Opinion: Frankly and cosily speaking with Arnab Goswami
Time and again, Arnab Goswami has been accused of being BJP-ish by his counterparts who keep a close eye on him. And they’ve got all the reasons to do so, since Goswami has managed a tight slap on their TRP ratings for a considerable time now. It was a big day for him, for his viewers, and for the PM, and whether the loud anchor rose to the occasion is for the people of India to decide.
Firstly, kudos to Goswami for clinching the opportunity to interview Prime Minister Narendra Modi in what was the first of its kind where a sitting Prime Minister of India gave a full-fledged interview to a private news channel.
Twitter erupted with ‘#PMSpeaksToArnab’, with people who are not very fond of him also writing about the big interview. The Opposition and ‘their’ journalists launched on to the social media and used their might of pen to express their ‘constipation’. Many of them said that the anchor was not at his loud best behaviour, which he showcases every night, while interviewing Mr Prime Minister.
Let’s begin with this – Anyone who’s seen both his shows would agree that Arnab Goswami has two sides – One, of the grilling anchor who’d ‘outloud’ his panelists every evening in the Newshour Debate; two, of the composed interviewer whose voice would complement the softness of lights used in ‘Frankly Speaking With Arnab Goswami’. His approaches in both these shows run abreast, trying to hit the bull’s eye called ‘grilling’. So, did he grill the PM or did he not? If you’d ask the innumerable Bhakts, they’d breathe “Modi-Modi”, but if you ask the Opposition and ‘their’ journalists, as quoted by Mr Kapil Sibal, it’s a “Nah”.
Goswami, who believes journalism is about questioning the authority, had the highest authority of the government sitting in front of him. So, did Goswami ask the right questions? Did he ask follow-up questions out of PM’s indigestible answers?
Let us start with the pillars on which the Opposition stands tall against Mr Modi: 15 lakh in people’s bank accounts. Bringing back the Black Money was one of the highlighted priorities of BJP’s 2014 manifesto. Two years down the line, if any person in India is given an opportunity to ask one question to the PM, it would be: Where is the 15 lakh in my bank account which you promised? When Goswami fired this question to the PM, he laughingly replied, “Leave something for the Opposition to ask.” Guess what Goswami came up with to counter this reply. Nothing! Was this display of escapism by the PM acceptable? Question the authority, Mr Goswami, will you? The PM should know that it’s not just about the Opposition but also the people who believed you when you promised them this amount, and he owes them an answer.
Another failure of the Modi government is how his diplomacy talks have fared so far. Be it the peace talks with Pakistan or the tete-a-tete with China, both have yielded undesired results. Goswami, who’s known to bash Pakistani panelists in his debates, listened patiently as the PM defended this failure by ‘explaining’ how international relations work. Almost half of his tenure as the PM has passed, and the gravity of “Kashmir nahi, Karachi lenge” talks of PM Modi before the Loksabha elections have clearly fallen flat on the ground of hypocrisy after its inability to counter Pakistan-sponsored terrorism on Indian soil.
Now, let’s recollect what happened during the ArGo-RaGa face-off before the Loksabha elections: 30 years after the infamous incident, Arnab Goswami asked Rahul Gandhi to apologise for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Gandhi, who aged 14 in 1984, was baffled at this but Goswami stood firm. One would want to pat on the back of Arnab Goswami for making Rahul Gandhi recall how his government was responsible for the atrocities in 1984. On the contrary, people who have followed the Newshour Debate for some time will remember Ganesh Joshi very well. A few weeks ago, video clips of the BJP MLA from Uttarakhand made rounds in which he was seen injuring Shaktiman – the police horse, in a mob rage. Shaktiman, whose leg was to be amputated, succumbed to his injuries. It was amazing how Goswami raised no question on this recent brutality of the BJP MLA after moderating a number of debates on this incident. Should we blame your selective loss of memory for the goof-up, Mr Goswami?
One of the good questions which the journalist raised was about unemployment in India. As expected, the PM explained how increased FDI and the government schemes will generate employment opportunities for the young in the years to come. Forty percent into his tenure, if incidents of PhDs and post graduates applying for a fourth-class post and are ready to work as ‘coolies’ at railway stations surface the news stories, the progress looks far from what the PM had ‘visioned’ two years ago. Mr Goswami, how’d you miss this?
Soon after, the interviewer did not just ask the PM a question but also answered it for him by saying, “Mr Prime Minister, India has not seen a major scam since your government came to power; how do you feel about it?” Unfortunate as it sounds, Arnab Goswami must have suffered a memory stroke at that moment for forgetting the Vyapam scam in MP, which has claimed more than 50 lives under ‘mysterious’ circumstances. There are big names involved in the scandal, including the CM Shivrajsingh Chauhan, who did not step down after the incident came to light. In a parallel incident, Lalit Modi, who earned the badge of a ‘fugitive’ from Goswami, escaped the country with special assistance from the Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, who belongs to the BJP. A question on these scandals would have certainly made the PM uneasy in his chair; how’d you miss this being the ace journalist that you are, Mr Goswami?
No question on the PM degree row ensured that the PM did not have to clear the air surrounding his educational qualifications in public domain, like the case had always been. What could be better for the PM than clarifying people’s doubts himself? Not being questioned to do so, of course!
The Prime Minister could have been questioned about the appointment of BJP members Gajendra Chauhan and Chetan Chauhan as the chairpersons of FTII and NIFT respectively. Likewise, Goswami had made serious allegations on the merits of CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani. These issues had formed the agenda of several Newshour debates but Goswami chose to give them a miss when he had the best person to talk to seated in front of him.
The editor-in-chief of Times Now could have posed questions to the PM from a few more avenues like the Patel agitation in Gujarat, and whether he feels that the state has seen a sorry social picture in the reins of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. The Prime Minister, having appeared for the first ever interview to a private news channel since the Loksabha elections, was not harassed by questions on campus politics – critical issues like the JNU debacle and the Rohith Vemula suicide incident.
Times Now has been relentless in campaigning for all the issues addressed above, but shockingly, the efforts from the side of the editor-in-chief when it mattered the most seemed futile.
As Mr Modi exclaimed that everyone has to attach themselves to the media in today’s age, let us just hope that he, when he’s in the country, would be more accessible to the media, so that someone can actually “question the authority”.