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All Eyes Remain on Delhi

AAP plans to seek out scams spawned by the Congress and the BJP,yet Congress is ready to give unconditional support

Surprise,surprise,the Fed’s taper is finally lit. But everyone has been on about it for so long that no markets were harmed in what was expected to have been a conflagration for developing economies. Cycling rapidly through CNBC-TV18,NDTV Profit and CNBC Awaaz just after the opening bell on Thursday morning,one found them reporting,with surreal equanimity,markets falling across Asia,led by banking scrips and the Indian bourses. Awaaz gave it away,admitting that everyone had worked the taper into their calculations long ago.

While the economy knew what it was doing,politics remained the realm of the incalculable. Would Kejriwal,would he not? That remained an obsession for the media,with India News revealing yesterday morning that he was done polling the people of Delhi on government formation,that 75 per cent of respondents had said aye,and that an announcement was imminent.

Then cape fear swept the media as the AIADMK suggested that Jayalalithaa would make a fine PM. Anyway,the field is already such a shifting landscape that the list of contenders on a programme on ABP News included — entirely in jest,one hopes — Prakash Karat.

All eyes remain on Delhi and specifically on serial interviewee Arvind Kejriwal. Barkha Dutt did him first,then Arnab Goswami did him first again,just to make sure. Rahul Kanwal did him yet again. The habit was catching. This edition of Khas Mulakat brought out the inherent paradox that Delhi may face,with Kejriwal clearly saying that if the Aam Aadmi Party formed a government with allies,it would ungratefully seek out scams spawned by the Congress in the 15 years of the Sheila Dikshit government,and underhand dealings in the seven years when the BJP had control of the municipal corporation. He promised to be even-handed: no witch-hunts,just a general slaughter. Which partner would seek such a dangerous liaison? And yet the Congress has not withdrawn its offer of unconditional support.

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But why doesn’t the government extend support to Indians overseas until it is goaded by the media? Captain Sunil James may have languished in a foreign jail for months yet,had not the untimely death of his son — unimaginably shocking to any parent — seized the media’s fancy. And the case concerning Devyani Khobragade and Sangeeta Richard and her family had been brewing for months,but it became a full-blown diplomatic row — which could have been avoided with a little diligence from both sides — only after the media entered the fray. Now,thanks to media attention,the row threatens to overshadow the original case,concerning underpayment. The media itself is shaken and stirred. Chidanand Rajghatta,long-time Washington correspondent of The Times of India,was ticked off on air by Arnab Goswami for being insufficiently outraged and therefore un-Indian. Not quite as lively as the telling-off of Meenakshi Lekhi: “Never,never,never,ever,ever accuse a journalist…” or words to that effect,but pretty stirring nevertheless.

But Goswami has used nationalism of another strain to good advantage,to help viewers understand the nature of the protean thing that the AAP has become. He needled Kejriwal for turning the question of government formation over to the people,calling it a form of outsourcing. And he was probably the only anchor to speak of the dangers of the digital divide in such politics — canvassing a tiny wired population to understand what the disconnected masses want is a flawed signalling system. Trenchant criticism from an early supporter of protest politics.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

First published on: 21-12-2013 at 04:30 IST
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