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Maverick NRI in Bush media team

Indo-American journalist Raghubir Goyal excels at removing Bush from media tight spots.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 11:26 IST

He may not be one the most high-profile media persons accompanying US President George W Bush on his India visit, but Indian American journalist Raghubir Goyal is often the "perfect foil" for the White House spokesperson when he is caught in a tight spot.

"I will be on Air Force One. A few of the other regulars in the press will also be there. They rotate everyone every month," Goyal told IANS just before boarding the flight for New Delhi.

Goyal has been a White House pressperson for many years and is often ridiculed for his softball questions that deal exclusively with India and for which he has been labelled the "Goyal foil" - or a way out for White House spokesman Scott McClellan when he is in a tight spot.

"Every day my question is about India," Goyal said.

He takes a magnanimous attitude to the titters Western and Indian journalists direct at him because his questions seldom zero in on an issue.

"I tell them, 'But I get only one chance to ask a question and I want to get in my question about India instead of the other subjects the media is talking about'."

Born in the small village of Badsikri in Haryana, Goyal is making his second trip with a US president, the last one being with the Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton.

Goyal started attending White House press briefings during Jimmy Carter's presidency.

"I feel he is the one who opened the doors to India. Today a Republican president is going after a long time, but so much has happened after the Clinton visit.

He attended the briefings off and on until he secured a "hard" pass for the White House in 1991.

Goyal runs a paper called India Globe of which he sends out some 10,000 copies. "Nobody funds my paper. It is a one-man show. I don't owe anything to anybody. I send out 10,000 copies," he said.

According to Goyal, "This trip may be more of a commercial and business trip than a cultural trip like that of Clinton."

Through a series of accidental and sometimes unfortunate events, Goyal, who shares his birthday with Bush (July 6), landed in the US in 1976 via Austria, doing odd jobs along the way.

He did his high school in Chandigarh, worked his way through college, employed part-time at the Chandigarh Coal Company and the Punjab Land Acquisition Office, and attending classes in Panjab University in the evenings.

At 16, he told his mother he wanted to leave the country and the village leaders met to discuss the issue.

"My village got together and they said I was capable of doing anything. Finally my uncle said: 'Give him Rs.10,000 and he will not waste it, I guarantee'."

The rest, as is said, was history.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 11:24 IST