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10 things we know from 'ArnabGate'

By SUMIT BHATTACHARYA
Last updated on: January 20, 2021 21:47 IST
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Sumit Bhattacharya lists what the leaked WhatsApp conversations reveal about the man named Arnab Goswami, and a certain PDG.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
 

So, just how patriotic is India's Patriot Missile?

The nation that wants to know has been poring through an official-looking document floating around in cyberspace to find out.

#ArnabGate it has come to be called, because the 500-page document is purportedly part of a Mumbai police chargesheet in the alleged television ratings scam in which some television channels are accused of inflating its viewership in cahoots with the industry body Broadcast Audience Research Council.

The document has years of WhatsApp conversations between someone named PDG, which is purportedly now-arrested BARC chief Partho Dasgupta, and a certain 'Arnab Goswami'.

It also has said PDG's conversations with other people. But it's the conversations ascribed to the man named as Arnab Goswami that has pushed the country's eyebrows into a Baba Ramdev posture.

Given that the 'leak' happened the same day that another high-profile journalist, Nidhi Razdan, admitted on social media that she had been the victim of a phishing attack that foxed even a seasoned scribe like her into believing Harvard wanted to hire her, there have to be caveats.

There is no official word that the Arnab Goswami the conversations are ascribed to is India's defender in chief on the airwaves who takes on everyone from Pakistani generals to mullahs on his TV show, demanding answers for a nation that he claims wants to know.

The conversations also talk about abbreviations that coincide with initials of powerful personalities, and of names of people in power. They also talk about media houses and big names in those houses.

There is no concrete evidence that they correspond to real politicians, people, or events, apart from the time stamps given on the document that seem to coincide with real events.

That, and the conspicuous lack of denial* from anyone about the chats.

With that out of the way, let us look at what the purported conversations do reveal about the man named as Arnab Goswami, and a certain PDG.

1. This Arnab Goswami and PDG are kindred spirits

The conversations are evidently between two very close friends. It is evident they share the same worldview and great camaraderie. You often feel guilty about trespassing on such intimate messages.

For example, during a chat that is time-stamped around the time Republic TV was preparing for launch, PDG tells Arnab Goswami: 'You should look at Mamata and Muslim issue in Bengal.'

The man named as Arnab Goswami replies: 'Oh my god. You're like my alter ego man.'

Then he goes on to describe how his team are 'like wolves' on the story.

At many points, this Arnab Goswami and this PDG celebrate this Arnab Goswami's success, and promise to be with each other 'through thick and thin'.

2. This Arnab Goswami is sure of the right backing for his channel

Around the time that Republic TV launched, this Partho Das Gupta tells this Arnab Goswami: 'All kinds of political games have started. Ministers being quoted.'

This Arnab Goswami replies: 'All ministers with us. Absolute rubbish.'

Later, he says: 'Not even a secretary meets India Today NDTV and Times is boycotted by the govt.'

Later, after the launch of republic Bharat, the Arnab Goswami describes how 'PMO', 'MIB' and bureaucratic 'influencer circles' are happy with Bharat's growth.

3. This Arnab Goswami and PDG coordinate on court cases

There are detailed chats about lawyers and cases, even frantic exchanges when lawyers don't turn up in court on time.

In one conversation purportedly about a case against either Republic TV and/or BARC, PDG sends three messages one after the other:

'That's why I appointed him.'

'Buy.'

'The judge.'

This is followed by sharing of links of reports on legal victories for Republic channel.

4. TRP is all this Arnab Goswami cares about

The chats reveal an Arnab Goswami who is obsessed with only one thing: Winning. The two discuss every spike in ratings that seems unnatural to them about other channels.

The chats can safely be taught in classes about how to launch a a news channel and ensure it gets the widest reach possible.

Every news break is discussed, and this Arnab Goswami boasts how he is demolishing competitors and bringing back news to TV.

Sample these:

'Bina break ke Modi on Bharat and snow in kashmir on aajtak.'

'Yogi live on Bharat Chinese panda live on aajtak.'

The chats reveal a person so obsessed with winning that even scores of soldiers being killed is a victory for him.

At 4.19 pm on February 14, 2019, the day of the tragic Pulwama attack, this Arnab Goswami says: 'Sir 20 min ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir... only channel with a ground presence.'

A day later, he tells PDG: 'This attack we have won like crazy.'

5. This Arnab Goswami gets advice from PDG

In the buildup to a purported interview with someone named Modi, PDG tells this Arnab Goswami: 'Last few Modi interviews have not spiked much. Because they were very thanda.'

6. This Arnab Goswami is the definition of 'Lutyen's media'

The chats are replete with examples of the proximity of this Arnab Goswami with purported ministers.

The chats reveal at least one event with someone named as Smriti Irani that this Arnab Goswami fixed for this PDG, meetings with someone named as Venkaiah, and towards the end of the chats, frantic appeals from PDG to this Arnab Goswami for intervention from something called the PMO, and someone named as Amit Shah.

