Dated 23 February 2019, in a whatsapp chat between the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and BARC’s then chief executive ParthoDasgupta, discussing how it can work wonders for channel ratings. [Balakot] The lid blew off a foul smelling cauldron of muck. This chat is part of Mumbai Police’s charge sheet, submitted before a court that focuses on how the media manipulated Television Rating Points (TRPs).
Arnab Goswami is a typical case of larger-than-life persona many in electronic media have developed, not just in India, but also in this side of the border. These shrill voices of ‘national conscience’ are revealed in the most deprecating ways.
Goswami was very much a privy to the plan of Modi Sarkar’s plan to strike Balakot 3 days before it took place. ‘The 2019 general election was just a few months away. Mr. Dasgupta pressed for further clarity, asking Mr. Goswami, “Strike? Or bigger”. And Mr. Goswami responded, saying that it would be “bigger than a normal strike”. Then he went on to add, “And also at the same time something major on Kashmir. On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated. Exact words used.” [JANUARY 16, 2021: The Hindu]
This leak, obviously deliberate, by someone highly placed in the government set-up, raises a very serious question. How can a matter of national security interest that too of such a sensitive nature be bandied about in the banal corridors of whatsapp?
The leaked whatsApp chat reveals, the main purpose of the Balakot strikes was allegedly to win the elections for Modi in the parliamentary polls. If this is correct, it is an example of horrific sacrifice of a national policy and interests at the altar of personal gains. Creating an atmosphere of fear, ahead of theLok Sabha polls, giving out the vibes that only BJP can handle the ‘neighboring monster.’ India lost an airplane worth corers, Wing Commander AbhinandanVarthaman was taken captive bringing shame to India and respect to Pakistan for returning the downed pilot to India.
On Modi Sarkar hardline stance on the question of national security, on hitting back at the neighbor after Pulwama, BJP’s seat projections jumped by 30-40, the stock market behavior reflected Modi’s retaining the premiership, it washed away the economic pressures caused by GST and demonetization casting a warm glow aroud Modi’s halo at being able to defend the country from the jaws of the ‘enemy’.
One is reminded of Margaret Thatcher and her decision to go to war in 1982. The Falklands war came at a time when there was a lot of infighting in the Tory party. Bets were taken on whether or not she can continue in her office till next year. Hardly anyone trusted that Thatcher will head a win for her party again.
This war brought Thatcher to a new high in her career. The left-wing local government took a bashing, miners were silenced, and Europe was tamed.
However, India’s policy towards Pakistan was clear with the appointment of AjitDoval. Looking into AjitDoval’s past and thought process is interesting as it reflects upon the shape of foreign policy India mapped out with Pakistan. AjitDoval holds sway over Indian intelligence agencies. His predecessors hailed from the diplomatic corps, not him. He is from the intelligence operations. He has been part of a think tank with expertise in Pakistan and China affairs. The second Modi stepped out of this ambit, he had to heavily lean on others for expert advice. To say that AjitDoval’s background is interesting is an understatement. He had infiltrated the Golden Temple reportedly in the uniform of an ISI officer, he was involved in negotiating the release of hijacked prisoners of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 in Kandahar in 1999 and “handed over insurgents” from Kashmir and Mizoram. Quoting The Hindu, “MrDoval has talked of the importance of covert action. In a 2012 article, he defines these as “a low cost sustainable offensive with high deniability aimed to bleed the enemy to submission”.
Was this a brainchild of the brilliant MrDoval? One can only admire his sharpness. Whether he is or not an architect of the plan, the Balakot strike was conceptualized beautifully. It killed two birds with one stone. It certainly delivered on the point of BJP winning the polls- it was on the money. Had India’s plane hit & gone back to home territory, it would have been a win-win situation.
Enter Arnab Goswami. Introducing street language in the programmes, losing balance and going overboard with many issues like the coverage of TablighiJamaat, coverage also of the death/suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput. Becoming larger than life he took positions that were laughable if they were not so pathetic.
Then he spilled his bag of goodies.
Where does this leave BJP and where does this leave Mr Modi?
Should not Mr Modi be asked to resign by the Indians who trusted him and voted him in power again?
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9