What Arnab’s WhatsApp chat reveals about his access to power


Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami shows victory signs as he released from Taloja Jail following Supreme Court order, in Mumbai on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

The conversations are part of Mumbai Police’s charge sheet in the case of alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by news channels

Our Bureau
Mumbai/New Delhi

Screenshots of purported WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and the arrested ex-CEO of TV ratings agency BARC, Partho Dasgupta – which form part of Mumbai police’s 3,600-page supplementary chargesheet in the TRP scam – made their way into the public domain on Friday.

Among other things, they are suggestive of a bid by top BARC executives to manipulate ratings in favour of Republic TV and the Hindi channel Republic Bharat. The screenshots also show the executives making suggestions to Republic TV on strategies to boost ratings.

Goswami in return appears to have kept Dasgupta informed about government affairs, including the workings of the information & broadcasting ministry, cabinet reshuffle, appointment of secretaries, and more.

The WhatsApp conversations are part of Mumbai Police’s charge sheet, submitted before a court, in connection with the case of alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by news channels, including Republic TV and a few others. 

As per the alleged chats, Arnab Goswami was apparently privy to the Modi government’s plan to launch an air strike on Pakistan’s Balakot in retaliation for the Pulwama terror attack, three days before the Indian Air Force bombed the terrorist camp on 26 February 2019.  The purported conversations, among other things, revealed that the Narendra Modi government had planned the air strike “in a way” that the people would be “elated”.

In the purported chat, dated 23 February 2019, Goswami informed Dasgupta that “something big will happen”. When the latter asked if it was about “Dawood”, Arnab explained, “No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.”

“It’s good for big man in this season. He will sweep polls then,” replied the then BARC chief, asking whether it will be “a strike” or “something bigger”. 

Goswami then responded, “Bigger than a normal strike. And also, on the same time, something major on Kashmir. On Pakistan, the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated. Exact words used.” 

Some security experts said the purported conversations indicated national security had been compromised.

The WhatsApp chats – running over 1000 pages – suggest complicity between the two and are part of the 3400-page supplementary chargesheet that the Mumbai police filed earlier this week. The messages also show Goswami’s proximity to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the information and broadcast ministry, also suggesting that he misused this access.

The messages also suggest that Goswami was in the know about key decisions that the Central government took, even those that were closely guarded. He seems to be aware of the Balakot airstrike and the revocation of Article 370 in advance, highlighting his close connections with the upper echelons of government.

Although Dasgupta freely discusses a range of topics with Goswami, he also seems concerned about both his position at BARC and later, about being implicated in a criminal case. In one instance, Dasgupta shares his anxiety over the possibility of his passport being impounded. The chats annexed in the chargesheet also indicate that as soon as the Mumbai police’s inquiry into the scam began in October last year, their conversations came to a halt.

In another WhatsApp chat, Dasgupta and another accused, Ramgaria, discuss Malayalam channel Janam TV. Ramgaria mentions about the phenomenal “100 percent growth” in the channel’s viewership in the week when the controversy over the Supreme Court’s decision to allow women to enter the Sabarimala temple was at its peak in November 2018.

In the chat with Dasgupta, Ramgaria says that the Kerala-based Janam TV did well in all 14 districts of the state, more so in those closer to the temple. This, apparently was noticed by the PMO, Dasgupta claims in the chat, to which Ramgaria claims that the channel has “RSS funding”.

Besides the annexed WhatsApp chats, the police have recorded statements of 59 witnesses, including 15 experts. The police have said that the investigation is still on and that another supplementary chargesheet will follow in the case.

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