The stunning revelation made by Former French President Francois Hollande sent shock-waves in the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. Even though, Twitterati exploded, the government ministers chose to maintain a stoic silence.
Even an otherwise animated Nirmala Sitharaman, the Indian defence minister, decide to hide from the public glare, seemingly for the fear of being forced to comment on the comments made by Hollande.
The former French president, in his interview to news portal, Mediapart.fr, had revealed that the decision to choose Anil Ambani’s Reliance was the Indian government’s decision adding that his government had ‘no say’ on the matter.
Such was the buzz of this story on social media that six out of 10 top Twitter trends were the hashtags related to the Rafale scam. Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai felt that Hollande had done a ‘Rafale strike’ on the Modi government on the anniversary of India’s much-publicised ‘surgical strike’ inside Pakistan exactly a year ago.
Journalist Angshukanta termed the Rafale scam as ‘the biggest corruption story of the Modi era’ while congratulating Ravi Nair, who first broke the story on Janta Ka Reporter last year. Janta Ka Reporter in its three part series last year had first exposed the scam in the purchase of Rafale jets from the French company Dassault aviation. (You can read them here Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3).
However, not everyone was as enthusiastic in reporting the Hollande’s comments. There was a deafening silence in the usually loud TV studios of Times Now. This is how the channel’s boss, Rahul Shivshankar, broke the news. The care employed by Shivshankar in choosing his words in a bid to be politically correct was in sharp contrast to how approaches even seemingly fake stories against the non-BJP parties.
This is how he broke the news on Hollande’s comments.
“..But today IF this particular tweet that QUOTES an ALLEGED interview by Francois Hollande, the former French President is to be BELIEVED, then, then, there’s REASON to doubt the government’s claims, because what has ALLEGEDLY Francois Hollande said? He said Reliance Defence was not chosen by Dassault as the offset partner…”
Shivshankar’s unease in broadcasting a damaging story for the Modi government did not stop here. His visible apprehension was glaring even in his subsequent newscast. He said, “The ONLY THING we need to now find out is WHAT TIME PERIOD was Francois Hollande referring to. As of now, teh defence ministry has tweeted that they are verifying exactly what this particular interview has said.”
Shivshankar then left the lovers of journalism ‘incredibly humbled’ when he said that he was waiting for the confirmation from the Modi government. He said, “We don’t have the confirmation from the government.” Seconds later, the Times Now’s editor stopped short of conceding that the Congress may have been right in its claim that the Rafale deal was a scam.
He said, “And it appears as of now, given this new information, this late breaking twist to the saga, the Congress perhaps now has the ammunition to corner the government on the Rafale deal.”
Scribe quotes ex-French President, ‘Dassault didn’t pick Ambani’ claim. Congress latches on to Scribe’s tweet, accuses government of lying. Centre verifies claim after storm. Is Rafale a liability for NDA?@RShivshankar on #RafaleTwist pic.twitter.com/o9dzBmhwN0
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) September 21, 2018
What was evident from the Times Now’s broadcast of one of the biggest breaking stories of the recent time was the careful tone of the channel’s editor. It amply showed just how biased the Indian channels had become in the last four-and-a-half-years of the Modi rule.
There’s no prize for guessing that the Republic TV, founded by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, chose to skip the topic for its prime time debate. Arnab Goswami, the co-founder of the channel, instead discussed other three burning issues faced by Indias, namely India rejecting talks with Pakistan, politics of surgical strikes and the arrest of a bishop, accused or raping a nun.