Ranjona Banerji: Are you serious, Mr Goswami?

04 Nov,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, opens a gym. At the press conference, a reporter from the news agency ANI, asks Vadra about his land deals which are under the scanner. Vadra in answer says “Are you serious” three or four times, pushes the mike away, then says “Are you nuts” and instructs his security to get rid of the footage.


Arrogant, entitled behaviour on the part of Vadra? Definitely? End of the world life-threatening stuff for the TV journalist or the media in general? Definitely not.


And yet, in the frenzied hysteria that is now TV news, we must hold a primetime “debate” on Vadra’s behaviour. It is not clear exactly what there is to debate. Vadra behaved badly and dare one say it, foolishly. It is hard to take any other position. This does not make for a good debate. So instead, on the NewsHour on TimesNow you have an interminable rant from Arnab Goswami about how the Congress party or sympathisers of the Congress party refused to come on his show. Apparently, they would rather go to other channels which will field questions bowled underhand. This is an interesting allegation. All channels other than Times Now subscribe to the Trevor-Greg Chappell school of bowling?


I have to confess however that I was so amused watching the carefully manufactured outrage on Times Now over Vadra that I did not bother to check any of the others. Did they also froth at the mouth? Or did they bowl underhand to Congress spokespersons? Did they also believe that a terrible line had been breached affecting the safety and security of Indian journalism?


Because there was nothing to debate however Goswami and the NewsHour meandered here and there – in full-throated Bianca Castiofiore glory of course – as they talked about how hurt journalists felt to some foaming about how dare someone not answer a question put to them by a journalist. (Man, how rich we would be if we had even a mere rupee for every question someone refused to answer.) The debate could not even tell us how much action was going to be taken against Vadra on his shady land deals and untoward favours handed to him because no authority or political dispensation has come clear on it yet. Before the general elections we were assured that Vadra’s special privileges would go but even that doesn’t seem to have happened…


Anyway, Sambit Patra of the BJP informed us that he feels it in his heart that his party will do something. Patra’s heart is I presume a better weathervane on such matters than Goswami’s hurt?


It’s impossible to use the word “seriously” right now, but you know, wouldn’t it have been better if the media had made Vadra a laughing stock? ANI could have gone that route and we could have been merrily laughing away at Vadra’s immense ego, his apparent inability to understand that mum-in-law no longer runs the country and the most fun of all, made chutney out of rich brats who think they’re entitled for no reason?


What I found intriguing about the Vadra clip is that before he started on “Are you serious” he was babbling some rubbish about his gym and its machines and got confused about what it did to your muscles. Now there was a clue to take off on…


Yeah, I’m serious. And possibly, nuts.


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