DD edited out Narendra Modi’s reference to Ahmed Patel as ‘good friend’

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NEW DELHI: A reference by Gujarat CM Narendra Modi to Congress leader Ahmed Patel as a “good friend” who has stopped taking calls was edited out by Doordarshan when the national broadcaster telecast an interview with Modi on Sunday.

“Ahmedbhai is among the best friends I have in Congress but not now… I had a good friendship with him and would have preferred that it had remained so… but he now runs away from me and doesn’t take my calls,” Modi said in the interview.

When contacted, Patel told TOI, “This is election time and people say all sorts of things. I would not have liked to comment otherwise but this is part of his by-now familiar devious script, so I do wish to put it on record that to the best of my recollection, I had lunch with him once in 1980. That was in the knowledge of my leader, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. I have clarified this earlier also. I have not had even a cup of tea with him since he became chief minister in 2001.”

Modi’s suggestion that he has been on good terms with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary and the two have even dined at one another’s homes is among the bits that DD chose not to telecast, sparking a controversy over the interview being “censored”.

The Modi campaign beat DD’s bid to edit what the national broadcaster considered “sensitive” bits by posting the entire unedited interview on the BJP leader’s website. It is understood that the interview was separately recorded by the Gujarat government.

DD’s decision to telecast Modi’s interview without any publicity and its editing out of certain remarks was reported by TOI on Thursday. In all, some 20 minutes of the 56-minute interview were not telecast.

Responding to a question why he sought to bait Patel as “mian Ahmed”, Modi said the term was a mark of respect and that he affectionately referred to Patel as “babubhai” in private.

Another bite snipped out of the interview, as reported by TOI, was Modi’s reference to Priyanka Gandhi as a “daughter” defending her family, a reference dismissed by Priyanka on Thursday with a curt comment that Rajiv Gandhi was her father.

Asked how he reacted to Priyanka’s criticism of him, Modi said, “I don’t take it seriously. Any daughter would do the same for brother and her mother… akhir beti, beti hai (after all a daughter is a daughter). I would not mind her saying anything… If she abuses me ten times more, it will still be a case of a daughter being a daughter.”

DD director general (news) S M Khan in a statement denied there was any attempt to downplay the interview or deliberately edit it. He said the editing was done for technical reasons.

Contrary to the official statement, sources said responses to several queries including former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf were edited out.

DD anchor Ashok Shrivastav questioned Modi about his disparaging reference to Musharraf as “Mian Musharraf” in a 2002 speech. “No country however powerful has the right to insult my nation or my state… I raised my voice because he (Musharraf) abused us (by raising the Gujarat riots) at the UN platform,” Modi said.

The BJP leader said the Congress strategy to align with a possible third front was to keep BJP from coming to power. But he asserted that the days of the “maa-bete ki sarkar (mother-son government)” were numbered. He added that Congress, having initially misread the strength of the BJP campaign, was now trying to ensure that either the NDA did not form a government or if it did, it would be a weak one.

When contacted, Shrivastav refused to comment on the “edits” but social media was on fire with several people demanding the complete interview be uploaded in the interest of transparency. Shrivastav on Thursday tweeted, “Original interview was 56 minutes but I got half an hour chunk. We telecast 34 minutes… Professionally I feel we should have telecast full version.”

On the editing of the interview, Shrivastav said he was not the final word on what went on air. “Professionally, I also feel that portion is important shouldn’t edited (sic). I am not final authority,” he said. He also confirmed that Modi’s office had independently recorded the interview and had a copy.

Reacting to TOI’s report, DD’s Khan said in a statement, “There was no deliberate editing or omission of any portion of interview. Wherever editing was done was for technical reasons and during post production. There was no interference or control from any authority in the entire process.”

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