Ranjona Banerji: Arnab Goswami: From roaring lion with RaGa to mouse with NaMo

09 May,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


A roaring lion with Rahul Gandhi, a coy kitty-cat with Raj Thackeray and a mouse with Narendra Modi: the varying interview techniques of India’s most watched TV news anchor, Arnab Goswami. Modi, who was first a bit interview-shy these elections has lately been speaking to everybody. So by what logic Times Now billed this as an “exclusive” interview boggles the mind. This interview in fact went the way of most such interviews with Modi.


Question 1: What are your views on populist measures for the poor?

Answer 1: The moon is made of green cheese.

Question 2: Okay. Who do you think is going to win the IPL?


Or perhaps we are being unfair. Perhaps in this interview, both Modi and Goswami were playing the dignified statesmen of their own professions. However, it must be said that Modi’s deflections of all Goswami’s potentially difficult questions were brilliant. And Goswami was unable to pin him down on any of those although he did ask the initial questions. Not on divisive statements on caste and religion, not on Maya Kodnani, not on Gujarat’s development. Modi used Times Now as an election platform and all credit to him. If Times Now acted as a willing platform, well, if so it behaved no differently from all the other TV channels which have interviewed Modi this season.


Interestingly, there was no full transcript of the interview in The Times of India’s Mumbai edition as there had been with Rahul Gandhi. Or perhaps it was a matter of time and printing deadlines. Although a few days ago, there was an interview of Modi in TOI by its own correspondents which was disjointed enough to sound like an email interview, where you cannot go back to the interviewee and follow up.




Having watched a bit of television through the day on Thursday and tracked social media at night, I genuinely thought the world had come to an end in Varanasi in conflicts between the Election Commission and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party and so on. The morning’s newspapers were then a sore disappointment: they had a bit about this story but also about Other Things! How can Other Things be of remote importance? How can this great election drama be dismissed with some throwaway sentences like: “and then some BJP activists clashed with some AAP activists”? Talk about killing the excitement!




I did another India Hangout with Govind Ethiraj on how the discourse in these elections has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, together with Ayaz Memon and Dilip Cherian. This is becoming a workable alternative to the panel fights on primetime news television.





Meanwhile, the future of primetime panel discussions on India might just become like this and perhaps the lesson to TV studios is… less plywood?





What is evident is that this election has definitely gone on for too long and this is evident not just in the political discourse but in the petering out of media imagination. There are only so many ways in which you can cover elections and we are running out of them.


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