Arnab out, Congress in: Grand old party ends boycott of Times Now
Days after a leaked video of Arnab Goswami's farewell speech went viral, the Times Network on Monday confirmed his resignation
In a statement released by the Times Group (Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd) extended best wishes to the Times Now editor-in-chief for his future endeavours. "He will remain in his current position with TIMES NETWORK till the latter half of November 2016 and will continue anchoring the flagship show Newshour till then," it said. In the leaked video of his farewell speech, an emotional Goswami is heard telling his colleagues "Nobody can teach us independent media. It has come and I have been able to do it only because of you." Apologising for shouting at his team, Arnab said, "I only did it because I wanted this channel to be at the top."
With Goswami's departure, Congress' official boycott of the English news channel seems to have ended too.
The first signs of the end of the boycott appeared when party's Chief Spokesperson RS Surjewala spoke to Times Now reporter during his visit to Bhiwani where he was accompanying Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul had gone to attend the funeral of veteran Ram Kishan Grewal who committed suicide on Wednesday over the non-implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP).
Just a day later, Mumbai PCC president Sanjay Nirupam spoke to Times Now on the controversy surrounding the Coldplay concert in Mumbai. Nirupam put forth his views on why the concert should be cancelled and how he has approached the Election Commission to stop it.
The Congress believes that the BJP-led state government wants to derive political mileage out of the concert before the Mumbai municipal polls.
Two prominent Congress leaders, including the chief spokesperson, appearing on the channel on two consecutive days suggest that the party has decided to bury the hatchet after Arnab's exit.
For months, Congress leaders had stopped appearing on Arnab's extremely popular show News Hour and punished those who did. In fact, in April this year, senior party leader Ahmed Patel appeared on the show and gave an exclusive 15 minute interview.
Interestingly, just before the interview, Sonia Gandhi's political secretary did remind Arnab that the boycott was still on and this was a special case.
Patel appeared on the show to take questions on the AgustaWestland deal that rocked the Parliament session in April. The ruling party had alleged that Congress leaders had received bribes in the multi-billion dollar helicopter deal.
Either you are in...or out
So serious was the Congress about the boycott that it reprimanded those who defied the party whip and appeared on the news channel that was widely perceived to be pushing the ruling party's agenda. In September, when Haryana Congress leader Khazan Singh appeared on News Hour, he was suspended for not toeing the party line.
Singh appeared on the show to discuss the Justice Dhingra Commission report on Rober Vadra's land deals and was subsequently suspended.
Back then, Haryana state president, Ashok Tanwar, said, "We have suspended Haryana Congress general secretary Khazan Singh for six years for talking to the TV channel which the party has on principle been boycotting for months. No one in the party can on their own to decide to speak to any TV channel. The person in question did not seek any permission and acted on his own against the party line."
Time now for peace
The news of Congress ending Times Now boycott was confirmed by a reporter working with the channel who said that a senior Congress leader assured him that party spokespersons would now speak to the channel.
The bad blood between Congress and Arnab started with an interview of Rahul Gandhi just before the 2014 polls. The party strategists had believed that the interview would give Rahul's image a much needed push ahead of crucial polls.
However, an aggressive Arnab succeeded in grilling the Gandhi scion who seemed ill-prepared. The onus of the negative publicity Rahul received was put on Arnab who continued to corner Congress leaders who appeared on his show in the future.
Frustrated with Arnab's aggressive onslaught directed at the party, a decision was taken to boycott the channel.
With Arnab's exit, all that hostility seems to be a thing of the past now.