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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tele Scope: Losing her voice

A coy Kiran Bedi makes Arvind Kejriwal sound almost statesmanlike.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: February 5, 2015 12:03:04 am
Kiran Bedi, Delhi polls, Bedi breaks down From the moment she walked out of an interview, it was difficult to understand Bedi’s pronouncements. ‘I am not a Crocin, I am a specialist,’ she said.

When “Kiran Modi”, as BJP leader Seshadri Chari inadvertently christened her (Headlines Today), looks back on her election campaign in Delhi, she may be relieved she lost her voice midway — particularly if she becomes chief minister. If she doesn’t, she may well wish she’d lost it earlier.

Almost every time she opened her mouth for a TV interview, she jeopardised her vote bank. From the moment she walked out of the interview with Times Now to the time she walked away from questions posed by NDTV India’s Ravish, it was difficult to understand her pronouncements. “I am not a Crocin, I am a specialist,” Bedi said to Ravish.

In the best interview you are likely to see in a very long time, the “specialist” did not have any specific treatment for whatever ails Delhi. Sample her replies to questions on unemployment (“We will have skill development in government schools with half-day shifts”), expensive private education (“Let me look at it”), security in Delhi for women (“I will bring the administration together, I am here to bring people together — parents, teachers…”), statehood (“I will work with whatever I have”), electricity (“You will get it at a reasonable rate, a rate you can afford”). Delightfully vague for a specialist, wouldn’t you say?

At no stage did she outline any concrete measures or marshal any facts and figures. Perhaps because her main preoccupation was with the time she had allotted the interview — not a minute more, not a second less — as she repeatedly glanced at her watch.

For a lady known to be disastrously frank, she was coy. Asked by Rajat Sharma (Aap Ki Adalat, India TV) about the AAP’s funding, she said Arvind Kejriwal had made a “business” out of politics, but refrained from elaborating because it would leave a bad taste in her mouth. Asked why she had joined politics, she replied she had been propelled into politics by the urgings of her “inner voice” (remember Sonia Gandhi’s?). Asked why Narendra Modi had remained silent on the conversion controversy, she shot back, “Who says he is silent? Who knows what he has said within the party?” We don’t. And we were none the wiser after Bedi’s response.

Rather like the pedestrians accosted by Ankit Tyagi of Headlines Today and shown a video of a speechless Bedi, mouthing something and pumping her fist. “What do you think she is saying?” asked Tyagi. They shrugged and gave it their wildest guess.

The supreme irony is that, on TV at least, Bedi has made Kejriwal appear almost statesmanlike — or maybe that’s because he’s not wrapped up in a muffler? Bedi has made the “anarchist” sound like the next chief minister of Delhi. In interviews with Barkha Dutt and Sreenivasan Jain (NDTV 24×7), he was lucid and specific, outlining steps he will take or refuting allegations of financial impropriety. He laughed but did not cough, he sounded gentlemanly; she churlish. He told Dutt he still liked Bedi; she told Ravish she would not enter into a debate with Kejriwal because of the mudslinging — presumably by him.

Small wonder, the opinion polls on Tuesday had the AAP ahead of the BJP. The Congress, meanwhile, is out of the race. India TV reported that Rahul Gandhi wanted the party to concentrate on 17 seats it could win in Delhi. Rajat Sharma patted him on the back and said this was a wise decision. With little at stake, the Congress seems to be using the opportunity to develop the debating skills of its younger members like Ajay Kumar and Ragini Nayak.

They’re likely to learn that she or he who shouts the loudest, shouts last. On Tuesday night, it was a toss-up between Ashish Khetan (AAP) and Sambit Patra (BJP), with journalist Ajoy Bose trying to interject with a loud “No, No!” (Times Now). Why, they even managed to silence the nation’s voice.

Wish they could have put out the fires too. For reasons best known to Times Now, it had flames flickering at the bottom of the TV screen.

Aaj Tak liked the idea too and had its own fire licking the straplines. Lovely graphics, but what purpose did they serve? To suggest that the Delhi elections are the burning issue before the country?

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