‘The Indian Newsroom‘—a book written by a former NDTV employee makes for a fascinating read about the unscrupulous nexus between the Congress party and the scam-tainted media channel. Written by journalist Sandeep Bhushan, who had a brief stint with the news channel, the book provides a telling account of the sacrosanct closeness between the Congress party and the NDTV media house. It chronicles incidents that crystallise readers’ suspicions about the channel not only being pro-Congress but also having a big say in the party’s inner politics.
Rashtrapati Bhavan altering protocol to accommodate Sonia Gandhi
The author, Sandeep Bhushan, on page number 110 of his book–The Indian Newsroom, has levelled serious allegations against the NDTV media organisation and its employees for allowing coverage of only those news items which were favourable to the Congress party. During the tenure of UPA-1, when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister of India and Sonia Gandhi was the head of the Congress party, one of Bhushan’s former colleagues had covered an ‘exclusive’ report on Rashtrapati Bhavan modifying the protocol to allow Sonia Gandhi to sit among the front rows along with the PM during an official ceremony at Ashok Hall. However, his report was unceremoniously binned by the NDTV media channel, following which the reporter tendered his resignation from the organisation. Bhushan has claimed in the book that his editors did not give him any reason for junking his ‘exclusive’ story.
Bhushan has also alleged that the senior NDTV reporters were so deeply-embedded with the Congress party that they would spend months exclusively tracking the Gandhis during their election campaign trail and whose hagiographic accounts of the Congress politicians would eventually find their way on the political party’s official website.
NDTV ran a co-ordinated campaign to oust Natwar Singh from cabinet
In yet another vignette exposing the symbiotic relationship between the Congress party and NDTV, Bhushan claims in his book’s page 117 that his organisation’s campaign to get Natwar Singh deposed from his office following the explosive Volcker Report brought home the fact that NDTV not only favoured the Congress party but it also played a crucial role in party’s inner politics. Bhushan states that a special team was created by NDTV under the leadership of Sonia Singh and Barkha Dutt in 2005 to run a media campaign aimed at ousting Natwar Singh out of the cabinet and the Congress party for his alleged involvement in the illegal selling of Iraqi oil under the UN-mandated Oil-for-Food programme.
According to Bhushan, a reporter with a marginal knowledge about understanding accounts and ledgers was burrowed from NDTV India, and many of the other reporters were deployed to chase the story on a daily basis. He has mentioned in his book that daily editorial meetings were called to discuss the campaign and strategies to drive Singh out of the cabinet and the Congress party. While Singh was eventually expelled from the government, despite its success, the NDTV’s campaign found no mention in the organisation’s ‘untold stories’.
Citing the rumours, Bhushan has mentioned that NDTV’s campaign against Natwar Singh probably stemmed from the grievances harboured by a senior editor involved in the investigations following the alleged suicide of a friend–Natwar Singh’s daughter-in-law, Natasha. Bhushan insinuates that the campaign to expel Singh out of the Congress party and the government could have been a way to get back at the minister and his son, Jagat, or because of the nexus with the Congress party. It is pertinent to note that Natwar Singh, in his autobiography–’One Life is not Enough’, has blamed ‘the powers that be’ responsible for his undoing. He says in the book, “The media had already decided that I was guilty. The line was fed to them by a group of senior cabinet ministers.”
Rajdeep Sardesai ordered Bhushan to change a report that highlighted violations by Congress loyalist
Levelling serious allegations against another high-profile former NDTV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Bhushan asserted that the journalist did not provide enough room for the reporters to cover Congress in a fair and impartial manner. He cited an anecdote from 2005 when Rajdeep Sardesai had asked him to change a report that showed a Congress party loyalist and then Jharkhand governor, Syed Sibtey Razi, in a bad light for his brazen constitutional violations.
“In 2005, I recall, while doing a live show from Sonia Gandhi’s residence, he wanted me to change a report that showed up blatant constitutional violations by party loyalist and then Jharkhand governor, Syed Sibtey Razi. Sardesai stood before me and ensured that I followed the editorial line spelled out by him,” Bhushan has mentioned in his book.