Arnab Goswami, who founded Republic TV with the help of BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has often been seen as a flag-bearer of the saffron party in the Indian media. He was, however, a different man recently while organising a TV debate on the controversy over Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s comments addressing Jaish Chief Masood Azhar as ‘ji.’
What came as a real shock to BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia and lawyer Monika Arora, who was seen defending the BJP on the controversy on the show, was an unusual stand taken by Goswami. Goswami’s TV debate was taking place hours after the Congress had released videos of several BJP leaders addressing Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and Afzal Guru with respect.
In one video, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad too was seen addressing Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack in 2008, as ji. Another old video showed veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi address Hafiz Saeed as ‘Shri.’ And if this was not enough, another video of 2017 emerged showing Sambit Patra address Afzal Guru, who was hanged to death for attacking the Indian parliament, as ‘ji.’
Although Goswami only referred to Prasad’s video and did not highlight the other two videos, he was quick to conclude that the BJP was in no position to attack the Congress on the Masood Azhar controversy. Addressing the pro-BJP lawyer, Goswami said, “Monika Arora, before I go to Gaurav Bhatia, this was made a huge issue yesterday that Rahul Gandhi has said Masood Azhar ji. But now it emerges Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also called Hafiz Saeed Hafiz ji. So this is egg on BJP’s face.”
There were also moments when he politely requested Bhatia to not change the subject when he tried to bring the Congress’ stand on the Balakot air strikes. Goswami said, “Gaurav, this is very wrong. Don’t change the subject.”
Goswami made desperate attempts to strike a difficult balance of highlighting BJP’s hypocrisy without showing his usual aggression. This was also evident in his concluding comments as he said, “On this debate, I must say that the Congress party has hit the equaliser today. The battle is still on. In the Ji Vs Ji contest, the moral of the story is; Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.”
Not so long ago, Goswami was seen causing disappointment to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman by giving her grief on the Rafale controversy. This was just days after he had accused the BJP of indulging in politics of lies.