Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday said that the Centre’s silence on the purported WhatsApp chats of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami about the Balakot airstrike was deafening, PTI reported. She made the remark during her opening address at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee.
“There have been very disturbing reports on how national security has been so thoroughly compromised,” Gandhi was quoted as saying by the news agency. “The silence from the government’s side on what has been revealed has been deafening.”
Gandhi added that just a few days ago, senior Congress leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony had said that leaking information about military operations amounted to treason, NDTV reported. The Congress president also said that the people who gave “certificates of patriotism and nationalism” to others now stood completely exposed.
Gandhi also criticised the government’s handling of the farmers’ crisis, saying that it had shown shocking insensitivity and arrogance towards the protestors.
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The Opposition has amplified its criticism of the Narendra Modi-led government amid the farmers’ agitation and the controversy surrounding Goswami. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference on Tuesday that only five people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, knew about the Balakot airstrike and so the leaking of prior information to Goswami was a criminal act.
On the same day, the Congress’ Maharashtra unit demanded that the TV anchor be arrested for the chats. The Shiv Sena, Congress’ ally in Maharashtra, had also urged the Bharatiya Janata Party to take action against Goswami. In an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana, the Sena pointed out that while the saffron party was vocal about the content of web series, it remained tight-lipped about Goswami’s chats.
The WhatsApp chats in question are part of the supplementary chargesheet that the Mumbai Police filed in the Television Rating Points scam case. It revealed that three days before the Balakot strike, Goswami had told Partho Dasgupta, the former chief executive officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council, that it would be “bigger than a normal strike”.
Details from those transcripts – 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.
On February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force carried out a strike targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp in the Pakistani town of Balakot. It was billed as India’s response to an attack on February 14, 2019, in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed after an explosive-laden car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into their bus.