Mufflerman’s best TV script ever has come unravelled. On live television, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s threatened siege of Raisina Hill turned into the rout of Raisina Road. And the Delhi Police won a nomination for best supporting cast, for choosing to stop him outside Rail Bhavan, so that he could go on dharna just a minute’s walk from the Press Club. How convenient for a movement that owes a lot of its juice to TV cameras!
The dharna that was to give the Congress the devil’s alternative, the Aam Aadmi Party an honourable exit from the rigour of office and a shot at martyrdom, encashable in the general election, has turned into a debacle. But despite the wave of amazed laughter that ran through Delhi, CNN-IBN reports that the acceptability of both AAP and Mufflerman exceed 70 per cent in the capital.
But TV is withdrawing its favour in alarm. Consider the headlines for AAP debates on Arnab Goswami’s Newshour since Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti exposed the stormtrooper streak in the party. The vigilante action against Ugandan women — and perhaps the hissy, spitty fit that followed — raised the question: “Over-enthusiasm or immaturity?” That liberal interpretation was followed by: “AAP going too far?” And after the dharna, the inevitable: “Climbdown by Kejriwal.” There was a sense of finality in the full stop which closed the headline, a relief after two tentative questions with obvious answers. Meanwhile, Times Now’s news coverage spoke of “absolute chaos, complete anarchy” outside Rail Bhavan, a radical departure from the warmth with which Arnab Goswami had welcomed the AAP victory in Delhi.
Chaos and anarchy prevailed among the residents of Khirki Extension when Sagarika Ghose canvassed their opinion in a TV chaupal. The conflicting voices suggested that there is a drug problem in the neighbourhood, but support for the raid was majoritarian. The people were apparently agitated because they were not being heard and felt like pawns in a mug’s game.
In a rearguard action, AAP has been speaking the unspeakable. Shortly after extracting a national apology for the mayhem at the dharna “through this channel”, CNN-IBN’s national affairs editor Bhupendra Chaubey pumped veteran TV journalist and fresh-faced AAP spokesperson Ashutosh, until he said that only a “minuscule minority” accused it of anarchy, which was no longer the case. And Yogendra Yadav told Karan Thapar on Devil’s Advocate that Bharti had acted on sound evidence, and that AAP had merely failed to collate it and present it to the public.
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But for once, there is news outside AAP and Delhi, like the revolting “judgement” of rape handed down by a kangaroo court in Birbhum. On Times Now, the victim clearly accused a “gram sabha” but all the channels, including Times Now itself, and women’s rights workers, went on about a “khap panchayat”, which is unknown in that part of the country. But NewsX, which focused on the story early, highlighted what was wrong with the state response in such cases. The West Bengal government’s first action was to replace a policeman, not to arrest the gram sabha members.
Meanwhile, Narendra Modi is threatening to turn UP into Gujarat and make the “baap-beta” Yadav duo irrelevant. Because they don’t have what it takes, he said in an extraordinary election speech. “Because to make Gujarat, you need a 56-inch chest.” Intriguingly, Jack Dempsey, Sonny Liston, Joe Louis, George Foreman, Mike Tyson and even Muhammad Ali, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, had chest sizes at least 10 inches less. Narendra Modi’s recent accusations about power generation figures are correct, but old Chhappan may be mistaken about his own vital statistics.