Posted on / by Amitha Balachandra / in Short

From Flying Kiss to Forgotten Crisis: Media’s Shift in Focus Amidst Manipur Chaos

The media’s focus on Rahul Gandhi’s alleged flying kiss overshadows the Manipur crisis, raising questions about priorities and coverage.

Two days after he was reinstated as a Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, a Times of India headline read, “Hug, wink and now a flying kiss: Rahul Gandhi at the centre of controversy again.” ABP News analyzed “the origin of the flying kiss,” and an India Today article went as far as to say he blew a kiss at “the BJP in parliament.

The Indian parliament, which was set to discuss the no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against the ruling party over Manipur violence during the monsoon session, descended into chaos last week — over an alleged flying kiss. Women BJP MPs were angry, a letter was sent to the speaker, and television channels rushed to fix panelists for primetime shows.

The curious case of the alleged flying kiss

On August 9, 2023, Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, accused Rahul Gandhi of “misbehavior” and said, “Only a misogynistic man can give a flying kiss to a parliament.”

Soon after, there were varying versions of what had transpired — BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje alleged the incident happened when Rahul Gandhi was about to leave the parliament but was asked to listen to Irani’s speech; women BJP MPs submitted a written complaint to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, alleging he made an “inappropriate gesture towards Smriti Irani”; BJP MP Hema Malini told reporters she hadn’t seen anything.

The opposition had conflicting points of view — some didn’t know, some didn’t see, and some dismissed it as “affection.” While Congress MP Shashi Tharoor claimed “nobody saw anything happen,” Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi insisted this was an “affectionate gesture.”

Adding to the confusion, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya posted a 6-second clip on Twitter showing Rahul Gandhi signaling towards the speaker. The video provided no clarity to the many narratives that had played out.

Mainstream TV news channels jump the gun

Television news channels were quick to make the most of the information. In a one-hour show on Republic TV, Arnab Goswami, imitating the gesture, said the “chumma” was a “cheap and vulgar act.” Times Now’s screens shouted, “Rahul blows a kiss in House.”

Hindi TV news channels seemed more outraged than their English counterparts, specifically Republic Bharat, which declared this was because of his “Western influence.”

News 18 India’s Aman Chopra said he ended up “helping the BJP”.

Amish Devgan asked whether some politicians were lowering the dignity of democracy. Aaj Tak’s Sudhir Chaudhary explained Rahul Gandhi had “done something like this in 2018” as well.

Alleged flying kiss vs. violence-hit Manipur: What matters?

In the furor and debate over who said what after Rahul Gandhi’s speech — where he accused the government of setting fire to Manipur— the state was all but forgotten. The mainstream media became fixated on the parliament’s logjam. 

Night after night, primetime debates on television were limited to political developments. Aaj Tak compared the parliament proceedings to sports with augmented reality graphics of a cricket pitch even as anchor Anjana Om Kashyap asked, “How did team I.N.D.I.A and team NDA play today?”

Were any questions asked about the situation in Manipur or the government’s handling of the conflict? No. Was there any discussion on the violence against women in the state? No. Was the clampdown on the mobile internet services in the state brought up? No.

On Independence Day, PM Modi said the situation in Manipur has improved. Home Minister Amit Shah, during the monsoon session of the parliament, said the state’s CM is “cooperating” with the center. Manipur CM has appealed to Meiteis and Kukis to “forgive and forget“.

Several print media reports, however, point out that the situation remains tense. The Caravan’s report details the humanitarian crisis in the state with accounts of people from the ground. According to the Indian Express, the state’s healthcare system is faltering. Since May 3, at least 150 people have died and over 60,000 affected. 6,523 FIRs have been registered by various police stations till July 25.
11 cases, including three alleged gangrapes, are being probed by the CBI.

In the midst of this severity, television news channels have moved on from the alleged flying kiss row to the next political story, considering the monsoon session has ended. The uproar caused by the viral video in Manipur, unsurprisingly, has died down.

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this are those of the author and not necessarily WeThePress.


  • Amitha Balachandra

    Amitha Balachandra is an Independent journalist based in Mumbai. She covers human rights, gender, and environmental issues and has over nine years of experience in television and digital news platforms. She was a Without Borders Media Fellow 2022-2023, where she reported on the difficulties sexual and gender-based violence survivors face in accessing healthcare.


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