The curious case of Arnab Goswami and his selective loss of voice

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There was plenty of buzz around Arnab Goswami’s rare TV interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. The intense conversation on the Times Now’s upcoming editorial made perfect sense given that our prime minister is known for his abhorrence for two way interaction with the media.

While most were not surprised on Modi’s choice of Arnab as the host for his first TV interview since becoming India’s prime minister, one could not stop being inquisitive about the content of this much-publicised editorial.

The interview was broadcast at 6 PM on Times Now and media outlets up and down the country began to provide prominent coverage with many going live with the updates on what Modi had to say. Quite unprecedented coverage even for a prime minister’s interview indeed! But that’s the expected outcome when your prime minister detests giving interview for the fear of being asked uncomfortable questions. This also amply corroborated just how badly Indians wanted the prime minister to hold two way conversations even if it was a journalist of his choice.

Senior journalist Sagarika Ghose spoke for millions when she tweeted, “Dear @PMOIndia pls hold an open press conference rather than bestow favours on individual journalists. Let there be free and fair exchange. (sic)”

Modi-Arnab

Sagarika also highlighted that Arnab had curiously ‘forgotten’ to ask some difficult questions that may have given potential grief to the prime minister.

She wrote, “Essar tapes? Vadra? Relations with delhi govt? relations with RSS? Would have liked some tougher questions. #PMSpeaksToArnab.”

But Sagarika was being chivalrous even in her criticism for what was nothing but an utter disgraceful display of journalism.

It’s not to say Arnab doesn’t necessarily possess the required quality of a good journalist. Having worked in the Indian media I must reveal that Arnab has fans even in his rival channels and they are often owners and promoters.

I too have informed Arnab about my admiration for his journalism on occasions whenever he displayed moments of sheer brilliance.

But on Monday his performance came as a massive let down. Not only did he justify his critics who often detected glaring biases in his channel’s editorial, he also single-handedly demolished his own claims on high impact journalism.

One didn’t have to be a journalist to conclude that Arnab’s interview with Modi came as a ‘fixed match.’

Throughout the interview Arnab appeared to have lost his voice and his usual aggression mysteriously absent. My psychologist wife tells me that this is usually a manifestation of deep nervousness coupled with the fear of adverse consequences from the guest (Modi in this case). On other occasions this is because of the interviewer’s ideological similarities with that of the guest.

Many would wonder why Arnab loses his voice only when he’s interviewing Modi or Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Different journalists have different interviewing styles. For example, seldom would you see Shekhar Gupta being aggressive with or giving a difficult time to his guests. And yet often he manages to get a newsline or two from his interviews.

I also usually tend to rely on the art of diplomacy to make my guests commit to something he or she wouldn’t have been prepared to do otherwise. Arnab’s breed usually tend to rely on sheer aggression. And we’ve seen that after watching his Newshour and Frankly Speaking for years.

Those who watched Arnab’s famous interview with the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi just before the Lok Sabha elections were bound to be left shocked at the blatant discrepancies in the approach adopted by the Times Now’s editor-in-chief vis-a-vis Modi on Monday. As a good journalist, he had indeed managed to get the weaknesses of Rahul out in public. He simply refused to do the same with Modi on this occasion.

Just consider the following questions and the manner in which they were asked;

On China, Arnab simply couldn’t muster up the courage to ask Modi whether his government’s inability to secure the NSG membership was a sign of failure of his foreign (jhoola) diplomacy. Instead, he began his question by showering praises on Modi’s foreign policy towards China. The journalist declared that Modi government’s approach towards China had been very ‘proactive.’ Then he went on to ask the ‘question.’ In response, the prime minister didn’t have much to add other than just to agree with most of what Arnab had to say. This pretty much remained the hallmark of the rest of the interview.

On Modi’s speech at the joint session of US Congress, Arnab once again made sure that the Prime Minister was aware of his admiration for his eloquence. He mentioned it twice. Right in the beginning he said, ‘by the way that was a fantastic speech.! Was it extempore?’

