#SuperhitGhotala: Arnab Goswami’s 80 MB of WhatsApp chats in 12 tweets, 7 screenshots and 2 YouTube videos

“He who lives by other people’s WhatsApp chats shall be judged by his own WhatsApp chats.”—old jungle saying


For weeks, after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, India’s TV news channels feasted on crumbs fed to them—leaked transcripts of WhatsApp conversations of stars and upstarts, hinting darkly at murder, extortiondrugs and sex, all in the run-up to the assembly elections due in the actor’s home state, Bihar.

No one knew how the supposedly “end-to-end encrypted” chats were retrieved.

Or, the veracity of the conversations being aired from dawn to dawn.

Or, who had supplied the channels with the transcripts.

Suddenly, the boot is on the other foot with exquisite timing.

Suddenly, the boot is on the other foot with exquisite timing.

Mumbai Police, who are investigating the alleged Television Rating Points (TRPs) scam have attached transcripts of chats between the head of the ratings agency BARC, Partho Dasgupta, with the head of the TV channel that most benefitted from the ratings, Arnab Goswami of Republic, in court documents.

And, to no one’s surprise, the private chats have leaked into the public pisspot with impeccable timing: a day after WhatsApp ads assuring users of privacy.

The conversations (whose veracity we cannot vouch for, as TV channels like to grandly state in their standard cover-our-ass disclaimer) do not reveal anything a double-digit IQ person might not guess about the BJP, the Narendra Modi government or the media, and do not amount to much in the final analysis. 

In fact, they may not even be admissible in court to start with. 

But stretching over 500 pages and 80 MB, and replete with the magic letters PMO, AS, NSA and MIB; with the names of ministers, TV channel owners and anchors, the chats reveal that the “Lutyens Media + Khan Market Gang” that Narendra Modi claims he is trying to bust is very much alive and kicking.

In fact, it may be thriving even more than ever before

The #ArnabGoswamiChats or what little people have been able to read in a few hours, do not quite reach the exalted heights of Niira Radia tapes which hogged headlines for weeks if not months during the Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh.

Unlike in the Radia Tapes which had a wide phalanx of political, business and media leaders in conversations with the lobbyist, this is just a two-way chat between the customer and the tailor with the measuring tape.

But the question is: will the #ArnabGoswamiChats which show the less-than-wholesome underbelly of the BJP-led Modi government even be on your TV news channels, or in your newspapers? 

The signs are it won’t.

Unlike in November 2020, when TV channels which had been smarting under the march of the Republic brand went to town about the TRP scam, their channel heads and pubic faces have been suspiciously silent since the #ArnabGoswamiChats with the revealing initials and mysterious names burst.

No grandstanding. 

No thigh-slapping. 

No we-told-you-so.

Most media reactions, in fact, have come from TV warriors who have long hung up their wigs. And there were questions aplenty online if the channels were showing the chats. Answer: no.

The first indication that something juicy was in the pipeline had come on Thursday night, when the journalist Aadesh Rawal tweeted:

When #SuperhitGhotala finally hit the screens on Friday morning, there were very few diligently matching the claims in the chats with actual facts, except Mohammed Zubair of the fact-checking website, AltNews.

At best, what the chats reveal is the contempt #ArnabGoswami has for his peers in the industry, especially Rajat Sharma of India TV, who heads the broadcasters’ association from which Republic walked away and formed its own.

At worst, they reveal a deeply insecure mind far too sure of what other people are thinking and doing—-and urgently in need of medical attention.

“Yesterday on a live interview Amit Shah called Navika “kachra”.

“I can send a message [to AS].”

“Rajat Sharma has zero clout and now faces enquiry on corruption in DDCA.”

Rajat is a single-channel owner, a cheat who even an MP doesn’t give a damn to.”

“He had announced he is taking over BCCI. Now he looks like an utter fool.”

“Aroon Purie told his team they have no hope in hell, that the English channel (India Today) should shut up.”

“Everyone in NSA PMO hooked to Bharat and Republic.”

All ministers with us.”

Javdekar is useless honestly, his secretary further.” 

Smriti is a fighter and a great friend, next I&B.”

Doval met me before taking off for Srinagar.”

Jaitley Stretching it, PM doesn’t know what to do, PM leaving Wednesday for France.”

Nripendra Misra is out of the system. Sacked.”

In all the delight and schadenfreude over #ArnabGoswami’s plight, most lost sight of the fact that at the heart of the chats is a criminal conspiracy to rig the TV audience measurement system, with attendant commercial benefits for the channel owner and political benefits for the channel’s backers.

Who can forget the revealing sight of everybody downwards of home minister Amit Shah downwards rushing to Goswami’s defence when he was arrested by Maharashtra Police in the abetment-to-suicide case? 

For many, though, the #ArnabGoswamiChats were just desserts for a man who has played fast and loose with reputations in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.

The hunter who became the hunted.

But the more telling comparison is with the plight of the lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj who has spent three years and five months in jail after #ArnabGoswamipulled out a spurious paper and hounded her on air.

Thankfully, it is not such a cruel world and there was some support coming: from the usual Rs 20-a-tweet suspects who were “trending” hashtags like #IStandWithArnaband #ArnabVoiceOfMillions.

And from Shamita Yadav.

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