Arnab Goswami’s Partisan outlook, a Paradox on Republic TV

A lot has been written/spoken about Mr Arnab Goswami, the face of Republic TV and his style of journalism that hinges on garnering TRP’s through his prime time debates, where the catch phrase “Nation wants to know” also emanated from.

I happened to watch the debate on Republic TV, the other day when India test fired the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile and the key conspirator of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed was also let off by the Pakistani court from the so called House arrest for lack of evidence in proving charges. That aptly called for lunging into Pakistan bashing by the supreme nationalist Arnab, accompanied by an able supporting cast comprising of an army veteran, an ex-Raw official and a strategic/defense analyst in his flank, up in arms against a few known faces from across the border, who as usual cannot give up the denial charade. In his inimitable style, he kept repeating “what a beautiful sight it is” referring to the file shots of the missile launch with the intention of rubbing it in and insinuating that its time India fires one at the neighbour for not mending their ways. Indeed, this indigenously built missile is a matter of pride for all Indians, but why does one have to impose our achievements on others and mock them at their shortcomings. Arnab has smoke billowing out of his ears while speaking of Pakistan’s misdemeanors and goes ballistic to list the entire inventory of weapons available at India’s disposal including newly acquired Rafael jets, indigenous missiles, Submarines and so on that could decimate Pakistan. In the process he sounds so desperate and questions as to how a tiny nation can provoke India, without realizing that answer to his rhetoric does not rest with Pakistan, rather it is India that needs to show intent and be seen as potent force. Why doesn’t he question the government of the day as to what is hindering them to launch an assault? The verbal diarrhea just brings about a wry smile on the face of Pakistani panelists, who instead, accuse him of being a war mongerer.

Arnab’s show-time has a scripted pattern and it kick starts with a long monologue censuring the neighbouring country by ascribing labels like “failed state”, “a harbinger of terrorism” and a country begging for alms from USA in exchange of false promises to fight terror n the AF-PAK region.

Soon after his heroic speech, the supporting cast is introduced and then questions that are as elaborate as comprehension passages are put to the panelist and he farcically seeks a response to them, reiterating, “he wants an answer” several times, without even giving a chance to the panelist to make an opening statement. Within a few seconds into the reply, the anchor starts butting in while the panelist is still continuing with his response, nodding head in disagreement to make an objection or if a crisp answer is forthcoming, he either pits that panelist against an Indian expert or steers the debate into a different direction.

The interjections could still be accepted as long they are valid and not a deliberate effort to derail the speakers train of thought. Then, a pandemonium is unleashed when the entire panel starts voicing their opinion in tandem and the debate is reduced to a cacophonous outburst. The master strategist that Arnab is, then in order to restore some semblance of sanity yells at everyone to keep their mouths shut and listen to his solo rant. By that time, the fervour among the panel to put their points across reaches a crescendo and failing to restrain them, the anchor completely muzzles their voice by bring down the fader. In a flash, he then winds up the debate by passing on a verdict which he had premeditated.

The most disconcerting aspect of his debates featuring Pakistani guests is the use of derogatory language to ridicule them that could drive any self respecting person to develop a revulsion against the anchor and perhaps also fuel further acrimony among the citizenry of two nations. I don’t deny that the facts put out by Arnab vis-a-vis Pakistan’s transgressions and their indulgence in exporting terror as a state policy, is nothing but the truth. But, by taking cudgels with insignificant Pakistani representatives on the panel and assuming to have blown the war bugle or rather having won the battle of supremacy in your channels news room, is a fallacy.

To quote from a very interesting post written by Raghu Raman on May 24, 2017, Quartz India (fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a columnist, author, former CEO of NATGRID, speaker, ex-soldier & UN Peacekeeper), “War waging is not about bombastic threats, surgical strikes, cross-border firing or clamorous bellowing on TV channels. That is called letting off steam. There is an old couplet by Ramdhari Dinkar which suggests that forgiveness befits a snake which has venom in its bite—not one which is weak, toothless, and harmless. To be taken seriously, India needs to build that strength first rather than spewing ineffectual rhetoric.” Arnab, you ought to read this post titled “For all the chest-thumping, India cannot win a war against Pakistan” before locking horns with the neighbours on Newshour debates for mere theatrics.