And if Modi was not fully convinced just how much Arnab admired him, Arnab repeated towards the end when he said, “I thought it was impromptu. It was a wonderful moment when you were speaking… You should not lose your sense of humour Mr PM.”

On relationship with Pakistan, Arnab fondly remembered how on 8 May 2014 he had the ‘opportunity to interview’ Modi, who according to him ‘had an uncompromising view’ on the neighbouring country. And if you thought this led him to ask Modi’s glaring U-turn on Pakistan, you were left disappointed. The following question was asked, “Do din pehle our 8 soldiers were killed. Do you think we’ve become too generous towards Pakistan?”

Cute isn’t it?

Arnab asked Modi questions on Pathankot Air Base attack too but it wasn’t about intelligence failure and his government’s inability to neutralise the terrorists for 80 hours.

He asked, “Were the movements (by terrorists) happening before the attack in October, November, December?”

Modi evaded even this innocuous question and, as expected, Arnab chose not to counter the prime minister.

The economy too was on Arnab’s mind, but not about devaluation of rupee against US dollars, rising inflation and growing number of joblessness in the country.

Instead, we were witness to this tribute, “Social agenda appears to be the core of your economic philosophy?…You’ve managed to grow the economy at 7.5 % despite weak economic outlook…Food inflation is not coming down. People have high hopes in you. Food inflation has reached 7.5%. Does it create perceptional issue for you? Or is it just seasonal?”

And while asking this question, not many noticed that Arnab addressed Modi as Mr Prime Minister at least five times.

In response, Modi claimed the pace with which price rise took place during the UPA was not happening now. Once again Arnab remained quiet and felt no need to challenge him. Even when Modi indirectly blamed the state governments for price rise.

This was soon followed by another bout of rich tribute for ‘Mr Prime Minister.’

He said, “Mr Prime Minister, if I may say, you are speaking as straight as you had spoken a year ago.”

He then went on to glorify the steps Modi had taken through transparent taxation and shrinking black money market.

Arnab added, “Yes, you had said that in February that the then finance minister (P Chitambaram) was merely doing a lip service on black money.

On Modi’s promises of transferring Rs 15 lakh to every Indian’s bank account, Arnab did not remind him the ‘jumla’ jibe by the BJP President Amit Shah. Instead, he very respectfully asked, “what will you say to the opposition?”

But Arnab had saved a gem for the last, when he declared that “in your entire tenure there’s been no major scams. Is it because you keep a tight vigil on things?”

We are not sure why the Times Now’s famous anchor forgot the endless number of debates he had held on Vyapam, Khadse’s resignation, Lalit-gate involving Vasundhara Raje Scindia her son and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.

I thought he was simply brilliant in his debates all throughout Lalit-gate scandal demanding the resignations of Swaraj and Scindia. Unfortunately, his own memory didn’t serve him well on this occasion!

In short, Arnab’s interview was everything you would encourage a budding reporter never to emulate. If anything, his interview with Modi should form an important case study on ‘How Not To Do An Interview.’

So, next time he says he fears nobody, you can be guaranteed giggles in living rooms of households around the country.

62 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that some points you make are valid like the relationship with the Delhi government. But I also disagree on many points, first of all, even in Rahul Gandhi’s interview, there were no aggressive questions, it were the answers that dented Rahul’s image forever. Also, the scams that Arnab is referring to are the 3G scam, Coalgate scam and not people running away from India etc. There is a big difference. Also, the Prime Minister of the country is meant to be respected, or there will be no difference left between AAP and the media.

    • Yes I agree PM should always be respected along with all the other MPs, MLAs,, Journalist whether in power to else when you invite them for debate (if you consider it to be). It is only for politicians to change their method and approach as per time but not a journalist for sure.

    • Nobody disrespects PM in a country of personality worshipers; especially when democracy itself is borrowed in the light of party-based-politics. With the socio-cultural mindset feudal India has the more important goal for a personality is his elevation from tea-boy status to PM of a billion soul. Rest of regard is secondary if not useless. We are drunk with celebrities and PM’s achievement is more glorified at his personal achievement front for history to record than hungry stomach of hard working people dreaming about Rs200/- a Kg dal to procure. Of course such interview are to be ‘match-fixed’, provided such examples are not available to view for being practised on foreign soil, to wherever PM is a regular visitor.

