A delegation of Congress leaders in Mumbai on Wednesday filed a complaint against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami over his purported WhatsApp chats with a former media executive that suggest he had prior knowledge of the 2019 Balakot airstrikes in Pakistan.

The complaint was filed at the city’s Kandivali Samta Nagar police station by Congress leader Sachin Sawant and other party workers. They sought the registration of a first information report against the Republic TV anchor in connection with the case.

The party members also handed over a memorandum demanding the immediate arrest of Goswami for breaching the Official Secrets Act, according to The Mumbai Mirror. “It needs to be known as to who gave him [Goswami] information regarding the Balakot strike,” Sawant wrote on Twitter after filing the complaint. “To whom has he divulged this information related to national security?”

The Congress leader wondered if Goswami had “any Pakistani connection” as Islamabad “seemed to have been ready for the attack”. Besides him, Mumbai Mahila Congress chief Ajanta Yadav, party leader Anand Rai and Ram Pandalage were among the delegation of leaders who submitted the memorandum to the police.

Meanwhile, a separate complaint against Goswami was filed by Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique at the Nirmal Nagar police station, The Indian Express reported.

The controversy

The WhatsApp chats in question are part of the supplementary chargesheet filed by the Mumbai Police 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”.

Dasgupta told Goswami the attack on Pakistan would give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “sweeping majority” in the upcoming general election. Months later, Modi surged to a landslide victory in May 2019.

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.

The purported chats has drawn strong criticism from the Opposition, which has demanded answers from Modi.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had on January 25 said that only Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the then Air Force chief BS Dhanoa knew about the strike. “Now I want to understand why an inquiry has not started on who told this journalist about Balakot before it happened,” he added. Party President Sonia Gandhi had said the Centre’s silence on the matter was deafening.

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