the way Times Now is projecting the schemes is “damaging” and “fraudulent”.

According to him, Times Now did not mention that their report was based on a small section of the entire manifesto which highlighted welfare schemes for minorities.

Part of draft manifesto, as claimed by <i>Times Now</i>
Part of draft manifesto, as claimed by Times Now
Photo courtesy: Rahul Shivshankar, Editor-in-chief, Times Now/Altered by The Quint
The Quint compared the ‘Muslim-only schemes’ listed by Times Now to the schemes listed in the final and entire manifesto and found out that these schemes are not exclusively for Muslims.

The highlighted part in the image says “Minoriteela Sankshemam”, in Telugu, which translates to ‘Minorities’ Welfare’.

Here is a point-by-point counter of Times Now’s claims:

CLAIM 1: Government contracts and special opportunities for Muslim youth

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

There are four categories to which the Congress has promised preference in handing out government contracts. Here is what the manifesto says:

a) Youth who participated in the Telangana movement will be given 50% works in all government contracts.

b) The youth, belonging to SC and ST communities, who participated in the Telangana movement will be given 50% works in all government contracts.

c) Five percent (5%) of all government contracts will be given SC, ST and other groups. Dalit contractors will be made eligible to participate in tenders worth below Rs 2 crores without depositing the Earnest Money Deposit.

d) Muslim youth will be given opportunities to get government contracts so as to provide them employment.

CLAIM 2: Rs 20 lakh financial assistance to poor Muslims students

The manifesto, in this case, promises financial aid to ‘poor minority students’ and not ‘Muslims’. This is apart from the aid promised to other backward sections.

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

a) Rs 25 Lakh assistance will be given to students belonging to SC, ST, Minorities,OBC and other economically weaker sections for pursuing overseas education

b) Poor minority students will be given Rs 20 lakh assistance for overseas education

CLAIM 3: Special residential schools to be set up for Muslim students

As for this case, the Telangana government already runs residential schools for minorities. The official website of Telangana Minorities Residential Educational Institutions Society (TMREIS) states that 204 such schools have already been sanctioned in 31 districts in the state.

This initiative again is for minorities and not just Muslims.

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

a) Residential schools will be started in Tribal areas to impart education in English and local language.

b) Special Residential Schools will be established for girls belonging to minority communities

c) Residential Schools will be established for Christian minorities.

CLAIM 4: Hospitals only for Muslims to be established'

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

The trend follows here as well as the manifesto says government hospitals will be established in minority-concentrated areas.

CLAIM 5: Free electricity supply to all Mosques and Churches in Telangana

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

Free power supply will be given to all temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship.

CLAIM 6: Action against private firms for denying jobs on the basis of religion

In the first place, it is difficult to understand how this policy is a discriminatory one. Yet, we looked up what the Congress has actually promised.

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

All kinds of discrimination on religious grounds in giving jobs in both public and private sectors will be stopped. Strict action will be taken against those who refuse jobs in private sector to anyone on the basis of their religion.

CLAIM 7:Urdu district selection panels for recruitment of Muslim teachers only

The manifesto has not mentioned Muslims with respect to recruitment of teachers.

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO SAY?

a) A special DSC (Departmental Selection Commission) will be conducted for recruitment of Urdu teachers

b) A Mega DSC, as per old system, will be held to recruit 20,000 teachers within 100 days of coming to power

TIMES NOW’S REJOINDER

[The Quint has received the following rejoinder from Times Now, which has been reproduced in its entirety, without prejudice to the story published above. The Quint does not concede or accept the points raised by Times Now but has included them in the interest of fairness.]

TIMES NOW would like to point out that the author of the piece has selectively represented facts to suggest that TIMES NOW is misleading its audience.

First, Quint questioned TIMES NOW on what it perceived to be inaccuracies in its broadcast. Quint did not spell out which version of the Manifesto it was referring to or what parts of the manifesto TIMES NOW had based its new report on. Quint email is reproduced here:

‘’We went through the original manifesto that was released last evening and found that it doesn't match the claims made in your report. Please let us know whether you plan to put out a clarification regarding the story or update it with contents from the released manifesto.’’

If you have watched the broadcast on Monday, November 26th you may be aware TIMES NOW was referring to the Telugu draft of the Manifesto. TIMES NOW reporter Paul Oomen mentioned that TIMES NOW had accessed page 49, 50 of the Telugu version of the draft. He also clarified that the pages were part of a separate section for minorities welfare. He also made it clear that there were promises made to the Hindu community in another section of the draft Manifesto which we had not accessed. Paul Oomen also pointed out that at least 7 Minority schemes with special emphasis on Muslims have been promised. You may be aware that Muslims are the majority in the minority category in Telangana.

The final published Telugu manifesto reproduces page 49, 50 of the part of the draft manifesto accessed by TIMES NOW word-for-word. Each scheme mentioned by TIMES NOW is included verbatim in the Congress Party’s published Telugu manifesto between pages 49 and 50. A cursory check of this would have convinced Quint of this fact. TIMES NOW was also obliging enough to provide Quint the copies of the Telugu draft accessed by its reporter. Quint has admitted to its accuracy.

In its report Quint has subsequently gone through parts of the Manifesto which were not covered by the TIMES NOW report to try and suggest that TIMES NOW has mislead the viewer. This is selective and defamatory.

In fact, the spokesperson of the Telangana Congress party, Krishank is on record in the same broadcast admitting that these promises have been made to Muslims under the Minority section of the Telugu Manifesto as Muslims are an important Congress vote bank. More than that that he has said that if TIMES NOW calls it ‘’appeasement then so be it’’. Hence TIMES NOW took the added precaution of reflecting the Congress point of view.

TIMES NOW also pointed out that the Congress was being hypocritical when it objected to religion based incentives announced by the TRS. So the question of leaving gaps for viewers to fill-in doesn’t arise.

TIMES NOW in its broadcast repeatedly talked about concerns arising out of segregating religious denominations and the illegality of religion based incentives. The fact that Hindu and Muslim schemes have been published under different sections only strengthens our report and establishes that the Congress was segregating Hindus and Muslims.

The anchor made repeated appeals to the Congress party to withdraw some of its promises that are aimed at specific religious denominations if it was interested in ensuring cohesion in society. In other words, we were hoping that our ‘interventionist’ newsbreak would result in the Congress removing the said promises.

We hope in the interest of balance Quint will reproduce this correspondence in its entirety, issue a clarification and withdraw the article immediately.

(This story was updated on 29 November at 11 pm to include Times Now’s rejoinder.)

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