Around the time of a Cabinet rejig, this Arnab Goswami tells PDG: 'Calls will go after 6.30 pm from Amit Shah.'

7. This Arnab Goswami knew before Balakot that something was afoot

At 10.31 pm on February 23, this Arnab Goswami tells PDG: 'On another note something big will happen.'

PDG asks: 'Dawood?'

Arnab Goswami replies: 'No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.'

PDG says: 'Good. It's good for big man this season. He will sweep the polls then.'

Then PDG asks: 'Strike? Or bigger.'

Arnab Goswami: 'Bigger than a normal strike. And also on 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.'

The day after Indian fighter planes bombed Balakot, PDG asks: 'Was yesterday's airstrike the 'big one' you spoke about? Or something more?'

Arnab Goswami replies: 'More to come.'

8. This Arnab Goswami has two dates of birth

One a certain date, exactly at 12 midnight, PDG sends a 'happy birthday' message, with a question about whether it's his real birthday because he knows this Arnab Goswami has an official and an unofficial date of birth.

This Arnab Goswami replies: 'Boss this one is unofficial but real.'

This part of trivia should not matter because many have such anomalies in their official documents.

Then again, in Assam, the state the real Arnab Goswami traces roots to, many people have been declared 'foreigners' and lodged in detention camps for more minor mismatches in official documents.

9. It's not just abbreviations, Politicians are mentioned by name as well

Towards the end of the chats, this PDG gets increasingly concerned, at one point complaining that his passport could be impounded 'for such a small thing'. And he implores this Arnab Goswami to pull the right strings.

Sample this:

PDG: 'Rajat will play other games. Is playing'.

Arnab Goswami: 'He tried but his clout in required circles severely compromised. Walks around with six bouncers everywhere. Only AJ meets him. Wanted to get govt recognition for NBA. Has failed to do that'.

PDG: 'Yes I meant he tried dirty tricks on the ground -- coz my team catches -- he is majorly against us'.

PDG: 'Yes neither NM or AS'.

Arnab Goswami: 'NM or AS hate him. He has fought with people close to both. Tried doing deals. Entry banned'.

On March 25, 2019, PDG says: 'In strict confidence. Rajat going after me. You need to help me thru PMO. Have aligned Punit'.

Arnab Goswami: 'Noted and will happen'.

Further on in the same conversation, PDG says: 'Pls ask someone to tell Rajat, NBA and TRAI not to needle us. Trai spreading misinformation that we are not putting out ratings'.

'I helped BJP on that advertiser story too -- and MIB on multiple issues -- it's time they shaft people who are against them'.

On April 4, 2019, Arnab Goswami says: 'In two months if bjp comes trai won't have teeth. They have taken on AS. Who told them to pull back and they didn't'.

PDG says: 'Can you help by telling AS to tell TRAI to pipe down on barc?'

Arnab Goswami says: 'I can. Send a msg'.

Later, PDG says: 'Can you text AS and get TRAI rapped'.

Arnab Goswami replies: 'Can you give me 3 points why trai action is working against As interest. Politically'.

On April 16, 2019 PDG says: 'But he is badmouthing me coz of you. And using NBA's shoulders. Can't NM/AS teach him a lesson. Disband NBA'.

Arnab Goswami says: 'Message has gone. He is history after polls'.

PDG: 'But by polls he will create damage. You are taking it lightly'.

Arnab Goswami: 'No sir. I have taken it seriously and will tell you when we meet'.

Later the same day, this Arnab Goswami says: 'PMO has been told personally by me about BARC'.

PDG: 'Yes but he had to back us up -- an not let others affect us'.

Arnab Goswami: 'Right now they are all Maha distracted'.

On April 19, 2019, PDG says: 'Either we strike first or he'.

Arnab Goswami: 'He can't and won't.'

PDG: 'He can unless Amit Shah or someone directly tells him to steer clear of BARC'.

Arnab Goswami: 'Implementing our discussion'.

On May 30, 2019, this Arnab Goswami says: 'Great news. Amit Shah in govt. The order changes. Complete cleanup. You can happily push back'.

On June 6, 2019, this Arnab Goswami writes: '....Trying to announce nbf. Will neutralise Rajat'.

PDG: 'yes and get it blessed by Minister'

Arnab Goswami: 'That he will. And PMO. Have told both.'

10. This Arnab Goswami knew the economy was 'screwed' much before the pandemic

On April 10, 2019, PDG says: 'NM/AS should first rejig the finance ministry in second term -- the economy is screwed -- no matter what we tell outside... Jaitley is their biggest failure.'

Arnab Goswami: 'That I agree totally.'

*In a statement issued on Wednesday, Arnab Goswami did not deny the WhatsApp chats.

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SUMIT BHATTACHARYA / Rediff.com
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