On the occasion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 66th birthday on 17 September, he received a special birthday greeting from none other than Times Now’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami. The 339-word long message which has been uploaded on Modi’s personal website is full of praise for the Prime Minister.
“As a journalist, I have had the opportunity of interacting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for over 16 years now,” Goswami wrote. The relationship between the two controversial personalities began when Modi was BJP’s General Secretary working out of Delhi. At that time, Goswami was a young beat reporter covering the saffron party.
Lauding Modi’s “simple lifestyle” and “accessibility”, Goswami said “Always willing to chat with reporters sitting in the lawn in 11 Ashoka Road, Shri Modi’s entire personal belongings could probably be packed in a couple of suitcases.”
In the letter, Goswami shared a small anecdote in relation to his first big break when he got an opportunity to anchor the famous programme The Big Fight. Besides diplomat G Parthasarthy, he invited Modi to take on Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in that episode.
“The clarity with which Shri Modi challenged the Hurriyat’s perspective was remarkable. I got a massive response for that episode,” he said. For Goswami, Modi’s stance in that particular televised debate was a reflection of his position on issues of national security.
“On a flight from Mumbai to Delhi, Mr Parthasarthy and I recollected the episode as a reflection of the depth and conviction of Shri Modi’s views on issues concerning national security,” he added.
Ironically, Goswami’s appraisal of the saffron strongman’s understanding of national security came just a day before the Uri attack in which 18 Indian soldiers lost their lives.
One wonders how a responsible journalist can praise the Prime Minister at a time when the state government in Jammu and Kashmir had miserably failed at controlling the unrest in Kashmir over the past three months.
The BJP being an ally of PDP and the ruling party at the centre cannot shy away from taking responsibility for the casualties that have been incurred during the ongoing turmoil.
Highlighting Modi’s humility, Goswami made it a point to commend him for greeting camerapersons, producers, researchers and technicians every time he was interviewed. Much like Modi’s recent interview on Times Now, The Newshour anchor’s birthday greeting did attract a few curious comments.
“A testimonial for the Prime Minister from a TV anchor which is proudly posted on the former’s website. That’s a first, surely,” noted media watchdog The Hoot.
Zafrul Islam Khan, Editor-in-Chief of The Milli Gazette, who made the news for pulling out of Modi’s Muslim-majority delegation to Kashmir, felt that journalists like Goswami had an ulterior motive.
“The way people like Arnab Goswami are behaving is a sad commentary on Indian journalism,” he said.
He pointed out while the fiery presenter shouts and insults guests every night on The Newshour, his behaviour was quite different while interviewing Modi.
Khan revealed that he had stopped appearing on The Newshour despite repeated requests from Times Now. “I have no respect left for him,” he added. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Editor-in-Chief of a leading news website said, “People are smart enough to read and understand.”
Suggesting that enough people will thrash him for greeting Modi, the editor requested to “leave me out of it”. Labelling Goswami’s letter as a “personal” and “laudatory” tribute, senior journalist Rahul Dev maintained that like any other citizen, a journalist also has the right to wish the Prime Minister on his birthday.
“One does expect Arnab to consciously ensure that even praise is also not one-dimensional,” he said. Noting that the letter does leave certain questions in mind, Dev added, “It is a little odd. It doesn’t add to the stature of either Arnab or Modi.”