Congress leader and former union minister, Kapil Sibal, on Sunday addressed media on a news report claiming that a company owned by the BJP President, Amit Shah’s son, Jay Amitbhai Shah, had experienced a phenomenal growth in turnover since Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister.
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According to a report by The Wire website, the turnover of Jay Shah’s company, had increased 16,000 times between 2014-15 and 2015-16. Modi had become prime minister in May 2014. (Read the report here)
The story sent shockwaves with people calling it the most incriminating evidence of cronyism and also an example of impropriety at the highest level in the Modi government yet.
Addressing media, Sibal sought answers from Prime Minister and the BJP president, demanding a probe by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI. Sibal also said that it appeared the fortunes of some people have changed after the change of power.
As expected, Sibal’s press conference was largely blacked out by every channel except NDTV and ABP News which broadcast the Congress leader’s interaction with media live. Times Now chose to flash only a ticker (see below) on Sibal’s press conference, but no live broadcast of what the Congress leader had to say; presumably in an attempt to showcase their high impact journalism.
Republic TV, News18, India Today and NewsX too appeared frightened to give coverage to Sibal’s media briefing fearing reprisals from Shah and Modi. Even the news agency ANI, which is usually prompt in flashing snippets on key news developments, chose to ignore the story. The agency’s Twitter handle appeared to be preoccupied in tracking the Gujarat visit of Prime Minister Modi.
This is not the first time, media outlets in India have refused to offer their platforms to anti-government voices. Not so long ago, they had decided to give P Chidambaram’s press conference a miss when the former finance minister spoke to media to react to Yashwant Sinha’s stinging criticism of economic policies adopted by Modi government.
Reacting to Janta Ka Reporter’s story on media blackout, the Congress’s head of communication, Randeep Surjewala had said, “Muzzling of media and prostration by journalists before the ruling dispensation have become a new norm in India. It’s time journalists realised their responsibilities as being members of the fourth pillar of the democracy. It’s clear that they chose not to broadcast Mr Chidambaram’s press conference out of fear of the government. After all, you have a person no less than the Information and Broadcasting minister (Smriti Irani) issuing regular threats to media houses and agencies asking them to fall in line.”
On Sunday, there was an instant outrage on the media blackout on Twitter, where the users were trending #AmitShahKiLoot.
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) 8 October 2017
In contrast, hours later, when the Union Railways Minister, Piyush Goyal, spoke to media to counter Sibal’s allegations, every channel cut live to 11 Ashoka Road, BJP’s headquarters in Delhi. Republic’s headline screamed that Goyal’s press conference was in response to Sibal’s charges. But, the same channel had blacked out Sibal’s allegations. It, of course deemed fit to broadcast the rebuttal live.
As for ANI, not only did it keep flashing headlines from Goyal’s press conference on Twitter, it also streamed his media interaction live via Periscope.
The latest revelation on Amit Shah’s son’s firm also assumes significance in light of how Modi fought the last Lok Sabha elections promising to weed out corruption from the government.
Modi had also not missed any opportunity in targetting the Congress party for the alleged growth in the fortune of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, during the UPA government. However, his government has not been able to take any action against Vadra despite controlling all probe agencies for more than three years.