Activists and supporters of the Indian Youth Congress are detained during a protest in New Delhi yesterday against the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal. Image Credit: AFP

Hyderabad: Veteran journalist and famous TV personality Karan Thapar has said that the statement of former president of France Hollande that Indian government had suggested the name of Anil Ambani’s company for the Rafale deal — and Dassault was not given any choice — possibly could be “Bofors moment” of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It has not only exposed the lies of the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Arun Jaitely that it was the decision of Dassault but also showed that the Modi government insisted that a particular organisation should be given offset, making mockery of the rules.

Chief Guest

Participating in an interaction with the journalists and journalism students under the aegis of Press Club of Hyderabad on Saturday, Thapar recalled that Modi cannot question the integrity of ex-French president as he had invited him as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day celebrations in 2016.

“This (Rafael deal episode) has higher profile than Bofors. While there was a smoking gun and money trail in Bofors scandal, here there was a suspicion of a smoking gun now”, Thapar said.

He recalled that when Swedish Radio had exposed Bofors, the opposition led by VP Singh had effectively used it — and members of all the parties barring Congress had resigned from Parliament.

Replying to a question he said that Rahul Gandhi might not have a powerful, influential and effective personality to turn Rafale into a potent weapon to unseat the Modi government but he was the only opposition leader in the country.

Crony capitalism

“There are many other leaders in the opposition including Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav who can do it by talking about crony capitalism and finger pointing at Modi and raising the slogan of ‘Is Sarkar ne hamare Jawanon ki chori ki hai’ (This government has committed a theft of what belonged to our army jawans),” he said.

He denied that he was aspiring for a job or a Rajya Sabha seat under Rahul Gandhi. “I am not seeking any job. I am happy to be a journalist” he said.

Expressing deep concern over the increasing pressure on the journalists, he said that many newspapers were censoring themselves worried of repercussions on the vested interest of the owners.

“At least three editors have lost their jobs and the BJP has also decided to boycott those TV news anchors who were critical of it”, he said

He agreed that if a presidential style election was held in India Congress president Rahul Gandhi will not be able to match Modi. “I suspect that he might not have that personality but the elections need not be presidential style and chances are substantial that a combined opposition will ensure that there will be 29 different elections across the country and a party strong in that particular state or region will face the BJP and unseat the present government”

He said that there was a need to make the newsrooms in the country more representative and inclusive to reflect the diversity and richness of the country. But there were loads of other profession including the armed force which do not fully reflect the diversity and richness. For example he pointed out that in armed forces Muslims had only 1/6th representation.

Of their population. He agreed that there was a need that all the weaker sections find a place in the newsrooms.

On the social media he said that he was against the way it is used. “That is why I am not on social media.”

On another question whether he likes Modi the politician or the Modi the administrator, he said, “neither.”

Thapar who had the famous run in with Modi and latter had ended his TV interview in just two and a half minutes when Thapar asked him about the Gujarat riots said that he did not like Modi as a politician because of his continued silence of lynchings and killings and his failure to discontinuing following at least 10 people on social media who had celebrated the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh and one of them even called her Kutiya (bitch). “I have no personal knowledge of Modi as an administrator”.