Crazy Times with Superman

Arnab does the impossible on News Hour, shaking up not just the nation but also TOI’s revenue model.

ByMadhu Trehan
Crazy Times with Superman
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An earlier version of the story mistakenly identified Major Gen (retd) B N Dhar as Gen Shankar Prasad. We sincerely regret the error

Arnab Goswami draws a lot of criticism. Infantile debates, cringe-creating guests, no conclusions, just noise. But I vote for Arnab. And after last night’s News Hour show, I vote for him again. Why? He broke The Times of India’s cardinal rule: You cannot mention any other publication by name or any brand unless it is PAID FOR. Not only did he mention The Indian Express not once, but a couple of times. He also held up the product for the world to see. The Times of India is rabid about not doing that. You’ve got to pay for it or the revenue model is ruined. Arnab did it. The story warranted it and he did it.

Arnab with his superbly worded Lead In:

“The decision on how large a conclusion to draw on how limited a fact, is a difficult one in journalism. And this story in Indian Express this morning, puts that challenge to the ultimate test. This story in Indian Express (Arnab holds up the newspaper! I imagine Samir Jain somewhere is fuming. What is Arnab doing? Has he lost it? Now Samir Jain is in recovery mode. Arnab held the newspaper up for 21 seconds. Samir Jain is calculating how he can charge The Indian Express for a 21-second commercial retroactively.) claims that the Government of India was spooked, was very afraid because of the movement of two army units towards New Delhi in January this year, around the time the Army Chief’s case with the centre was at a peak. By implication, although this newspaper doesn’t say it, the suggestion is this: the government was spooked by the military led by an assertive V K Singh getting aggressive vis-à-vis the civilian government. That, ladies and gentlemen, even this newspaper knows, is a large inference to draw. (Arnab holds up The Indian Express again. This time around I imagine little Samir Jain is jumping with joy. Arnab holds it up for 23 seconds this time. Samir Jain is calculating whether he can charge The Indian Express for TWO commercials separately or one with a whopping figure. Samir Jain is happy. He can monetise anything. He can even monetise Arnab who thinks he is just being a journalist.) It turns out now, everyone knew about this movement, which was one full page of The Indian Express.”

Arnab’s take and question on the story was: “Who is looking hard between the army and the government? Is it the army chief or someone else? Who wants to see and predict a conflict between the government and the army? Is it the government of India or is it the army chief or is it the defence ministry or is it someone else, an unknown factor perhaps, who benefits by creating a situation of panic in this country?” (Pakistani handlers?)

Arnab demanded: “Is it a scoop? Is it a spin? Is it a rehash?”

(NO, IT’S SUPERMAN.)

Marooof Raza, defence expert always on Times Now. Check out Raza’s really cool website: http://www.maroofraza.com/

Raza refuted the story and pointed out that the Indian army has always been an example all over the world and refused to get involved in the policy process. He said that the Army Chief cannot pick up the phone and speak to or order a battalion commander. It has to go through the chain of command.

Major Gen (retd) B N Dhar, has no website but google him and you’ll get a tiny bit of information. Just a regular army man, handle-bar moustache, loyal, straight-talking but looks zombied out when others are speaking. He’s no zombie. Probably his training on how to fool Pakistani interrogators if caught.

Was very emotional and took The Indian Express story extremely personally. He complained that he was 86-years old and had been watching the army since 1926, (did he mean 1946 and should we gently break the news to him that the British have left?), and even got  choked up and had tears in his eyes when he spoke about how this story had hurt the army and him. He said he wanted to commit suicide. (NO? Yes. One thing generals are emotional about – their army!) Hey, it’s not easy when you put life-long faith so completely in an institution to see it sullied. He insisted that everyone should stop talking about it and he did not think it was necessary to find out who would benefit from this report if it meant speaking about it any more.

Vinod Mehta, Chairman of the Outlook group, said, “There is a very strong arms lobby in this country which is very well connected at the political level, at the ministry of defence level, and I’m sorry to say, with some retired generals level. Therefore, any chief who tries to clean up the system, their dalla pani will go away. You must see this as trying to get rid of an army chief who is cutting their stomach.”

Major Gen (retd) B N Dhar: “I have a great regard for Shekhar Gupta, but what has happened to him? I make a request to the senior officers in this panel. I make a request to them we should forget this today and forget this newspaper named whatever it is.” (Samir Jain would hug him.)

Arnab: “We forget it today but not before we demolish the belief that this country has an indisciplined army.  That story, that rumour has to be demolished 100 per cent demolished, sir.”

Major Gen (retd) B N Dhar: “I am prepared to immolate myself if anybody says that this army is not a disciplined army. (I guess at age 86 the odds are not that bad nor too high a loss.) This army is 100 per cent disciplined, dependable and we have never touched politics. I consider this Army Chief as part of my heart because he did so much for the Indian army, for the country, he has to be congratulated today. For God’s sake, let’s forget about it.

I must tell Pranab (Was he talking about Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister? No, I think he combined Prannoy and Arnab = Pranab). This is for Mr Pranab. We give it an end. I must tell you something which is my habit.

Zulm ka shabh ka taab ho tum

Roz roshan mein aftab ho tum

Buzz mein aihbaab mein khuda ki kassam

Raks jaam sharaab ho tum

[Translation:

You are the strength like the moon to bear injustice through the darkest hour

You are the strongest light in the day like the sun

In any circles of societies I swear in God’s name

You are that intoxication which can madly inspire more than any alcohol can.]

Please tell me what that has to do with anything?

“This is for you, Mr Pranab, with all my love. For the army, for the people, for forgetting what has happened. (Poetry for those who forget!) Mr Shekhar Gupta, for God’s sake, come off it!”

Arnab: “General, I am overwhelmed by your kind words.”

So overwhelmed that he refrained from telling the spritely, poetry spouting General, that in fact, he was not Pranab, but Arnab.

Only in India.

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