Remember, the moment when you addressed the coterie of trusted journalists while exiting Times Now where you famously said “The game has just the begun” and your statement “The hegemony of the western media has to end as it has ruined the balance of power that is required not just in politics, society but in media as well” in context of following cross border news, while participating in a debate with journalists from the West prior to the launch of Republic TV. You further went on to say that “Americans being most insular have complete dominance over the Global narrative in terms of news and your premonition that “India shall be the next media capital of the world to challenge that hegemony”.

Your insightful thoughts on foreign media, lofty promises of “providing a serious counter to BBC and CNN by creating a global media environment that is not located in Washington, New York or London”, certainly gave hope to your ardent followers that you would work towards redressing these issues after launching your channel “Republic TV” and set it apart from other Indian channels by catering to more of international coverage. But, what a let-down you have been. Rather than taking a global leap, the channel from the very inception got cocooned in digging up scams of hackneyed politician like Lalu, investigating the mysterious death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife which led to getting rebuked by the High court, land deals of Robert Vadra for being the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi and so on. The common thread here being, the only people you train your eyes on are all from opposition camps whilst turning a blind eye to the functioning of ruling regime, which is totally against the essence of conscientious media.

There is a blatant tilt towards the current dispensation at the centre in the tone, tenor and stance you take on your debates. A lot has transpired in the run up to the Gujrat assembly election 2017 that your media house could have dissected and brought to the fore. Issues like polarization of masses on the grounds of cultural identity, irresponsible allegations of Pakistan’s meddling in the elections, casting aspersions on the integrity of ex-prime minister, and other distinguished individuals including the Vice-President along with other high ranking Ex-Defence personnel, despicable language used and barbs made by Mr Modi during election rallies, to name a few could have been red-flagged and critiqued. But, you chose to only pick on Rahul Gandhi and the dwindling political fortune of Congress party.

Why do the temple visits by an opposition leader make the headlines on your channel rather than the crude personal attacks on opponents by none other than our premier or for that matter complete silence on the developmental agenda during the Gujarat campaign trail? Forget the media, even the election commission seems to have a soft corner for Mr Modi as far as flouting of election norms are concerned (remember the road show after the PM cast his vote).

Arnab, it was encouraging to hear you speak about the need to strike a balance of power by challenging the hegemony of the western media. But before embarking on that arduous journey, it would augur well to restore sense of neutrality on issues and adopt a centrist approach on your channel, to woo back your disenchanted followers. That would not only lend more credibility to Republic TV but also take the TRP’s through the roof.

