The feud between Republic Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and the oldest political party of India, the Congress is showing no signs of relenting anytime soon.
Yesterday, Goswami questioned Congress President Sonia Gandhi over the Palghar mob lynching incident and called her by her maiden name “Antonio Maino”, and asked if she would have remained silent had Maulvis or Christian Padres were targeted the way Hindu Sadhus were targeted.
Goswami also said, “She (Sonia Gandhi) would prepare a list and send it to Italy, mentioning how she formed a government in a state, where Sadhus are now getting killed, and she would receive applause from there (Italy).”
— 🇮🇳 राठौड़ – कोरोना वॉरियर 🇮🇳 (@lokarlorajniti) April 21, 2020
What followed was a huge meltdown from the Congress, and a smear campaign against the Republic Editor-in-chief. Multiple complaints were filed yesterday against Arnab Goswami by agitated Congress workers. Finally, an FIR was also registered against him in a police station in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur upon a complaint by the State Congress chief Mohan Markam.
But why this sudden outrage against Arnab Goswami? There is clearly a sense of intolerance that finds roots in the grand old party’s perception of how a journalist should behave.
First of all, Arnab Goswami has broken through the hegemony of the Lutyens’ journalists. All major media houses in India are situated in and around the Delhi-NCR region, especially in Noida. But Times Now, which was till very recently led by Goswami is headquartered in Mumbai.
The Republic head office is situated in Mumbai which detaches the leading media outlets from the Delhi-NCR region, and this has broken through the monopoly that was formerly enjoyed by the Lutyens’ media. The Congress itself no longer enjoys the kind of hold that it would have wanted to enjoy over the “eminent” journalists.
Arnab Goswami has been vocal against the Congress from the word go, and the Congress realised it the hard way during the Newshour debates. He is no Barkha or Rajdeep who would ask soft questions of the Congress.
However, the real crisis moment came with Congress’ Prime Minister-in-waiting for perpetuity Rahul Gandhi’s first interview in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. And this interview proved a PR disaster for the Congress.
Congress was planning to launch the Gandhi scion in a grand way, but the country came to know how clueless the man is, by the time the interview ended. Arnab Goswami stepped up things, asking tough questions like the 1984 riots, avoiding a direct face-off with (now) Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and multiple scams during the UPA government’s second tenure.
Rahul Gandhi’s answers were actually “unbelievable”, and to this day we fail to figure out what he was even trying to say. All his answers were absurd and a pointless attempt to avoid what Goswami kept asking. This interview must have been the point where the Congress started harbouring hostility towards then Times Now Editor-in-chief.
Asking the kind of questions that Goswami had then asked is considered sacrilege within the Congress, because the grand old party has enjoyed the goodwill of pliable journalists for several decades.
Compare this with the kind of questions that someone like Rajdeep Sardesai asked of Sonia Gandhi in the year 2016. He asked her The following questions, among others.
“The first time you met Indira Gandhi.. do you remember it?”
“When you came to India for the first time and met Mrs. Gandhi, what was she like at home?”
“Your mother-in-law would ask every evening where are you going?”
Even his question about dynastic politics sounded like light questions without much harshness.
In her entire political career, Sonia Gandhi has given very few interviews, and some of them include a 03:53 minute long interview to Barkha Dutt, an interview to Rajiv Shukla, who later joined the Congress. In one of the interviews to Shekhar Gupta, who is now the Editor’s Guild President, where we learned that she can cook pasta.
The mainstream journalists have been extremely cordial towards the Congress President, and have never been critical of her for not giving enough interviews. When they finally earned the opportunity to interview her, these protectors of media freedom ensured that they didn’t cross the line and asked only softball questions
After forming Republic, Arnab Goswami became even more blatant in criticism of the Congress, and also did a story on Congress leader Shashi Tharoor raising questions about his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s death.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor lodged an FIR against Goswami, and the entire Lutyens’ didn’t hide its spitefulness towards the Republic Editor-in-chief.
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Sanjay Jha had extended a threat to Arnab Goswami, tweeting, “When we win in 2019, this religious bigot, who regularly spews hatred, spreads fake news and polarises society, a #RSS-#BJP mole masquerading as a TV anchor will be sacked. It is a promise, Arnab Goswami.”
When we win in 2019, this religious bigot, who regularly spews hatred, spreads fake news and polarises society, a #RSS–#BJP mole masquerading as a TV anchor will be sacked. It is a promise, Arnab Goswami. https://t.co/9z6kCM2sHB
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) November 3, 2018
The Congress kept growing intolerant of Republic and its Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, and even decided to boycott the TV channel.
Congress leaders and spokespersons no longer join the Republic TV debates. Congress supporters now present its point of view before the TV channel.
On the other hand, BJP hasn’t boycotted NDTV despite the channel’s clear biases. In fact, BJP leaders still talk to NDTV journalists. Neither did the BJP target any NDTV journalists after Sambit Patra was insulted by Nidhi Razdan.
But the Congress has not been able to take criticism really well. Arnab Goswami is the first journalist to call Sonia Gandhi by her first name, and the Congress completely lost it. Because not only the grand old party, but the “eminent” journalists of the kind that the party adores have never dared question here.
How dare Arnab Goswami make any remarks that were critical of the Congress President? He probably didn’t know that the Congress leaders consider it blasphemous to ask questions of her.
Now, Republic has claimed that attackers who tried to assault him along with his wife last night, also confessed to Arnab’s security that they have been sent by the grand old party to teach the Republic Editor-in-chief a lesson.
Earlier in the day, Congress leader Alka Lamba said that if Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray doesn’t take legal action, then “I warn him that Congress workers won’t have any option left, but to come out on streets in protest.”
देशभर के कार्यकर्ता #ArnabGoswami द्वारा काँग्रेस अध्यक्षा सोनिया गांधी जी पर दिए गए ब्यान को लेकर बेहद आहत हैं,
— Alka Lamba – अलका लाम्बा🇮🇳 (@LambaAlka) April 22, 2020
It is a sign of weakness and utter intolerance that a journalist should be targeted by a political party, and that there should be a physical attack upon the journalist for which he is holding the grand old party responsible.
Congress loves to hate Arnab Goswami, because Arnab Goswami is not the kind of journalist that the grand old party loves. He doesn’t pander to the oldest political party in India, and doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions of the Congress leaders.