  2. The moment when someone declares that he/she thinks that Modi ‘promised’ 15 Lakh Rupees, lack of his understanding of Hindi, or lack of his IQ, or lack of his sincerity becomes clear.

  3. i used to be a great fan of Arnav Goswami, watching every episode of him. when i saw his other side of journalism and it is such a biased one , it seems like every debate is fixed and one thing damn sure nothing will come out as result. In the very last you will think why i just wasted my valuable times, because you will not gain anything. If anybody ask you can only tell them the subject of the debate , but not the outcome. Then finally thought it’s better to do any kind of work in the world rather than watching and getting bad headache.

  4. Bull shit!! Total crap!! You are biased against modi, probably you voted for Congress.. And what arnab did was the genuine attitude a reporter should have while talking to ” The prime minister of India”, even if he is elected you can’t treat him as your servant and shout on him ,for why this happened? What were you doing? Why were you quiet? … And the prime minister hasn’t given any reasons yet to turn angry on him while talking.. Narendra modi is our prime minister and he should be treated with respect everywhere inside the country atleast by those who are well aware of the dignity of that position he holds and then he is ” The narendra modi”. Even US congress respects him and praises him, you think that our own reporter should turn aggressive on him in an interview? What will it show to the world ?? …#PMspeakstoArnab.. Fair interview!! ..

    • Are re ek aur bhakt ke khujlli shuru ho gayi. Ye sab page tumhare liya nhi hain. Jaao Zee news dekho jake ya times Now

    • Why was the same respect not given to ‘The Prime Minister of India’ Dr. MMS? Tearing apart Dr. MMS’s image at every opportunity possible was good for India’s image abroad? What msg did the world get about India during that time? It was all okay because he wasnt someone you supported? And now that someone you support has become PM of India, he should be showered with rose petals and no one should dare to question him? Thats democracy my brother, questioning the people you elected. Its what the constitutions allows Arnab, me and you to do.

    • Well, the PM calls himself Pradhan Sevak so perhaps some tough questions were called for. Please also recal that Namoji and Advaniji used strong words for Dr Manmohan Singh when he was the PM. The US Congress gave him standing ovations too. It’s their civil etiquette. and I thought bhakts didnt care about foreigners praises, so why tomtom the ovations?

    • Aggressive in this context means completely different from what you are comprehending or I should rather say you like to comprehend. The Bhakt word is real. Respect has nothing to do with asking about deaths of farmers and government policy regarding issues. I am a Muslim and I voted for bjp but that’s not the point. The point is the large part of nation wants to know few important things effecting our life’s. We can be like you Bhakts sorry. I respect my PM and I also think a journalist have duty to put him in a tight spot.

    • Some one who has been selected to lead a country by more than 2/3 majority of voting population, certainly deserves Respect and Humility…. We are talking about The Prime Minister of India and not just a minister with a portfolio… We need to curb such volatile emotions and look for avenues to bring about a positive change…!! So let’s change ourselves first before we try to change a journalist of the PM for that matter…. Change Politics from a blame game to a fame game…acts that will bring upon accolodaes and true recognition of one selfless contribution.

