Tele Scope: When people speak

When people speak... parties and news anchors are forced to eat their own words.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: February 12, 2015 12:34 am
AAP supporters outside the party office in Patel Nagar.  (Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi) AAP supporters outside the party office in Patel Nagar. (Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

Eggs for breakfast anyone? On Tuesday morning, Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala wondered if they would get “omelettes” in case the predictions of a BJP defeat were wrong (NDTV 24×7). Rajdeep Sardesai, anchoring Headlines Today’s exit polls show, Saturday, hoped the poll was correct, otherwise he might have “egg yolk” dripping down his cheeks. In the event, they need not have worried: it was the BJP that ended up with egg on its face and the Congress that got a big fat “anda” in the Delhi assembly election.

In fact, by Saturday evening, it was all over but for the counting and by Tuesday, 9.30 am, it was all over but for the “tsunami” in favour of the AAP. Barring one, the exit polls on Saturday had predicted a clear AAP victory, while a few gave the Congress zero seats. None came even close to the final margin of victory for the AAP. India News was the closest poll with 53 seats for “Abki baar Kejriwal” and, oddly enough, Data Mineria gave the BJP an edge with 35 seats — now who do you suppose they had spoken to when it is now clear that almost every second vote cast in the city went to the AAP?

With near unanimity on the result, TV news channels discussed the reasons for the BJP’s “defeat” Saturday to Monday. By the time counting began on Tuesday, most TV anchors were fairly relaxed. There were a few frissons of excitement till about 8.30 am, when NDTV had 10:8 leads in favour of the AAP; DD News, Times Now had 2:1:1 for the AAP, BJP and Congress, respectively. But by 8.40 am, News Nation had 42 for the AAP and calm descended. Except in the India TV newsroom, where the anchor’s breathless running commentary on constituency leads sounded like they were describing a horse race when the AAP was winning at a canter.

The only other studio where the excitement was palpable from the morning was Times Now. On Saturday, it had a panel of up to 15 people discussing the exit “poll of polls”, which might strike a few of us as a few too many, but excess is something we have come to expect from the channel. And to sex-up the counting, Arnab Goswami introduced us to his new toys on Monday: Spectrum, Clusters, Firewall and Heat Map. He used them on Tuesday to give us instantaneous analyses of the figures — for instance, he was able to inform us that Delhi’s “Punjabi cluster”, which traditionally voted BJP, had deserted them; or that the AAP polled over 40 per cent in most constituencies, etc. Fun.

Equally entertaining has been listening to the BJP spokesperson and chief ministerial candidate. On Saturday, Kiran Bedi said that if the BJP lost it was her responsibility, a win would be the party’s victory. After the BJP and Bedi lost, she said, “I think I haven’t lost, I did my best.” Why say this on national TV that has a long memory in TV clips to remind you of what you said before and after?

When the BJP was left with only three seats in the capital, TV breaking news became “historic”, with all anchors asking the question Bhupendra Chaubey did repeatedly: Isn’t this a verdict on the Modi-Shah combine (CNN-IBN)? No, insisted BJP spokespersons Nalin Kohli, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao and Sambit Patra in newsroom after newsroom, the loss did not reflect on them. The “Delhi unit” of the party had failed to capture “localised issues”. It was a “composite”, “collective” failure and the party needed to “introspect”.

Haven’t we heard such comments before? Perhaps from the party that has gone from being a hero to a zero in Delhi?

During television debates, in interviews with Kiran Bedi, in the campaign speeches by Narendra Modi telecast live and the radio ad campaign, the BJP got the tenor all wrong. It spoke of Modi’s success at the Centre; Modi spoke as he did during the Lok Sabha elections, all fire and brimstone, but without a sitting lame duck like the Congress for target practice. The BJP’s ads were about a “Modi sarkar — desh ki awaaz, Dil ki awaaz”.

But Delhi didn’t want to echo the nation, it wanted a voice of its own in the assembly election.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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