If the Congress has its Sanjay Jha,then the BJP has a Meenakshi Lekhi. But the real joker in the pack is Subramanian Swamy, the man who can lead any argument and allegation with a straight face.
I have been tracking him since 1977 when I remember being pulled to a family friend’s home where he was going to be visiting. I was in school then, but have very vivid memories of him who was introduced to us as a Harvard professor and a China specialist.
Which he was. Over the years, Swamy has worn various hats and has taken on on the political establishment and leaders. And he does it with some flourish, and oozes a great deal of confidence. It isn’t easy to work him up, and though an Arnab Goswami did manage to touch many raw nerves on Monday night.
Even early in the argument, Arnab said something to the effect that while sticks and stones can break his bones, “words can never hurt me”. He was, I am sure, expecting an offensive from Swamy as he kept heckling him about what proof Narendra Modi had when he made the allegation that West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had received Rs 1.8 crore per painting from dubious sources.
At first,Swamy was polite. “You are speaking like a cheap cross-examination lawyer,” he said. And then when Arnab continued to jeer, he said: “You are a making a fool of yourself”. Or this: “You are no more an anchor” or: “You are just a rabble rouser”.
And then came the ultimate barb when Arnab got into his way again: “Are you genetically incapable of keeping quiet?” It wasn’t a “never ever” moment as it was when Meenakshi Lekhi had a made a below-the-belt charge some months back. But when Arnab did ask Swamy to not get personal, the BJP leader retorted that it isn’t a one-way street.
While I was visibly aghast at the new low touching news television, I was quite surprised that many of my non-media friends were delighted that Swamy had done Arnab in. “You journalists think only you have the right to be offensive.” Hmmmm.
Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and editor. When he’s not chasing news, he’s watching it.