After inflicting one of the most torturous press conferences in recent times onto a gullible public, Lalit Modi decided to pip the newly christened India Today news channel to the post and tweeted multiple times:

Leaving aside the fact that Lalit Modi’s secret talents lie in social media management, I returned home last night to find the interview playing on loop. While he was there in person on India Today, his presence could be felt like Banquo’s ghost on Times Now where Arnab was saying, and I quote, “this country does not need to seek cosy interviews with Lalit Modi. This country only needs to seek the truth”. Which led me to wonder, did Arnab’s interview fall through? Or is Lalit Modi delusional? After all, he had tweeted:

On top of that, Padmaja Joshi and Aditya Raj Kaul seemed to have been locked out of Vasundhara Raje’s house. Which is when I got Arnab’s angst. After all, how fair was that? Times Now reporters sweating copiously while being shouted at by Arnab who had broken 25 stories yesterday according to him, while Rajdeep who had not broken even one story, was sitting on a beach interviewing Lalit Modi near the Adriatic Sea. I almost expected Stephen Fry, Kevin Spacey, Paris Hilton and Naomi Campbell to be sitting there as well.

But I got the next best thing, to watch Lalit Modi metamorphose from calm Cheshire Cat to an even more blustering version of Arnab Goswami than we are used to on Times Now.
Rajdeep must be given full points for not losing his cool even when being niggled by Modi. He began by cocking a snook at Modi living life king-size in Montenegro. What was odd was that Lalit Modi, who began the interview gleefully, took the statement as a compliment.

The pain points of the interview were that the lip synch for Rajdeep seemed to be off with an almost 10 second delay. And it takes a while to decipher Lalit Modi’s accent which is borrowed from Shoaib Akhtar and Salman Khan.

Screenshot from the interview.Screenshot from the interview.

Screenshot from the interview.

Modi didn’t mince any words. According to him, Shashi Tharoor lost his job because of his dealings in the IPL and then his wife died “unfortunately”. He also admitted he’d made the phone call to Sushma Swaraj asking for her help, and then dropped the bomb which no one expected. Least of all the person he named. Vasundhara Raje must have cursed him when he said that she accompanied his wife twice to Portugal when he couldn’t go along.

What was interesting was that as the interview progressed, Modi’s Cheshire cat smile vanished. Only to be replaced by a grimace and an increasing rise in decibel levels. Which seemed louder because Rajdeep kept calm through all the bluster. Because after all, Modi was singing like a canary. Naming names, and not being able to defend himself.

What was interesting, for an innocent man, every time Rajdeep would point out that UK saw Modi as an absconder and that he was a fugitive, Modi would almost burst an aneurysm. According to him, it was the interference of the UPA government in collusion with the UK government which delayed his UK residency.

Rajdeep was relentless. He read out Keith Vaz’s pompous email which said that “everyone except Ban Ki Moon has been spoken to” about Lalit Modi’s papers, especially of course the lamb to the slaughter or the lady of the hour, Sushma Swaraj. And how within 24 hours, Modi got the travel papers he was denied for 4 years. In Swaraj’s defense, Modi said that Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Rajeev Shukla also helped him with his travel documents.

With friends like Lalit Modi, no politician needs an enemy.

Again, when Lalit Modi said he’s appeared in all his court cases, Rajdeep very calmly stated that there were 8 showcause notices which Modi has ignored. When Modi claimed that he’d appeared through his lawyers, Rajdeep was quick to point out that he hasn’t appeared in even one Indian court. Which Modi claims is because of security issues.
Before the interview, in anticipation the day before, Modi had tweeted:

I’m assuming that this was the battle he had decided to lose, because there was nothing winning about seeing him slowly deteriorating into one of those blustering loud men who keep interrupting or shouting you down to get a point through. Especially when questioned about why he thanked Swaraj Kaushal, Sushma Swaraj’s husband for the help they have provided. According to him, Sushma Swaraj’s husband has been his lawyer for over 20 years and her daughter is his legal counsel as well. And he’s never been charged for their legal services. He didn’t seem to recognise any conflict of interest in asking her for intervention in getting him his travel documents. For a bright man, he seemed surprisingly slow on the uptake in this point.

