Break ke Baad

Vandals and TV cameras are found so routinely in close proximity that it’s thought-provoking.

Published: January 11, 2014 3:21 am

“Make predictive software,” said Games2Win.com CEO Alok Kejriwal, when CNBC Awaaz asked him for tips for young techies in 2014. “It’s an election year. The people who used to go to astrologers now go to specialists who are good with predictives, good with big data…” It was nice to see the channel canvassing a gaming pioneer who talks Had-oop and stuff, which political parties and psephologists are still probably, amazingly, clueless about. But the bubble burst in seconds when the anchor promised to return with piping hot numerological tips for success in 2014, break ke baad. So it goes.

The Aam Aadmi Party could not have been watching too carefully since, numerologically or otherwise, it failed to anticipate the attack on its office by a right-wing Hindu group, in retaliation for Prashant Bhushan’s views on Kashmir. As usual, there were more cameras out there than right-wingers, busily recording the vandalism. The last time Bhushan bared his soul on Kashmir, in 2011, his physical person had been vandalised live. Times Now was interviewing him when the vandal burst in. Indeed, vandals and TV cameras are found so routinely and reliably in close proximity that it’s thought-provoking.

Equally unsettling is the unseemly hurry displayed by the new Delhi government, which is falling over itself to get things done before the rug is pulled. This is the nightmare opposite of policy paralysis. Aam aadmis are busily scooting about rejigging urban services, inspecting loos and manholes in schools, recruiting and canvassing for the Lok Sabha elections and, of course, offering to sting-enable the teeming millions. That’s given TV a lot of lively programming, but even the most enthusiastic supporters of AAP are a bit rattled by the last development. Headlines Today, which has been favouring Kejriwal for some weeks, changed tack to ask if the party was creating vigilant citizens or citizen vigilantes.

The answer had been obvious from the time of Anna’s campaign, when he had suggested vigilantism against alcohol use, but the media seem to have forgotten that episode. Or maybe they thought that Kejriwal would know that the direct action that may work for Ralegan Siddhi would be out of place in Delhi. Headlines Today viewers called in to ask why turning citizens into spies is better than big-picture reform like making processes transparent and reducing discretionary powers.

Other channels, including Times Now, AAP’s main backer, were after bigger game: big shots aiming to have a spot of fun at public expense. Through at least half of Friday, for instance, NDTV endlessly ran footage from the Bollywood jamboree in Uttar Pradesh, and several channels intercut the matkas and jhatkas sharply with early morning footage from the Muzaffarnagar refugee camps, where children are still ailing in the cold wave.

But Times Now, which one expected to be taking the spluttering lead against such gross insensitivity, had other fish to fry — on the banks of the Bosporus and on the Gold Coast, where sundry legislators from North and South had been filmed disporting themselves at amusement parks and monuments while on alleged study tours. “Zero per cent study, 100 per cent tour,” sneered the channel. But they had neglected to take a translator along, so conversation languished. Here is a sample. Aussie Times Now reporter to Kannada MLA: “So, how many of you on the tour?” MLA: “Three days only.”

While exposing a very serious issue, Junk the Junket was superb absurd drama. It was reminiscent of the dialogue of a fat cat just back from a study tour in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron: “They don’t do it like this in advanced countries. There, drinking water is separate and drain water is separate.”

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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