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Hit and Run,On Camera

Finally,the media fears being commandeered by Kejriwal

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: October 20, 2012 3:38 am

Who’s afraid of Arvind Kejriwal? On the eve of the capped crusader’s attack on BJP president Nitin Gadkari,Arnab Goswami volunteered for the role by protesting far too much. Sounding like his hand was on his heart (though it was visibly fiddling with a pen),he declared: “Arvind Kejriwal thinks he sets the news agenda,but not on Times Now.” The provocation for this declaration of independence was Kejriwal’s new strategy of hopping from target to target. And then IAC media handler Shazia Ilmi told fellow studio guest Pinky Anand,of the BJP national executive,that if she found the strategy lightweight,she could turn off the TV. That hurt. Maybe Anand can turn off the TV,but Goswami can’t.

Kejriwal is causing territorial anxieties everywhere. The media fears being swamped by his shoot-and-scoot rampage. Indeed,it’s catch-22. Kejriwal only has to keep the accusations coming and if the media reports diligently,it will be overrun. It can defend itself only by filtering Kejriwal-generated news,which would amount to indefensible skewing of coverage.

Meanwhile,political parties are rallying to defend their own. Salman Khurshid led the Congress defence of Robert Vadra alias Raju Public. He was sticking his head over the parapet and a target that juicy was bound to be hit. And then the party felt impelled to muster behind him. Until Beni Prasad Verma put his foot in his mouth by hazarding the price tag of a Congress minister. Not in the Rs 71 lakh band,he confidently asserted before the party bundled him away. And then Khurshid lost it and spoke of blood and guts,and became unspeakable,and they may pull the plug on him in the impending reshuffle. So much devastation,sparked off by a drive-by shooting!

The BJP’s rallying around Nitin Gadkari was even more desperate. The advance threat of disclosure had created a sense of foreboding. All the heavyweights were out there in a last-ditch stand as stirring as the defence of Chitral. And when Kejriwal’s ammunition belt was found to be empty,it felt like the relief of Mafeking. And yet,Kejriwal keeps on winning.

Shoot-and-scoot skirmishing has freed him of the burden of proof. His campaign can move forward at Nintendo speed. Allegations count for everything. By the time proof is seriously demanded,he’s moved on to the next ambush. Besides,for a man running a poorly defined party with a loose agenda and no name,he has established extraordinary levels of organisational secrecy. On the eve of the attack on Gadkari,Pinky Anand was anticipating video or documentary evidence of his alleged meeting with Anjali Damania. On Times Now,she genuinely had no idea that Gadkari would be projected as a tycoon preying on suicidal peasants. Or that,for the second time running,he would be attacked with blank ammunition.

Siddharth Varadarajan was probably the first TV guest (on Karan Thapar’s The Last Word) to figure out that the new strategy calls for speed rather than firepower. The media is fighting back by demanding evidence and consistency but by calling panel after panel to the studios after each ‘expose’,it is providing Kejriwal the oxygen of airtime.

Refreshingly,on Thursday,Zee led with a story on the Gwala Gaddi Samiti,which had launched its “cheap and chemical-free milk” in Delhi. The Alwar-based organisation is taking on Big Milk and demanding a Doodhpal. Now that the movement for a Lokpal has lost its way and there’s an adulteration wave in progress,it sounds more interesting than Kejriwal’s ’exposes’. Just one of the million stories that TV has been neglecting,allowing corruption issues to swamp airtime.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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