Ever since Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV went live in May last year, the channel has pursued the Sunanda Pushkar case with missionary zeal, claiming that the wife of Shashi Tharoor had been murdered and insinuating that the member of Parliament had a role to play in her death. The station’s YouTube channel even has an exclusive playlist dedicated to what it has labelled as “Sunanda Pushkar’s murder case”.
Pushkar was found dead in a five-star hotel in Delhi in January 2014. Tharoor was questioned by the Delhi Police on several occasions in connection with the death. A conspicuous feature of Republic TV’s
coverage of the case has been its hounding of Tharoor. For instance, in August 2017, Goswami got four of his reporters to surround Tharoor to ask him questions.
So when the Delhi police finally filed a chargesheet on Monday accusing Tharoor of abetting Pushkar’s suicide, it was only reasonable to anticipate louder-than-usual fireworks in the Republic studio at prime-time.
Goswami did start on a promising note, bellowing that his “team of reporters stand vindicated”. But his self-congratulatory monologue on Monday was rather muted (not just by his standards). The reason for it was, of course, simple: the police chargesheet fell way short of Republic contention that Tharoor had murdered his wife.
Goswami obviously was aware of that. He alleged that the chargesheet had been “watered down”. “What I do not understand is how did a murder case turn into a case of suicide,” he wondered. “At Republic TV, we believe that is an oddity.”
Suggesting lapses on the police’s part, he pointed out that initially they had treated Puskhar’s death as a case of murder. It was “even more suspicious” that the police were calling it a suicide after four years, he said.
But that was that. After having spent barely 15 minutes on the story, Goswami quickly moved on to two of his other pet subjects: bashing Rahul Gandhi and Pakistan.
Also, missing on Monday night were any of Republic’s imaginative hashtags it is (in)famous for. Not even a Republic Impact ticker; they stuck to the vanilla #TharoorCharged.
Goswami, however, insisted that his channel’s “pursuit of the truth is far from over” even as he recounted that Tharoor had tried “intimidating and blocking” the channel from reporting on the case in the first place.
When Republic TV first began to pursue the story, Tharoor had dismissed their reports and discussions as an “exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalist”. He had also filed a defamation suit against Goswami and the channel and refused to engage with the channel.
But Republic and Goswami were not going to give up so easily. A couple of months and at least a dozen more prime-time shouting matches on the subject after they first aired the story, almost the entire Republic news crew in Delhi stood around with placards to protest Tharoor’s boycott of the channel and his apparent refusal to answer Goswami’s questions.
As matters escalated, the MP filed an application before the Delhi High Court seeking to restrain Republic TV from reporting on the case. The court responded by asking the channel to “bring down the rhetoric”, but ruled that it could continue reporting the story.
In an obviously unconnected development, a 53-year old interior designer who had worked on Republic’s newsroom committed suicide near Mumbai early this month allegedly because the channel had not paid him his dues. The police has registered a case of abetment of suicide against Goswami. One can’t help wondering if abetment of suicide is a slightly touchy subject in the Republic newsroom now.