  5. The writer has hit the nail on the head. We had both the individuals playing roles foreign to their nature. Questions if not rehearsed were more to give Modi to give answers that one would like to hear but not necessarily truthful as they were very general and not to the point. Since he preferred to reply in Hindi, it becomes obvious that the speech – which was praised by Arnab- to the US congress was ghost written but well delivered as if it was extempore.Just as well as given his proclivity Modi might have spoken irrelevantly. On my inflation, corruption he did not give truthful answers and Arnab let him off the hook. Thanks to Jaitley’s intimate relations with the owners and anchors of most TV channels as I&b Minister, Modi was spared any embarrassment with no tricky questions. Modi by nature has a strong personality and his claim of working as a ‘team’ is a big lie. Except perhaps in economic affairs where he fears to tread, his stamp and decision on all other matters is final- especially in Foreign affairs and commercial decisions. Even whenever he walks with his Cabinet colleagues, he strides in front and everyone else follow him..in his foreign visits he projects himself more strongly than as PM of the country. Perhaps the only salient point if the interview was about Rajan and his condemnation of the MP ( not by name) in clear terms. But this could have been done much earlier and not after the meaningless remarks made in the media. He Remained silent when some MPs and MLAs made RSS up
    inspired statements to cause serious damage but after sometime he has managed to silence such outbursts. There is no doubt that Modi’s has good intentions in announcing various sloganlike projects but the implementation on the ground are lacking. But even here he announces figures at election type meetings which are more hype than truth. No one dares to contradict him including learned and good journalists/ anchors.
    The most pleasing part of the interview was both Arnab and Modi spoke uncharacteristically in soft and mellow voices.

  6. “My psychologist wife tells me that this is usually a manifestation of deep nervousness coupled with the fear of adverse consequences from the guest”

    LOL. What a clown. Get a life, man.

  7. If u spit on the sky – it falls back on ur face. Arnab is smart enough to recognize Narendra Modis unprecedented efforts & growing stature working 20 hours a day 365 days.

  8. There should indeed be a big difference in interviewing our PM and a stupid congress leader Pappu. How can you compare our PM with that douchebag pappu ?

  9. What else can we expect from a muslim reporter. Always against what Modi does. Now they want a bloody open press conference, where were you when gandhis had their pms. Cut the crap, people will start junking your work.

  10. Rifatbhai, AAp ko Tarek Fatahji ne expose kar diya hai. Yeh “Journalism” ke naam per zeher ugalana bandh kare aur Apne mulk mein ja kar Suicide bomber banana sikhe aur apne liye jannat mein jagah banaye.

  11. Arnab Goswami Sucks!!! His interview with PM is a shame to Journalism. Mr. Goswami the popularity, credibility and respect that you had earned has gone to the dogs after this interview. Shame on you and Shame on this government and shame on myself for electing them and following you for years.

    This kind of journalism is dangerous to the democracy of our country. You owe an apology to the NATION and the COUNTRY wants to know what made you do this?

  12. Not at all surprising. Arnab did this kind of PR for Modi, bfore 2014 elections too. He interviewed Rahul G almost a month bfore election to use it against cong – made him the laughing stock throughout campaign time. He interviewed Modi, only the day before election, looked like a prepped one, to show him in better light. Arnab has always displayed bias towards bjp during debates and other news. vvip racism was shown only in non-bjp states. He spews venom on aap govt in Delhi. Modi was the Chief guest for his amazing Indians awards. Arnab’s father was bjp member and contested the 1998 Lok Sabha Polls ( refer wiki). What else can u expect from this undoubtedly bjp anchor?

  13. This article quotes “Sagarika Ghose”, so you can say for sure that the writer is a pseudo intellectual and the writer’s name is Rifat Jawaid, so you know that he is one of those people because of whom Islam and innocent Muslims get a bad name, and that justifies his obvious hate for Modi and everyone in his support.

  14. Arnab’s interview was perhaps the easiest interview any politician has had to face. Most of the questions were prefaced with Arnab’s admiration for the PM. It sounded like a interview of a Chinese or North Korean leader. Arnab spoke with such fear and awe (in return for being granted an exclusive interview) that it was like a fan standing in front of his favorite bollywood actor.

    He didn’t dare cross question, interrupt like he normally does or get agitated once. Clearly, the NewHour Reality Show star does have another avatar.

  15. We should not be surprised if Arnab gets some Padma award or gets Rajya Sabha entry. After all he has proved his loyalty towards Modi.

  16. Shame on the person who wrote this creepy article. The way arnab hosted the show with no arrogance is called respect for the Prime minister of the country. Journalists are not judges or lawyers to raise their voices and cross question anybody for that matter.

