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Lenin saved me from Varun

TV news can turn the truly dreadful — in this week’s context,the speech by that ‘proud Indian’ Varun Gandhi...

Written by Saubhik Chakrabarti |
March 21, 2009 1:01:13 am

TV news can turn the truly dreadful — in this week’s context,the speech by that ‘proud Indian’ Varun Gandhi — to the almost banal via endless repetition. That’s the nature of the beast. But it’s one thing to know this at an analytical level. Having to watch it is quite another thing.

So,appreciation must be recorded for CNN-IBN’s reporter and cameraperson who provided a break from what was becoming tedious: It was amusing and instructive to watch,courtesy CNN-IBN,Varun Gandhi being asked by his elders to not talk anymore. But that was about it by way of anything different from similar-sounding studio talk. So,a bigger thank you from me goes to Lenin,Azaruddin,Rubina and Anand Sharma — all of you,through no fault of yours,have helped me write a non-Varun TV news column this week.

All Anand Sharma,a Congressman,did was to say there’s no vacancy for the PM’s post,meaning a Congress-alliance will be led by a Congress politician. That’s standard stuff,right? Wrong. Times Now found that awfully exciting. I found Times Now’s awful excitement awfully exciting. Why was Times Now hanging a story — ‘Congress snubs PM hopefuls’ — on this byte? This was a small story that raised a big question on TV political journalism.

As did CNN-IBN’s judgment that Azaruddin and Rubina,the Slumdog child actors,being brought into the Congress’s party office merited a long discussion. Is the Congress politically exploiting the film,CNN-IBN asked. Duh! Of course,it is. And what’s the big deal? Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that,even Sudheendhra Kulkarni said as much — but CNN-IBN’s SMS polls were already on.

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Subsequently,CNN-IBN also asked 1. Whether Congress was a slumdog party? 2. Whether Congress was claiming under its rule slumdogs can become millionaires? 3. Whether the Slumdog-inspired campaign was part of a Congress’s strategy —send out pro-poor signals — that also include farm loan waivers,NREG and the RTI Act?

Should I switch back to Varun Gandhi news,I thought? But in your dark hours,as we have been told,Lenin can bring hope. NDTV went to interview AB Bardhan in his party office and,call in a triumph of communist interior design,wherever the camera focused,old Vlad was in the background — Lenin in a stylish beret waving and smiling or Lenin with Marx and Engels,all of them looking grim and purposeful.

I have never seen of so much of Lenin in so short a time. It was fun. There was something peaceful about the setting,which,considering the decoration was Lenin portraits,is saying something.


Lulled in this fashion,I almost missed the fact how easy a time Bardhan had. The premise of the interview was the Left taking various calls on how a third front can function. But that premise is dependant on another premise: that the Left does at least reasonably well. If it doesn’t — this is not beyond the realms of possibility in these elections — the Left’s role in post-poll negotiations will assume a very different character from that assumed throughout the interview.

Bardhan also got away absolutely unchallenged with saying the Left saved India from the financial crisis. True,that subject wasn’t the main focus of the show. But may one humbly submit that sweeping political claims should always be questioned,and especially so when Lenin is in the background.

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First published on: 21-03-2009 at 01:01:13 am
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