People’s man
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Raj, without let-up

MNS chief’s interviews showed how offence can be the best form of defence.

IN THE process, Thackeray revealed a great deal about himself in these interviews, perhaps unintentionally. He came across as hard-headed, stubborn, unbending, quick-tempered, intolerant of criticism and ready to take on all comers. In the process, Thackeray revealed a great deal about himself in these interviews, perhaps unintentionally.

MNS chief’s interviews showed how offence can be the best form of defence.

Raj Thackeray’s table manners may be exquisite but his behaviour during TV interviews is execrable. He displays none of those qualities you would associate with a perfect guest: he is disrespectful of his hosts; he is aggressive, abrasive, hostile and extremely critical of them; and disdainful of whatever they dish out. Which is what made his sessions on Times Now and CNN-IBN refreshing and entertaining.

When did you last hear a guest bark at Arnab Goswami and Rajdeep Sardesai like a cross between a bulldog and an alsatian (Frankly Speaking, Times Now)? Goswami badgered Thackeray with questions that began with “Log kehte hain”, and he snapped: “Who are these people?’’

With Sardesai (Newsmaker), his bite was worse than his bark: “You sit in the studio all day, who do you meet? Who are these people (you keep speaking about)?’’ If anything, he was harder on Sardesai than on Goswami: “This is an interview, not an interrogation, so sit back and don’t raise your voice… Don’t talk like Arnab. Aage chalo and don’t ask questions on the same subject.That’s enough now, no more!” Sardesai said people accused him of barking and harking on certain themes; Thackeray pounced on him: “Have you finished barking?” When Sardesai spoke of the “divide” in the Shiv Sena, he snapped back, “You return to NDTV then”. Ouch.

Sardesai subsided a little but to his credit never took umbrage, smiled and continued with his hard-nosed cross-questioning, which helped maintain the tempo of the interview. Goswami and Sardesai asked Thackeray why a merger or alliance with the Shiv Sena was not possible for the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, if his purpose was to elect Modi as PM. “Why don’t all of you TV channels get together and bring out just one channel too?” was his riposte — to which neither of them even tried to find a fitting reply.

Thackeray was equally biting about Rahul Gandhi and answered in a way that showed a chink in Goswami’s armour too. Asked by Goswami why he was supporting Modi as PM, he retorted: “You had interviewed Rahul Gandhi, did you think he was fit to be PM? A man who cannot give an interview, can he become PM?”

On and on it went. Aggression is the best form of defence, but this went beyond all boundaries. In the process, Thackeray revealed a great deal about himself in these interviews, perhaps unintentionally. He came across as hard-headed, stubborn, unbending, quick-tempered, intolerant of criticism and ready to take on all comers.

Mandate with Destiny (News X) is a series on previous general elections, “that changed the way India was run”, explained host Vir Sanghvi. In last week’s episode, he dealt with the elections of 1984. In order to get there, however, he had to first deal with the death of Sanjay Gandhi, the rise and death of Bhindranwale, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s succession and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Add Congressman Amarinder Singh’s recent “clean chit” to Jagdish Tytler, and it was a timely reminder of what happened in Delhi during those tragic days. Retired police officer Ved Marwah, asked to investigate the role of the police in the riots, said the miscreants and murderers were “hardcore criminals” who had nothing to do with the police — suggesting they had other employers. The episode contained visuals of the Golden Temple, Bhindranwale, Delhi aflame — much of which viewers of today would not have seen, since Doordarshan at the time showed next to nothing of those tumultuous events.

Mandate with Destiny is a good look back at political and electoral history. It would have been even better had there been more interviews besides those with Indira Gandhi’s aide, R. K. Dhawan, journalist Satish Jacob, businessman Kamal Morarka and Marwah. Also, Sanghvi’s narration was based largely on his own opinions: He said it was “crazy” to send the army into the Golden Temple complex, that Sanjay Gandhi was reckless, that during the Delhi riots, “perhaps the cops were told to let Delhi burn”.

On a lighter note, have you noticed that the cheerleaders at the IPL are wearing full body suits? We have more than one reason to be grateful that the tournament is being held in Dubai/ Sharjah.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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