Sam Pitroda is a top aide of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and has reportedly been instrumental in facilitating his foreign engagements in the recent past.
Pitroda is, however, an angry man today, visibly disgusted by his decision to give an ‘exclusive interview’ to Times Now’s ‘neutral journalist’ Rahul Shivshankar. In his long Twitter rant, Pitroda, who held key roles in the UPA government, accused Times Now of ‘low professionalism.’
His tweet read, “I am very disappointed with @TimesNow for their low professionalism and ethical standards as a major TV channel in India. I stay away from TV interviews with Indian TV channels and never participate on panel discussions at all because I have seen what they show.”
His subsequent tweet said that he agreed to give his ‘exclusive’ interview to Times Now because the channel had promised in writing that a ‘neutral journalist’ Rahul Shivshankar will speak to him. He wrote, “I agreed last week to do an exclusive 25 minute interview with @TimesNow to discuss ongoing economy and RG’s visits abroad. I was given in writing that “@RShivshankar Rahul Shivshankar, Editor in chief will be the moderator- very neutral Journalist “. I agreed to exclusive 25 minute interview as a professional to discuss #Economy, #Jobs, #Technology and visits & views abroad because I felt it will give some space to #TRUTH.”
Pitroda further wrote that he was very ‘surprised’ to learn that ‘Rahul Shivshankar started with a question’ on a court case against UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald controversy and not ‘economy’ that he was invited to talk about.
He said that Shivshankar, the channel’s editor-in-chief, ‘kept bombarding me with questions not related what we had agreed to discuss – ongoing #Economy or visits abroad’ despite his repeated requests. He wrote, “Out of common decency and respect for the viewers, I stayed on and tried my best to be fair, sincere, honest, responsive and respectful.”
Pitroda said that the treatment meted out by Times Now had left him disturbed. He wrote, “I am disturbed by the depth to which @TimesNow will sink to get an exclusive interview from me and then claim that I dogged (sic) replies!!”
In his follow up tweets, Pitroda invoked Mahatma Gandhi to issue sermon on truth adding that he hoped ‘some will learn to speak truth at least by October 2nd 2018,’ the birth anniversary of India’s father of the nation.
Shivshankar shot back countering Pitroda’s claims saying that there was no truth in allegations of trapping him during the interview. He wrote, “No question of trapping anyone. I told you there had been a development in a case in which you were involved. I ‘begged your indulgence’ and you answered the questions. It is all there on tape.”
Maintaining that ‘journalists look for opportunities to extract answers’ and there was ‘nothing unethical in that,’ Shivshankar said, “You could have terminated the interview, but didn’t. Times Now is not a platform for propaganda. My office informed you that questions will be hard. You agreed.”
The Congress has often been accused of its inconsistencies and lack of conviction while maintaining relationship with the Indian media outlets. Times Now is among the list of channels, officially boycotted by the party along with Republic TV and Zee News. Yet several of its top leaders have frequently appeared on the channel for ‘exclusive’ interviews.
Not too long ago, the day India’s oldest party decided to ban the appearance of its spokespersons on an Aaj Tak programme, one of its top leaders and former Uttarakhand chief minister, Harish Rawat was seen gracing the same programme, presented by controversial anchor Rohit Sardana.
Just ebfore the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Rahul’s advisors had chosen Times Now as the channel for his first ever TV interview. That interview with Arnab Goswami (then with Times Now), say many experts, was one of the reasons for its abysmal performance in the elections. Rahul had come out very poorly in the face of aggressive grilling by Goswami, a known supporter of the BJP. Goswami later quit Times Now to launch a new channel, Republic TV with the financial support of BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.