A Knotty Affair : Election 2014

The prospect of witnessing a fiercely fought general election in 2014 between two largest political outfits with Modi and Rahul at their respective helms, had been considerably dampened with the drubbing of congress in the recently concluded assembly elections held across four states. The reluctance of congress in apportioning the blame of defeat to its would be knight had many pundits seething in exasperation and suggesting that revival of party fortune could come about only if Rahul takes a backseat and the likes of Scindia and Pilot are thrust ahead as campaign managers. Atleast, this way one would know where the accountability lies. Humbly accepting the verdict, Rahul again threw the hat in the ring by announcing an impending restructuring in the party, stressed on establishing a connect with masses the Kejriwal way and promised unimaginable slew of measures to put his party back in reckoning. No matter how incredulous this may sound, the palpable exuberance of the nation to ascertain who shall triumph when these two political honchos lock horns, has once again rekindled. This has been stoked by reports that Congress could probably anoint Rahul as Prime Ministerial candidate in the AICC meet scheduled on 17 January, 2014.
Dubbed as having a finger on the pulse of masses through his sojourns across the length and breadth of rural India, knowing their problems like the back of his hand and heir apparent to self proclaimed pro-poor party, Rahul has repeated failed to win over their allegiance especially after 2009 despite rolling out flagship programs like MGNREGS, Food security bill etc. The most predictable reason offered for poll debacles in U.P. and other states is attributed to lack of organizational structure and need to build up strong cadres. Well, If Rahul being the chairperson of Youth congress for several years could not fill up the structural vacuum and mobilize his cadres in such long span, the party overhaul he wishes to implement just four months prior to election 2014 certainly seems a tall task and not without further widening of fissures between young blood and old vanguards.
Unfortunately, congress has lost ground in few southern pockets that once were its strongholds for taking a call on contentious issues. Andhra pradesh, which for years had been a congress bastion would prove very difficult to redeem owing to bifurcation of the state and emergence of rival faction YSR congress which enjoys immense sway in the coastal region of Andhra and expected to leave congress way behind in electoral fray. On other hand, in Tamilnadu, DMK has decided not to get into a pre-poll alliance with Congress after facing rather tumultuous experience at their hands in 2G scam with Raja and Kanimozhi landing behind bars. Others who walked away from the coalition include TMC and MIM, further reducing the choice for congress in scouting partners for support and with anti-incumbency being a huge factor this time around, a comprehensive rout seems imminent.
While the expediency and volte-face in approach adopted by initiating dialogue with Anna or requesting different party’s for extending support in passing Lokpal bill is appreciable, the skeptics see it as too little too late. Rahul certainly is attempting an image makeover by voicing opinion notably on supreme court ruling on Gay rights, trashing ordinance for protecting convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification etc. But, the critics never for a moment cease to forget his disposition of maintaining stoic silence on issues of national/international importance, reticence to media interactions and not giving an insight into his mind . Though he could still cover his tracks gradually in coming months, the most discomfiting and loaded baggage of corruption that UPA-2 is leaving behind wouldn’t be easy to shrug off from public memory. The long list of scams(2G, Commonwealth, Coal Gate, Aadarsh etc) resulting in huge loses to state’s exchequer, are so deeply entrenched that nation seems in all likelihood made up its mind to bequeth power to BJP.
This assumption would be too far fetched since their road to forming a government is not sans glitches either. Securing an absolute majority without a strong presence in southern states and hindi heartland of U.P. which sends largest number of MP’s to parliament is virtually impossible. Stiching post poll alliances for BJP shall be a litmus test as they stand alienated by Nitish’s JDU to whom rally around a polarizing figure and PM nominee like Modi is now untenable. Other regional forces harping on secular credentials wouldn’t associate with right wing plank having a seemingly divisive agenda. Barring AIADMK and TDP, there is no inkling of a slant towards BJP from other formations. Thus, cobbling up requisite numbers to stake claim will be an uphill task unless the Messiah of development and torch bearer of progress for middle classes, manages 180 plus seats on his own steam. Attempt to realign with Yadurrapa’s party who was made to quit on charges of corruption, an issue they have been Chastising Congress for, smacks of dual standards on principles that they themselves find hard to hold onto.
The growth and development story of Gujrat certainly is Modi’s crowning glory, but the hyperbole surrounding it has repeatedly been dismissed as Gujrat was always a flourishing state even under the congress regime. The soaring popularity on social media among the youth, yet another aspect that he gloats about was also busted by the Cobra Post sting exposing Tech companies managing Modi’s campaign in exchange for money by creating false identities. The halo around Modi factor hasn’t had any profound impact on BJP’s performance in Delhi as AAP managed to garner the vote share of congress and formed the government despite being second largest party. Major credit for their stupendous run in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan was ascribed to good governance by incumbent Chief Ministers and anti-establishment vote respectively.
Though Modi has been relentless in addressing rallies to make the campaign more aggressive, many opine that he has reached the crescendo pretty early. Does one know Modi’s vision for India? Political, economic and social agenda of BJP should form the crux of his discourse and swing the public opinion in their favour, rather than scornful personal barbs. What is most disgraceful is the crass tone he employs in criticizing the opposition and some of its prominent leaders in his nasal twang. Certainly, his demeanour lacks the persona that dignified and graceful Leaders are made of.
The ensuing general elections 2014 would baffle the nation in choosing between Rahul – Inexperienced, idealistic enigma who has shunned responsibility all through and owes his candidature for the top job to family legacy and Modi – an authoritarian leader with third tenure under his belt as Chief minister of Gujrat, carrying a blemish of Godhra riots which he cannot wish away and regarded as panacea of all problems facing the country by some sections of society. Neither of them fit the bill for premiership. A fractured mandate with BJP emerging as the single largest party is a distinct possibility. As one congressman put it, Congress could well take their badly bruised image and despicable performance in assembly elections as an opportunity to introspect, revamp their party and rise like a phoenix whenever subsequent opportunity (beyond 2014) presents itself. Perhaps, it is their turn to play constructive opposition and scoff at every instance BJP falters, with a wry smile.