Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has said that the state Cabinet will on Tuesday discuss the purported WhatsApp conversation of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in which sensitive information related to the Pulwama attack and the Balakot airstrikes was mentioned, reported PTI.
The WhatsApp chats between Goswami and Broadcast Audience Research Council’s former Chief Executive Officer Partho Dasgupta are part of the supplementary chargesheet that the Mumbai Police filed in the Television Rating Points scam case.
The conversation revealed that three days before the Indian Air Force carried out a strike targeting Jaish-e-Mohammad training camps in the Pakistani town of Balakot, Goswami had told Dasgupta that it would be “bigger than a normal strike”.
On Monday, Deshmukh said it was a big question as to how Goswami found out about such sensitive information. “After the meeting, a decision about this issue will be taken,” he said.
The National Congress Party, a coalition partner in the Maharashtra government, has sought a Joint Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the purported chats. The Shiv Sena said the alleged collusion between Goswami and the central government was a breach of India’s national security.
Chhattisgarh CM demand SC-monitored inquiry
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Monday sought a Supreme Court-monitored inquiry into Goswami and Dasgupta’s WhatsApp conversation.
“This is dangerous for national security,” Baghel told reporters. “How did a journalist get access to such sensitive information? If it has happened, the NIA [National Investigation Agency] and the Supreme Court should take suo motu [cognisance] of the matter.”
The chief minister also asked the Centre to clarify how Goswami had access to such secret information and why was the government covering it up. “There should be no politics on the issue and an impartial inquiry should be conducted into the matter,” he said, according to PTI.
National security matters reduced to TRP drama: Mehbooba Mufti
Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said that matters of national security have been reduced to “TRP tamasha (drama)” that benefits the Bharatiya Janata Party and creates false narratives. She was talking about the purported WhatsApp conversations.
“Masses are conditioned to believe fake news, hate imagined enemies within & outside the country,” Mufti said in a series of tweets. “Nation wants to know who will pay the price for this?”
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said that people were lied to when the Centre deployed lakhs of troops in Kashmir in July 2019 and evacuated tourists, citing a potential terror attack by Pakistan. “The truth was known & shared only with BJP’s pet anchor,” she alleged.
Mufti said that people who questioned the timing of the Balakot airstrike were dubbed anti-national but now they are vindicated. “Today we stand vindicated that it was done to benefit a particular party in the elections & not to avenge the martyrs of Pulwama attack,” she said.
Mufti also raked up last year’s Ladakh incident, where Indian and Chinese troops clashed, suggesting that the Centre’s reaction would have been different if elections were nearing.
Details from the transcripts of the chats – which have not so far been denied by Goswami – also exposed how Goswami and Dasgupta had extensively discussed ways to rig Republic TV’s ratings. The messages also show close proximity and coordination between Goswami’s TV channel and BJP leaders, including ministers. These include someone named “AS”, as also the “PMO”, presumably the Prime Minister’s Office.
The chats also revealed instances of Dasgupta asking Goswami to reach out to the government on his behalf. In one such exchange on April 4, 2019, the former ratings agency chief asked Goswami if he can stall the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s proposal to make BARC’s viewing data public. Dasgupta asked Goswami for some action from “AS”. In reply, Goswami said he could do what Dasgupta asked for.
There was also a conversation where Dasgupta asked Goswami to get him a job as “media advisor” in the Prime Minister’s Office, while at several instances, the Republic TV journalist referred to his proximity to “PMO” and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The conversation pertains to the TRP ratings scam. An operation to manipulate television ratings was uncovered in October when the Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, one of BARC’s vendors, accusing some channels of rigging their ratings by bribing some households to watch their programmes.
On December 25, Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe had said that a forensic audit report of the rating agency’s data had revealed that the numbers had been manipulated since at least 2016. Bharambe said that the manipulations resulted in Republic TV being depicted as the top-ranked channel.
Bharambe had also mentioned that the report mentioned e-mails and chats between officials of the rating agency that were “absolutely incriminating”.