Arnab’s interview with Narendra Modi has buzzed social media so much so, that the self-proclaimed watch dog of the Indian media industry had to give an interview himself to a little known entity called News Mobile, where he said, “There is a group that has nothing to do but discuss me, my stories and my interviews, day in and day out without any fail without getting exhausted. I am very flattered. It shows how keenly they watch The Newshour and Frankly Speaking. I can only say that for their loyal and enthusiastic viewer-ship, I’m very grateful.”
It is true that there is a group which makes sure that it watches all the shows of Goswami, not because they enjoy it, but to present a rational criticism of his style of journalism, which many of us believe, is setting up a wrong precedent for young journalists in the industry. In this case it becomes extremely important for journalists and other actors to present a counter-view of the discourses set up by him.
However, his interview with the Prime Minister was a little out of the track, it was truly sober and unlike him. And we as viewers and critiques of his style of journalism would much appreciate if this comes as a turning point in Arnab’s professional career. But that would be too much of optimism on our part, after all journalists’ today have to work with an ‘agenda’ and at times use their shows as medium to campaign their interests. And this is not just about anyone in particular; it’s about a trend in the industry, which is degrading the profession. It’s about the TRP, as Arnab would himself say, this interview would set a benchmark in terms of viewer-ship and reach.
Now, coming down to the interview, Arnab missed an opportunity to grill a Prime Minister who has hardly had a two way conversation with media since assuming office. This was a golden opportunity. The body language and the kind of questions that celebrated journalist posed to the Prime Minister said it all, that it was not a usual interview.
He almost agreed on everything that the Prime Minister had to say in reply to his soft ended questions. There was no counter questioning, no punches, and just gentle nod to whatever the Prime Minister had to say.
Rather than questioning the failure of India’s foreign policy in terms of its attempts to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the journalist appreciated the effort of his government to have proactively engaged with China.
There was no tough questioning on economy either, the rising inflation, and not enough jobs being created in the market, nothing on the promise of black money and the ‘Chunawi Jumla’ of crediting everyone’s account with Rs 15 lakh . Consciously or unconsciously, the noted journalist neglected to ask the Prime Minister of his U turn on Pakistan policy; in light of what all he had to say during the campaign for 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.
On the question of intolerance, Arnab did ask the Prime Minister what to do with those who had been making extreme comments, and the reply to this, completely satisfied Arnab. ‘Stop making heroes out of them’, is what the Prime Minister had to say, completely forgetting that he had made a minister of one among those accused of instigating the Muzaffarnagar riots.
It only blows one to imagine that a journalist of his stature would buy this theory of ‘stop making heroes out them’, without pointing out how the administration has given an open hand to these elements in doing and saying what they want to.
And above all, one question that intrigued everyone was why the Prime Minister had been so generous to Arnab in particular? Why two exclusive interviews to him and not a press conference in general?
There remains a question mark over the timing of this interview which had come at a spell when India’s failure to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group seems to have rattled the Prime Minister. His decision to speak to Times Now might be an attempt to recover grounds he conceded over the last
The other theory being propounded behind this is Modi knows that Arnab is just another TV tormenter, despite all his chest thumping and screaming in his studio, he is submissive to superior powers. He is someone who draws a line of demarcation, being contemptuous to those who can’t harm his interest and act as a Ginny pig for the mighty and powerful. A glimpse from his interview with people like Raj Thackeray in the past could substantiate this claim.
However, whatever the reasons for this ‘fixed match’ might be, one thing is certain that Arnab has defeated the purpose of journalism again by pampering PM Modi and treating him with kid gloves.