Questions and non-sequiturs

For TV channels, election season is about trying to get politicians to give straightforward replies.

Updated: March 13, 2014 10:53 am

For TV channels, election season is about trying to get politicians to give straightforward replies.

In the time of elections, who do you expect to see? Why, politicians of course, not Salman Khan. But there he was, trying to appear comfortable in an oversized chair that, believe it or not, almost dwarfed him. He was a guest at the India Today Conclave, answering questions put to him by Koel Purie Rinchet. If you can call them answers. Question: “Who is in your heart right now?” Answer: “Just now I am in a transit period.” And so it went — questions and non-sequitur answers — so much so that finally Rinchet burst out, “You might as well ask your own questions and
answer them!”

That is something politicians might like to do when they are in the firing line. On Saturday, many of them were. Mamata Banerjee was up against Arnab Goswami (Times Now) and she dealt with him the way she does with most people — like a school marm reprimanding a naughty schoolboy. Asked about a possible alliance with Narendra Modi, she replied tersely: “I cannot adjust with communal forces — that chapter is closed.” And Amar Singh re-emerged from we don’t know where to wax philosophical (India News). Asked if he was going to fight the Lok Sabha elections, he ruminated, “Kal kisne dekha hai?” As it happened, of course, the very next day his candidature for the RLD from Fatehpur was announced, so clearly he was more of a clairvoyant
than he made himself out to be.

Modi was taking a tea break with women from different parts of India on chai pe charcha and Lalu Prasad was having a session with Madhu Trehan on Facebook Talks Live (NDTV 24×7/ without the tea.

But where was news television’s favourite subject? Arvind Kejriwal was on News24 informing Anuradha Prasad that Mukesh Ambani was the “real” face of the nation. We saw another face of Aam Aadmi Party’s leading man on Monday, when a clip posted on YouTube was run on news channels. It showed him in muffled conversation with Aaj Tak’s Prasoon Bajpai at the end of an interview — without his muffler (sorry for the poor joke), requesting parts of the interview to be played up.

In this season of polls, it’s all about asking questions and trying to get straightforward replies. For those, you need to speak to the voters rather than the political aspirants. On NDTV India’s National Highway, we were at Baba ka Dhaba in Kanpur, where foodies were asked about the elections, Modi and Kejriwal. One customer declared that Arvindji could no longer be trusted. Another claimed that only the BSP could stop Modi. Hamari Sansad (India News) held a debate between politicians on issues concerning women with a room full of women launching themselves at the Congress and BJP representatives.

The “big debate” on Zee Business was on tainted politicians receiving Lok Sabha tickets. Here, anchor Amish Devgan has positioned himself as the A. Goswami of Hindi news. So he began by yelling and then demanding answers for the nation: Why is B.S. Yeddyurappa getting a ticket? Why is A. Raja getting a ticket? Why is Naveen Jindal getting a ticket? Then he bellowed: Modi said A is for Adarsh, B is for Bofors and C is for coal scam, but B is also for B.S. Yeddyurappa. Touche. Devgan puts on quite an ear-splitting performance, raising concerns about the condition
of his hearing.

Vinod Dua need have no such worries. He is invariably soft-spoken. But there’s a razor’s edge to his words that can be quite cutting. He is the polar opposite of Devgan and proves on his daily show that you don’t need to be loud to be heard or to be an effective anchor (Vinod Dua ka Prashankaal, IBN7). Listened to him spar gently with, even needle, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman with questions on a “safe seat” for Modi. It was intelligent and intelligible TV.

At least two channels discussed the AAP and the media, although in different contexts. CNN-IBN wanted to know whether the BJP vs AAP story was an illusion, while Zee News went after the Kejriwal-Bajpai interview. Zee was quite stern on both gentlemen, calling the interchange between them “media fixing”. Interesting, because Bajpai worked previously at Zee News.

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