On most days, evening news television could be renamed Kejriwal TV. Just as India News should have been rechristened Asaram TV several months ago. Ever since the self-styled godman was charged with rape last November, the channel has had him frequently (as recently as Tuesday) dancing on the heads of the self-styled experts who debate him during the evening show. Is this news entertainment at its best, or, at its worst?
The chief minister of Delhi has gone one better. He’s on the news, daily: in the morning or afternoon, he makes news; in the evening, venerable experts discuss what he did or said to make news. So from the time he became CM over a month ago and began by launching an anti-corruption helpline, Arvind Kejriwal has brought up an issue every morning — it’s been a cough-athon ever since. News channels have gleefully latched on to his every hem and haw — it’s low cost news with high public appeal — and relayed it to the public instantaneously. He couldn’t have asked for a more efficient conveyor belt of his thoughts and actions.
One day we hear him preparing for the launch (no less) of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the next day, he’s passing the Swaraj Bill; one moment he is all for prosecuting former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, the next moment he orders FIRs against industrialist Mukesh Ambani and Union Minister Veerappa Moily. During the day, he’s breathing down a press mike or then it’s that other AAP media-friendly fellow, Prashant Bhushan. By night time prime-time, he’s playing the magician: he’s on air without actually being there, the topic of all conversation. Even Rajya Sabha TV had a sabha about him and this week began with his resignation threat, or as Aaj Tak put it, “Kejriwal kab tak?”
It’s a question we ought to ask ourselves: how long will Kejriwal be the main feature while Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi — forget all the other politicians in the country — act as fillers? Will he manage to dominate TV proceedings even when or if he does resign?
To be fair, Modi is not doing badly. He’s made something of a comeback, with Tuesday evening discussions across channels on the Americans, finally, agreeable to meeting him. Saw his election speech in Manipur earlier over the weekend, where he ad libbed in English quite fluently. You can see and hear nearly all his speeches from all corners of the country, courtesy live streaming. It is probably the first time that the speeches of major leaders during a Lok Sabha campaign are being delivered to everyone who couldn’t be physically present. And nobody delivers better than Modi.
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There is far more local coverage too. Most Hindi news channels conduct election debates from near and far. Caught ABP in Maharajganj, UP, chatting up party head honchos of the Congress, BJP, SP and BSP while their respective supporters hollered in the background. Sure, they spouted sweet nothings but you are hearing voices from the heartland and are getting a sense of grassroots politics. If only the channels could reflect more public opinion, less political propaganda.
And is it the first time that you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics (Star Sports 2)? It’s quite dazzling, what with all that ice and snow and snow and ice blinding in the sunlight. And events with such unusual names: luge, curling, skeleton, women’s pursuit, ladies normal hill individual, men’s halfpipe, men’s large hill combined, biathlon, bobsleigh — here we were thinking only ice hockey and figure-skating. Well, it’s all very alien but very exciting, nonetheless, especially because the commentators’ enthusiasm is infectious. In the speed-skating event, one of them exclaimed, “Wonderful!” after every other word, and it was truly a wonder that those magnificent women on magnificently thin blades could cover 500 metres in 37.28 seconds.
It has been well said that the only news is bad news. That is, until Aaj Tak decided to launch Good News Today. The episode on Sunday was more than good, it was inspirational in the story of young Shubhreet Kaur, who was seen dancing on India’s Got Talent (Colors) despite the loss of one leg. Good show.