  17. Who are you Mr. Rifat Jawaid? I can counter every question that you have posed in this article but i pick and choose my battles. You and people of your mindset are better left unanswered. Keep your gibberish on guys while we take this country to prosperity and unprecendented growth

  18. I saw a different Arnab as a journalist today…………. very disappointed ………….. and more disappointed with PM’s response of 15 lakhs black money to every account ……………. they proved that anybody can be fooled unless one is absolutely crazy about them ……………..

  19. It looked like an Viva voce exam where the examiner is scared of the candidate and assures him that he will ask very simple questions and the candidate will sail through. Based on that assurance the candidate appears for the exam. I think Modi agreed for this interview based on such an assurance.
    So whenever there was the slightest hint that the candidate was not interested with further questions on the issue the examiner drops the question. Arnab did exactly like that. for Modi

  20. Why 99% of TV Anchors of India, the likes of Arnab shout at the guests rather than talking to them?
    Why don’t they let the guest finish her/his answer?
    Why do the take 90% of the show time themselves?

    They need to learn basics before taking the microphone into their hands. It is a pity that they were the examples for the next generations too….:-)

  21. Firstly, I think the format of Frankly Speaking is different from Newshour debate. Debates are noisy and aggressive and it takes good effort to moderate the debate. Secondly, Arnab touched key questions on latest concerns of NSG, Swamy, etc. Its impossible to cover all topics for anyone. Thirdly, we do not live on isolated land. Arnab knows that the i/v would be watched globally. So he needs to be polite, put questions and followup to certain degree and leave it to viewers whether PM’s response is satisfactory. Finally, it is good to hear the PM’s stand on issues and his approach to tackle them which we generally complain of. Hope more such i/vs happen.

  22. Grapes are indeed sour. Sagarika wants a press conference. She should first take some lessons in unbiased journalism. For the benefit of the rabble rousers, Goswami was interviewing the Prime Minister of India and not some riffraff. Goswami was respecting the chair as he should have. Shows his pedigree.

  23. Those who have jaundice see everything as yellow. When so many people set aside all other activities and sat before the TV to watch the interview, even that is taken as a negative attitude of people towards Modi!!! Not heard a better joke before. Do one thing, next time you all can prepare the questions and give to Arnab so that he will not miss out any of the questions u want to ask our PM. You cannot expect him to ask questions of your choice, otherwise. Lol….

  24. Do read this. I know you will ignore this citing “itna lamba Kaun padhe” but do read it.
    The thread begins in 2008, with India winning the waiver from the NSG to undertake nuclear commerce despite being a nuclear power outside the ambit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The next logical step was for India to apply for membership to four high-tech export-control regimes: the NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement (conventional arms, dual-use tech) and the Australia Group (chemical-biological weapons).
    Of these the NSG was a priority. The Group works on consensus. It had given India a waiver in 2008 but could in theory revoke the waiver or change its terms. If India was in the Group it could veto any change that would harm India, Teflon-coat the 2008 waiver and additionally contribute to the global nuclear regime. In 2010, President Barack Obama visited and promised support for Indian entry to the NSG and the other treaties.
    Astonishingly, the UPA government did not apply. It made a noise, but nothing more. Its nuclear liability law, which had problems that were eventually sorted out by the Modi government in 2015, may have deterred it. The liability law had made the 2008 waiver infructuous and nuclear commerce with India near impossible.
    India applied to the MTCR in 2015. After a setback it got in, on the second attempt, in 2016. In May 2016, it applied for NSG membership for the first time. By June most of the countries (about 40 of 48) were willing to take it in straightaway, no questions asked. This was a significant diplomatic achievement over two months.
    Why did India apply now? A sympathetic American president is ending his term. His successor may be preoccupied at the time of the next NSG plenary in 2017. In 2018, India will be in election mode and the Modi government may have less leverage. As such, it was 2016 – or it was a kick down the road.
    In Seoul the NSG delegates met on June 23. China insisted India’s application would not be discussed. Late in the day it agreed to the application being included in the agenda on the condition that no decision on the application would be taken in the 2016 NSG plenary. At this stage, the Indian delegation in Seoul knew immediate success was not possible. Barring a miracle that got the Chinese to change their minds, India would have to come away from Seoul with an “application filed”, not an “application approved”.
    From then on, all discussion in Seoul was theoretical. Every country knew a decision on India was not happening this time. As the conversation continued, the Group broke into four:
    China opposed India full stop. It said India could join only if it signed the NPT
    About 40 countries said admit India at once
    Brazil, Mexico and Switzerland wanted two parallel announcements: India’s entry and a criteria for membership, which would mirror India’s nuclear record. It was understood no other country at present met those possible criteria
    New Zealand and Ireland wanted the criteria for membership to come first and then an announcement that India was meeting those criteria. They too understood no other country at present met those possible criteria.
    South Africa oscillated between positions three and four. Turkey remained neutral. Nobody other than China said it didn’t want India or opposed India. Nobody, not even China, brought up Pakistan. It was recognised that since China had vetoed a decision on the Indian application this had become a normal diplomatic confab, not a decisive discussion.
    The word “criteria” has been used more than once. What was the nub of “criteria”? It was not that an applicant should necessarily be a signatory to the NPT. It was that an applicant must adhere and commit to the spirit of the NPT. The 2008 NSG waiver explicitly stated India was part of the “widest possible implementation of the provisions and objectives” of the NPT. As such, 47 of 48 countries were fine with India not signing the NPT and validated India, with its impeccable non-proliferation history, as being NPT compatible.

