Rajat Sharma, the DDCA and the perks of a close friendship with Arun Jaitley

05 July 2018
Arun Jaitley, the finance minister, appeared on Aap Ki Adalat days after the government withdrew all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to say that the move would free the country “of the menace of black money.” Sharma did not probe the reasoning behind this contention. There was also no disclaimer of the fact that he and Jaitley have been close for over four decades.

On 2 July, Rajat Sharma, the chairman and editor-in-chief of India TV, was elected the president of the Delhi & District Cricket Association. Sharma swept the elections, defeating his closest competitor, the former cricketer Madan Lal by 517 votes, while his group of candidates won all 12 seats in the panel. The margin of the defeat was along the lines that Sharma’s group had reportedly predicted over the weekend before the results were announced—a fact that Lal referred to while claiming that “there is something wrong somewhere.” A day after the results were announced, Vinod Rai, the chairman of the committee of administrators—appointed by the Supreme Court to implement sweeping reforms in the administration of Indian cricket—said that the results may later be annulled for having taken place without a constitution endorsed by the court.

Before Arun Jaitley was appointed a cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government, he was the president of the DDCA for close to 13 years. Sharma is known to have an intimate friendship with Jaitley that has continued for over four decades, since their days together in college. In the cover story of the 2016 media issue, Our Man in the Studio, Atul Dev and Praveen Donthi reported on Sharma’s path to becoming India’s most powerful editor-entrepreneur, and how his close relationship with Jaitley and Modi aided him in this regard.

In the following extract from the story, Dev and Donthi reported on Sharma’s interview with Jaitley, who was then the union finance minister, on his television show Aap Ki Adalat in November 2016, and other perks that Sharma has gained through the friendship. 

On 12 November 2016, just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the momentous decision to demonetise all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes overnight, Sharma’s interviewee on Aap Ki Adalat was the finance minister, Arun Jaitley. The economy had been thrown into disarray: 86-percent-worth of the cash in circulation had been annulled, replacement notes were in short supply, ATMs had not been recalibrated to dispense them, and people were waiting in line for hours, often days, to exchange or deposit old currency at bank branches. The full effects of the demonetisation had not yet become clear, but reports already spoke of farmers having no cash for seeds at a crucial time for sowing the winter crop, and shopkeepers and vendors seeing business suddenly evaporate. This was the first interview Jaitley had granted since the move, and there was no end of tough questions to be asked.

Sharma appeared on Aap Ki Adalat’s wood-panelled, faux-courtroom set—designed to match the show’s title, which translates roughly to “people’s court”—in his customary garb. He sported large eyeglasses and slicked-back, side-parted hair, and was dressed in a luxury suit—one of an entire fleet of them from an Italian design house, a friend of Sharma’s told us, that he keeps in a walk-in closet in his large south-Delhi home. All of this was much as it has been through the 23 years that the weekly show has been airing, with only short pauses as it moved from channel to channel.

Atul Dev is a staff writer at The Caravan. 

Praveen Donthi  is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: cricket Arun Jaitley DDCA Rajat Sharma