Congress seems to have a very unique relationship with the media. Back during Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency, many crawled when asked to bend. Today, when Congress is in the Opposition, fighting for survival, its leaders like P Chidambaram continue to remind the media houses like The Print that there is no reason, history could not repeat itself.
In an ‘exclusive’ interview to Shekhar Gupta’s The Print, former Union Minister P Chidambaram, who, along with his son Karti Chidambaram and his wife Nalini Chidambaram, are being investigated by various investigating agencies probing various corruption charges, gave a veiled threat to the various media houses giving relentless coverage to the corruption probe.
HAHHAHAAHHA Lol. Must watch. pic.twitter.com/UGWDtXqWxJ
— Satya Paul Sabharwal (@satyasabharwal) February 12, 2019
As seen in the above video, during the interview, The Print journalist Jyoti Malhotra begins to ask regarding the Aircel-Maxis case. “Mr Chidambaram, you, yourself and your son have been accused in…,” begins Malhotra before Chidambaram cuts her off and says, “This is completely irrelevant. Listen to me. This is completely irrelevant to the interview. You are breaching your faith, breaching your word and therefore I suggest you either wind up the interview or scrap the interview. If you think you will intimidate me by this then you are wrong.”
Malhotra, little taken aback by the sudden outburst of the senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, tried to explain how she was not trying to intimidate her. To that, Chidambaram said, “Of course you are, I do not allow the media to do a trial. Maybe in your rule book that the trial should be done by the media, please don a lawyer’s robe, please get appointed as a judge, come to Patiala court and we will argue.”
These 40 seconds have multiple layers to it. The Print did not run the interview live. Hence, this portion could have been edited out, but they chose to run it. Shekhar Gupta, the editor-in-chief of The Print also heads the Editors’ Guild of India, has not yet condemned a former minister trying to intimidate his employee who was just doing her job, unless she had overstepped her brief and asking uncomfortable questions to powerful people was not a part of her job. P Chidambaram himself had mentioned that Jo Malhotra had “breached her word”. One wonders if a “word” was given to Chidambaram that ‘uncomfortable’ questions would not be asked?
P Chidambaram chose a platform, The Print, which has not as aggressively covered Aircel-Maxis case as many other media houses have, to threaten the journalist.
The CBI is probing alleged irregularities in grant of FIPB approval in Aircel-Maxis deal, while the ED is probing alleged money-laundering related to the deal. It is accused that Chidambaram misused his capacity as finance minister in the UPA government to illegally grant FIPB approvals to Malaysia based firm Maxis for buying Indian telecom company Aircel for ₹3,500 crore in 2006 and in exchange his son, Karti Chidambaram was given kickbacks. The CBI had obtained permission to prosecute Chidambaram in November 2018.
So, did P. Chidambaram use this platform to send out a message to those media houses who are covering the probe? As another senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal quite recently said that governments can come and go. Today they are in Opposition, tomorrow they may be in power. And that Congress is keeping an eye on the bureaucrats who are showing their loyalty towards the Prime Minister.
Considering even Congress President Rahul Gandhi has sent out a message that once Congress comes to power, all RSS-members working in government offices will be purged, is there more to P. Chidambaram’s threat than what meets the eye?