Five Indian public figures who have dramatically terminated interviews

24 July, 2014

Public figures are generally practiced in the art of giving interviews. When they face difficult questions, they know how to dodge them, be vague or just talk in circles endlessly. (Some just ensure that they don’t have to deal with such questions, by allowing only sympathetic interviewers to meet them.)

Occasionally, however, things get too uncomfortable, as they did on Monday with the former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who walked out of an interview on NDTV. Running away may protect an interviewee from a difficult question, but it leaves him or her looking shifty and suspicious. Though the resulting situation is usually awkward, it makes for great television, and journalists generally consider a political interview a success if the subject feels so pressured that he or she flees.

Here are five interviewees who couldn’t take the heat.

1. Markandeya Katju on NDTV (21 July 2014)

After publishing allegations that, in 2004, three ex-chief justices of India protected and allowed a corrupt additional judge to continue in office, on Monday Justice Markandey Katju appeared on a television interview with NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan. About eight minutes in, Razdan asked Katju why he had waited so long disclose the information. Katju bristled, and told her to “concentrate on whether what I’m saying is correct or not.” When she persisted, Katju’s initial calm and professorial demeanour disappeared, and he said, “Nidhi, I have told you now, I’d warned you, don’t now persist in this.” She stayed firm, and Katju pulled off his microphone, saying, “I told you, and I’m sorry, I’m discontinuing this interview.”

[From 07:49 to the end]

2. Ram Jethmalani on Times Now (13 September 2013)

In September 2013, Ram Jethmalani appeared on Arnab Goswami’s Newshour to discuss the rape case against Asaram Bapu, whom he was representing. The interview began amicably, with Jethmalani warmly accepting Goswami’s birthday wishes. Once the debate was underway, Goswami challenged Jethmalani’s strategy of defending his client by “casting aspersions” on the victim in the case. The often cranky Jethmalani soon lost his temper, and after another panelist shot further questions to him, declared that he was “not under duty to talk to the press” and stormed off screen.

[From 03:32 to 08:31]

3. Farooq Abdullah on NDTV (3 December 2013)

When senior National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was interviewed by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt last December, she asked him about his views on the J&K Women’s Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, which would in effect deny women who married men from outside the state citizenship rights, such as the right to own property. The National Conference had supported the bill in the past, but Abdullah categorically stated in this interview that “as far as Farooq Abdullah is concerned, I was in full favour that it [the scrapping of the law] should be done.” Dutt pressed harder, asking if his views weren’t in conflict with those of his party. Abdullah grew red-faced and aggressive, telling her not to “beat the damn dead horse” and “you ask too many questions,” before pulling off his microphone, and walking off camera.

4. Mamata Banerjee on CNN IBN (18 May 2012)

In 2012, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met CNN IBN anchor Sagarika Ghose in Kolkata at the Calcutta Town Hall. The episode was titled ‘Question Time Didi,’ and the audience was mainly comprised of college students from the Jadavpur and Presidency universities. When a student from Presidency was passed the microphone, she made reference to the recent attacks on women in the state and said that people in politics need to be more responsible. To this Banerjee snapped, “I must tell you, you are CPM candidate,” and went on to accuse the entire audience of being CPM supporters and Maoists. She then rose from her seat and strode off the stage, shouting, “I will not deal with Maoists!”

5. Narendra Modi on CNN IBN (19 October 2007)

When Narendra Modi sat down for an interview with Karan Thapar at Modi’s residence in Ahmedabad in 2007, Thapar brought up the question of why Modi would not allay the ghost of Godhra. Modi replied, cagily, “This I will give to the media people like Karan Thapar. Let them do it. Let them enjoy.” After this, the initially relaxed and controlled Modi became reticent and asked for the interview to be halted so he could have a glass of water. After sipping from the glass, Modi pulled off his microphone and icily told Thapar that the interview was now over. Thapar later recounted to Vinod K Jose that in their discussions after the event, Modi promised him another interview and, at some point, said to him, “I love you.”

6. Narendra Modi on NDTV India (April 2009)

Modi’s interview with Thapar was not half as awkward as his interview with Vijai Trivedi in 2009, mainly because Modi was travelling—and so, was trapped—in his helicopter when he spoke to Trivedi. Exiting the interview was simply not an option.

Trivedi, who was with NDTV India at the time, hosted a show called ‘Chakravyuh’ in which he interviewed politicians. His line of questioning began with LK Advani’s prime ministerial ambitions but then continued onto the subject of the Gujarat riots. He asked Modi if he thought the BJP should apologise for the riots. Modi replied that he had already spoken on this topic in many interviews, but Trivedi persisted. The subject is perhaps one that makes Modi’s throat run dry, since, just as he had on Karan Thapar’s show, he asked for a glass of water. An excruciating silence followed as Trivedi tried to continue the interview, and Modi ignored him. Soon, the helicopter was made to land, and Trivedi was asked to disembark and make his way back by road.