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The Art of the Possible

From next week,the cameras will be focused on deliverables.

Arnab wants to know. It follows that the nation just has to know. This simple business model,based on the ancient principle of creating demand if none exists,powers Times Now. But this week,in a startling role reversal,Arnab wants to know what the nation wants to know. An unnerving promo is airing on his channel,crowded with mango people who all declare,“I have a question for Arnab.” Has Times Now begun to believe that the ‘Your Channel’ alias is its real identity? Arnab serious,come quick!

With the new government of Delhi taking the oath of office at a nice winter morning outing at Ramlila Maidan,maybe the media’s curiosity about the Aam Aadmi Party will pass,leaving the government room to contemplate its rather improbable poll subsidies. About time,too. When a story inspires an Amul billboard and a what-an-Idea-sirjee TV ad,it must be as ripe as a Camembert.

From next week,the cameras will be focused on deliverables. Which means,er,that they’ll be doing precisely what they’ve been doing since the AAPquake hit Delhi. Zameeni sachchai,a back formation from ‘ground realities’,has been ricocheting all over the airwaves ever since the morning of counting day in Delhi. Besides violating the thin,wavering but universally recognised line of control between Urdu and Hindi,it’s unusual for the media to remain so implacably grounded while a significant section of the electorate wants to believe that the sky is within reach.

India TV caught Sheila Dikshit for one of those quick,all-encompassing interviews. It had shovel-loads of ground realities,and valid and therefore predictable concerns about the “hawa-hawai promises” of dream merchants. Of course,free water and subsidised power are unsustainable sops,even if all the leaks are plugged,but parties routinely get away with such nonsense. In fact,they are applauded for good politics. What’s new here?

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But a couple of things stood out in this interview,like Dikshit’s refusal to comment on the longevity of the government. She also spoke with unusual heat of AAP’s abusive campaign — “not civil politics”. But her dismissal of the Ramlila swearing-in as “shoshabaazi” (grandstanding) sounded plain peevish. AAP has its roots in public venues like Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan,which have obvious symbolic,political value for its adherents. With such

symbolism,AAP is getting the job done even before taking office,demonstrating that the ossified,exclusivist command structure of Indian politics can be changed. If the deed is already done,all the speculation about AAP’s longevity,such as Sandeep Dikshit telling Your Channel of a life span of two to three months,is pretty much pointless.

Much more interesting was the manner

in which AAP diddled the Congress on the question of support. On Sunday,when it seemed clear that AAP would move towards government formation,the Congress began bleating that it had never offered unconditional support,with leaders popping up on all

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channels on Monday to clarify the position. Well,they should have moved last week,

because the impression of unconditional support was well-established.

And on Monday morning on CNN-IBN,just before staking a claim,Arvind Kejriwal reaffirmed that Congress leaders would be probed for under-the-table economics,seemingly precluding an alliance. But within minutes,Kumar Vishwas said that any vote of confidence in their government would be a conscience vote. Congressmen in favour would say aye,presumably,while the rest bit their nails. Quite absurd,but yet another example of the manner in which AAP is pushing the limits of the art of the possible.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

First published on: 28-12-2013 at 01:03 IST
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