DIRTY WAR ON AIR: NDTV, BJP tension explodes in live program
NEW DELHI: NDTV's Nidhi Razdan and BJP's Sambit Patra gave it to each other Left, Right and Centre. On air. Live.
The long simmering tension and proxy war between India's leading English news channel NDTV and the BJP's spokespersons today exploded on air in a live telecast when NDTV's primary anchor Nidhi Razdan threw out BJP's Sambit Patra and asked him not to come on the channel again.
During Nidhi Razdan's Left, Right & Centre debate in the background of a Meghalaya BJP leader quitting the party over the latest notification twist in the beef politics, Patra accused her and the channel of having an agenda.
This riled the anchor who asked him to apologise and take back his words if he wanted to continue or leave the debate. Patra dug in his heels, refused to leave and said he will "expose the channel's agenda."
Both Nidhi and Patra had exceptionally sharp exchanges, something that has been happening frequently on NDTV for some time now. Eventually the anchor decided that enough was enough and cut away from Patra. Within moments, twitterati was tweeting, and Nidhi seemed to be getting some support from even those who routinely hail Modi and Moditva politics.
Tavleen Singh tweeted @tavleen_singh: Sambit Patra just damaged the BJP on NDTV more than any enemy of the party could have. Nidhi Razdan showed remarkable restraint.
Nidhi duly thanked her.
Widely respected defence affairs expert Ajai Shukla, using his handle @ajaishukla, typed: In which @RazdanNidhi of @ndtv throws out a sniggering @sambitswaraj from her show after he accuses NDTV of bias.
Interestingly, Shukla's tweet alluded to Arundhati Roy's 1989 film, "In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones," a reference that will hardly gladden Patra's heart since Arundhati is a pet peeve of anyone with a taste for the saffron. The chances of Patra making that connection are, however, slim.
While the debate had started on a rather sharp note with Patra, responding to the very first question, saying, "I have come with all the homework and also with the Supreme Court order...There is a section of the media...trying to spread disinformation... You are trying to spread disinformation...We will give (the) right information...Don't worry about our party, Nidhi!"
Remaining calm, Nidhi repeated the question: Why has the Meghalaya leader quit the BJP?
This is where Sambit Patra lost his poise: "You don't worry about our party, thank you for your concern."
Nidhi called it hubris and then cut away to Sanjoy Hazarika, known for his expertise on Northeast. As Hazarika made his point about the state being duty bound to ensure equality and asked if there is "acceptance of people who have been following a certain way of life for hundreds of years or are you disparaging them on the basis of their belief and dispatching them to second class citizenship," Patra sought to interrupt him.
Hazarika, known for never losing his cool, asked why is Patra "always interrupting other people." To this, the BJP spokesperson responded: "I interrupt other people only on NDTV and I do that because NDTV has an agenda and I need to expose that."
At this point, Nidhi Razdan made it clear that she was not ready to let matters rest. "Just because you are asked questions does not mean that we have an agenda."
Patra: I am very candid in stating that NDTV has an agenda.
Nidhi: Then please leave. You are most welcome to leave. I have no problem.
Patra: No...no. I would not leave. Either we will boycott your channel or we would come here and we would not leave.
Nidhi: Are you threatening to boycott us?
Patra: No, no, no. You cannot say that you leave. How dare you say that you leave?
Nidhi: I will say it...It is my program...How dare you say that we have an agenda?
Patra: What do you mean it is your program? Then why do you invite BJP spokesperson? This channel has an agenda.
Nidhi: Then you are welcome to leave.
Patra: No, we will expose you and your TV's agenda.
Nidhi: Okay, you can play to the gallery...I am not going to get into a tu-tu-mein-mein debate with you. It is beneath me.
Patra: I wanted to speak on facts (and) you did not allow me. You did not give me 30 uninterrupted seconds.
Nidhi: You are welcome to leave the show.
Patra: No...no...I will not leave and I will expose the show throughout.
Nidhi: No, I am not going to accept that. You are most welcome to go to the other channels which are glorified versions of Doordarshan.
Patra: No. We are going to be here and we will expose the agenda.
Nidhi: I won't accept it... I am not going to engage in any argument with you...It is beneath me... You have used such language.
Patra: The accusation (of NDTV having an agenda) is absolutely correct.
Nidhi: Then you are welcome to leave and not come back to NDTV.
This seemed to be the studio's cue to cut away from Sambit Patra with Nidhi Razdan carrying on the show without the BJP representative on the panel.
The latest exchange and the exit door shown to Sambit Patra has brought the NDTV and BJP relationship to a new low, and media watchers will be keenly tracking the ruling party's response. Earlier, NDTV's Barkha Dutt, who has since quit, routinely faced such snide remarks from various BJP spokespersons on air.
NDTV's coverage of Kashmir developments in recent weeks has massively irked the powers that be. With the channel’s prime anchor throwing out a spokesperson in a humiliating fashion, that too someone who is often fielded as the face of the party on multiple channels in both Hindi and English programs, the relationship is now set to slide down a very slippery slope.