Goswami’s purported WhatsApp chats with former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) chief executive Partho Dasgupta created a storm when they went viral Friday.
Running over 1,000 pages long, they are part of Mumbai Police’s charge sheet, submitted before a court, in a case pertaining to alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by news channels, including Republic TV.
The Congress has launched a multi-pronged attack at Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami over leaked WhatsApp chats that purportedly suggest he was privy to India’s plans to conduct airstrikes against Pakistan — in retaliation to the February 2019 Pulwama attack — days before they took place.
“The WhatsApp chats which have come out in the Mumbai police chargesheet in itself raises serious questions about national security. How financial frauds have taken place and in that how those people occupying high posts were involved… how conversations took place regarding buying of even judges… how journalists decided who will get what posts in the council of ministers… All this raises questions on compromise with national security… and the hollowness of those who are in power…” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said at an AICC press conference.
He said the party is examining the issue and its leadership will come out with a response soon on “why it requires a thorough investigation… who should be investigated…who should be held accountable…who is responsible…”.
Several Congress leaders spoke out on the issue Sunday.
“One thing is quite clear that the issues of national security may have been compromised. If official secrets may have been revealed to individual A or individual B… then it’s a very serious offence. How we will strike, when we will strike, which day we will strike these are all highly sensitive issues. I think that it’s for agencies now to investigate all this. But it is very unfortunate that the government in tandem with certain sections of the media, which allows itself to be used as a propaganda platform…has hurt basic principles which are the very foundation of good governance,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.
Sibal was referring to Goswami’s conversation with Dasgupta regarding action against Pakistan in the wake of the 2019 Pulwama attack.
Former Home Minister P Chidambaram said, “Did a journalist (and his friend) know about the retaliatory strike on Balakot camp three days before the actual strike? If yes, what is the guarantee that their ‘source’ did not share the information with others as well, including spies or informers working for Pakistan? How did a ‘For Your Eyes Only” decision find its way to the government-supporting journalist.”
Senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “The leaked @WhatsApp chats reveal 3 reprehensible things requiring serious inquiry: leaking of military secrets to a TV channel for its commercial purposes; a ‘nationalist’ gloating over the death of 40 jawans as an ‘attack we have won like crazy’,& fraudulent manipulation of TRPs.”
“But if the Govt won’t conduct such an inquiry (& we all expect it won’t, given the evidence of its complicity in the betrayals revealed), who will? Is this one more thing we will have to take a PIL to the Supreme Court for?,” he added.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded an investigation. “The voluminous transcript of Mr Goswami’s chats released by Mumbai Police is deeply disturbing. Who gave access to such sensitive information from national security to constitutional amendments and political appointments? The Government of India must launch a thorough probe. Also the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence must take this matter with utmost priority,” he tweeted.
“If what sections of the Media is reporting is correct then it points towards a direct linkage between Balakot air strikes and 2019 General elections. Was National Security milked for electoral purposes? Needs a JPC investigation,” said Congress MP and former Union minister Manish Tewari.
There has been no response from the BJP yet to the attack by Congress.