Republic TV affairs merit case for discussions in coming Parliament session

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By: Sushil Kutty

We’re trying to figure out what or who could ‘AS’ stand for in the Whatsapp chats “leaked” by somebody not in the Republic? The chats allegedly relate to the alleged TRP scam and allegedly is between Republic TV head Arnab Goswami and ex-chief of BARC Partho Dasgupta. Counsel-at-large Prashant Bhushan, who put the chat records up on Twitter, placed both ‘A’ and ‘S’ in the upper case. But some others say the ‘S’ after the ‘A’ in the chats is in the lower case! Now, ‘A’ could be Arnab Goswami! But, then, what to make of ‘S’? Since when did ‘G’ for Goswami become ‘S’ for the Shah of Iran? Unfathomable.

But here’s the story: Arnab Goswami is in an all-mighty war with a host of powerful people and entities. The Mumbai Police and the Maha Vikas Aghadi Maharashtra Government are out to fry him. They almost cooked his goose once, when he found himself in the slammer, shouting for succour and release. As it transpired, Goswami drove out of Taloja Jail unmolested, pumping his fists in the air, triumphant Ganjam-style! People lined up outside the penitentiary cheered him. They lit up his face with a thousand lit mobiles!

That is, those of them who had fallen for his words, many of which now seem empty, vacant, with no substance in them, lacking basic truth – honesty. And, now, Arnab is almost half-fried, and his goose appears fully cooked. The Mumbai Police has got him talking or rather his jailed-pal Partho Dasgupta’s smartphone yapping. What an offering from Whatsapp as it gets rodgered in the sidelines by people dumping it by the millions for Telegram and Signal! The Whatsapp chats of the duo have sent out a strong signal that Arnab Goswami, Republic TV founder- head, has been up to maybe alleged hanky-panky and allegedly folks at the Prime Minister’s Office might be in the know!

But, then, not so quick, there’s no ‘AS’ in the PMO, far as ‘We the People’ know. Last heard there was an ‘AS’ who had gone straight ‘home’ from the party headquarters, thereafter seen loitering in J&K and West Bengal. So, are we making asses of ourselves trying to figure out who the hell could ‘AS’ be? Wrongly assuming that the 200/502/1000-pages of leaked Whatsapp chats are authentic to-and-fro between Arnab Goswami and ex-Chief of BARC Partho Dasgupta? Both names figure in the “supplementary charge-sheet” filed by the Mumbai Police in investigations into the TRP case lodged against Republic TV and a couple of other small-fry TV channels.

And Goswami has been crying ‘foul’, ‘witch-hunt’, ‘bogus’ and ‘fake’ for months. All the while he has been garnering sympathy and TRP. People flocked to Republic TV and Republic Bharat to see him yell and shout and wax eloquent. Once even brandishing pages from the Republic TV Network balance-sheet to prove that he was clean and overboard. And “viewers” found his “style” engaging, and appeasing to their senses. They packed the channel with “I’m Republic’ messages, video and audio. You almost got the feeling Sushant Singh Rajput was smiling at Arnab Goswami from up above, the heavens!

But, then, Partho Dasgupta hadn’t till then fallen into the Mumbai Police net. And maybe somebody in the Republic got a tip-off. Arnab allegedly “fled” Mumbai and, according to unidentified sources, could not be traced, i.e., unless somebody broke into the idiot-box where they say he’s often spotted between 9-11 pm on weekdays. Now, the Mumbai cops led by a purportedly vengeful encounter-specialist will be looking far and wide for him armed with miles and miles of Whatsapp chat records.

Does it look like Arnab Goswami’s TRP is sliding? The alleged Whatsapp chats between him and Partho disclose that both are allegedly chums of convenience – the sort who come out as ‘You scratch my back, I scratch yours’ friends. The quid pro quo is not fully established but snatches do fall in place. In them, Partho is forever the snivelling and scrounging one, pleading with Arnab to sort this thing and that person out. Partho has a very particular fear of and grouse against a certain “Rajat” and he wants Arnab to get this Rajat off his back!

Arnab tells him not to worry, “Rajat” cannot do a thing to Partho so long as Arnab’s around – Rajat has been neutered, so to speak. Partho also allegedly wants Arnab to intercede on his behalf with the powers that be at the Centre and it’s hard not to miss Arnab’s expansiveness. And some of the demands that float around in the chat records are sleazily illegal. Like when an alleged attempt is made to allegedly subvert TRAI rules. Allegedly on April 4, 2019, on the eve of the General Elections that brought Narendra Modi to power for a second term, Partho Dasgupta allegedly asked Goswami to stall the TRAI proposal to make BARC’s viewing data public.

Dasgupta allegedly tells Arnab rather ominously that if the data is made public, many channels would be “blacked out” by Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators (LCOs). “With public data, MSOs and LCOs will push you guys for more carriage,” Partho allegedly tells Goswami, who seems to be not too worried, not when it’s a certainty that the BJP would return to power! But Dasgupta is more loyal than the king. “With channels getting blacked out, the impact of messaging on TV will reach lesser and hence diluted impact,” he warns Goswami. “Can you help by telling AS to tell TRAI to pipe down on BARC?” And Goswami, according to the leaked chat, allegedly asks him to send “three points” on how these reforms could politically hurt the government.

For the Opposition, the leaked Whatsapp chats between the two – especially because of the alleged involvement of Arnab Goswami – is manna from heaven, godsend opportunity to target the Modi Government, especially now, when the farmers’ agitation is refusing to go away and when the race for the West Bengal Assembly is at such an advanced stage that any dent made on AS’s hide would be well-worth the bent.

Of course, Goswami comes out as a conduit and a faith-healer (for Dasgupta) in the chats, but there are people who say that Republic TV and Arnab Goswami are being targeted because a rival TV channel was raided by the Enforcement Directorate in the Centre’s TRP case only the week before, and this is Mumbai Police’s quid pro quo. Whatever, the fact of the matter is with the PMO’s “name” cropping up in the chats, a thorough probe is called for and maybe a discussion in Parliament.

That said, most of the chatter is more speculation than hard truths. The Mumbai Police hasn’t so far authenticated the “leaked” Whatsapp chat records, and as far as Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta go, it’s all in the realm of the “alleged.” Ditto the “Prime Minister’s Office.” As for ‘AS’, unless and until there’s admission and confession, it’s better for everybody if nobody makes an ass of himself. That said, ‘Who is AS?’ is the question, a matter of life and death with consequences? Anybody out there got the courage to confess, state, say the name aloud? (IPA Service)

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