According to Modi, there was a secret correspondence between UK and Indian government to not give him travel documents. And P Chidambaram was trying to get UK to deport him to India. At one point, you really felt he should sip some water when he kept repeating, “it was a political vendetta”.

Also, according to Modi when questioned on why he chose Portugal for treatment, his initial response was that Rajdeep should do his research before questioning him. To which he got a fitting response when Rajdeep said his research shows that under Portuguese rules the husband’s consent is not required for the wife in cases like Modi’s. Which left him to stutter that Rajdeep isn’t familiar to cancer and that people with liver cancer don’t survive. (P.S. It took me 5 minutes of googling to land on the relevant Cancer Research UK page, which basically proves that Modi’s claims on liver cancer are bunkum). But hey, what does Cancer Research UK know. Rajdeep also asked whether it was true that in 3 days, Modi and his wife were in Ibiza. This was explained by Modi, when he said that this is a revolutionary treatment after which you can get off the OT table, undergo no post-operative care, and go and have dinner somewhere. The miracle of science, I tell you.

He also said, “the people I believe who should be resigning are people who have hid across borders, the fact of the secret conspiracy, they are the ones who should be resigning”. If you can decipher what he wanted to say, let me and Rajdeep know. He couldn’t say though who was targeting Sushma Swaraj and refused to name Jaitley and also claimed that someone hacked into Keith Vaz’s email. And that actually Rupert Murdoch was after him because of BCCI. Murdoch wanted to get out of the BCCI Champion’s League contracts which have no exit clauses for 10 years. But Rajdeep had a point, out of all the people why would Murdoch target Modi who has no real role in BCCI right now. To which we got another bizarre Modi response, that it was because Modi will “go out there and say exit clauses for 10 years is not possible”.

He also decided to kill irony, when he said that he doesn’t drop names for the sake of dropping names. Once again, hats off to Rajdeep for not choking. BY this time, the count of bodies included the UPA government, Sushma Swaraj, Swaraj Kaushal, Sushma Swaraj’s daughter, Praful Patel, Rajiv Shukla, Vasundhara Raje, Sharad Pawar. In the “we want to persecute Modi unfairly” corner was Tharoor, Chidambaram and Murdoch. I’m surprised Modi didn’t say he felt someone was spying on him through the television.

When told by Rajdeep that the ED wanted to investigate Modi for cases amounting to Rs 700-800 crore for the 2009 and 2010 IPL, Modi claimed he has a security concern which is why he can’t return to India. After naming the names he has, he may just be proven right in his security concern perception. Also he claimed that N Srinivasan in writing told him to stay out of financial decisions during the IPL in South Africa and made a committee and decided to open bank accounts in South Africa without RBI approval and transferred money into and out of the accounts. Modi like Manmohan Singh, of course, did not benefit from any such activities. Basically, Modi is a free and honest man who is not returning to India because of security concerns. The poor persecuted chap.

For someone who was in the right, and who’d boasted about how the truth would be out and so on, you couldn’t help but feel that Lalit Modi seemed very agitated. Or maybe it’s just that the Montenegro sun was getting to him. Either way, the only person who came out looking good in this interview was Rajdeep Sardesai. Because he did what any canny interviewer should do when faced with someone spilling the beans, just sit back and watch the person dig himself into a deeper hole.

But just when it was getting interesting, the interview ended. It was like an Indie film, where they suddenly ran out of money and had to wrap up pronto. Along with Lalit Modi’s accent, this will remain a mystery of the universe. What happened India Today TV? Ran out of tape? The recording went awry? Some explanation would be nice. And some warning before Lalit Modi’s face transformed into Rahul Kanwal’s telling us once again, to stay back and watch Rajdeep interviewing Lalit Modi on a beachside in Montenegro. And repeat.

You can watch the entire interview on the India Today website.

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Decoding the India Today interview: Lalit Modi self-detonates, takes everyone with him