  25. Sagarika & her Husband cricketer son Rajdeep are sycophants of Congress since many years because all their lavish lifestyle has been sponsored by Congress & it’s sycophants millionaire who made money by bringing Congress’ ministers Both are worst yellow journalists of the century Both are third class with mediocre IQ level totally unprofessional useless believe in yellow journalism

  26. Best was when Arnab declared that rabble rousers within BJP are “self styled”! Is Amit Shah also self styled whose polarising UP? And didn’t Modi do his bit to polarise Bihar polls yet still failed?

  27. this arnab is not a journalist but a strong supporter of modi only. his journalisam is one sided drama. dont see his fake show.

  28. This Writer is known for his hatred towards Modi.You can’t have a same toner when you are interviewing the PM of INDIA or any other xyz.Rifat Jawaid shows sheer hypocrisy when he accuses Times-Now of being a BJP mouthpiece.This website is itself said to be an AAP funded website and this Rifait has also taken many chocolate interviews of Kejriwal,who more then often retweets him on twitter

  29. You guys and especially the writer of this article who I would have easily guessed his religion without even looking at his name. dont understand and appreciate the fact that a PM for the first time is giving an interview. Forget about what they talked about and what not. This is the problem in India, whoever tried to do some good work everyone will do anything to bring him down. I do not want to go to the details at all.

  30. I think public memory is short….remember Raj Thackeray’s interview, there also Arnab looked meek. No one bashed him for that…. no fellow journalist tweeted saying why he did not ask this question or that….. I agree few more questions could have been asked. But end of the Day you need to give respect to the person who is being interviewed, well he is head of our state and you cannot bash him. Tomorrow if RaGa or anyone else also becomes PM same principle would apply. Well I was surprised to hear Congress spokie’s comments let our journalists take interview…
    Our journalist’s????? That sums up…. I feel journos should be neutral…. but it’s not the case though…. anyways people of India please support who so ever is your head of the state and indulge in constructive criticism rather than bashing…..

  31. That no major scams have taken place is true. Vyapam, Chikki , Vasundhara Raje are state subjects and i don’tthink you can link up Modi directly to them.

  32. most importantly there is a really big difference between a “debate” and an “interview”. It’s really absurd when people question him(ag) why he didn’t speak In his “high baritone” with which he conducts his newhours and instead was meek.you don’t find anchors and journalists arguing and jumping over them (whom they would have respectfully invited)with high voices whoever it is,don’t you reckon.
    well praises and salutations are part and parcel of a decent interview.

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