Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha, Javed Akhtar has accused anti-corruption-crusader-turned-political wannabe Arvind Kejriwal of being “like a journalist, pointing out problems but with no solutions”.
Javed Sahab couldn’t have been far from the truth.
Consider the curious case of Kejriwal’s accusations of disproportionate assets against Robert Vadra which finally reached the place where it should have — the court instead of in the press.
The Allahabad High Court on October 9, 2012 admitted a public interest litigation filed by activist named Nutan Thakur and gave the government three weeks to respond. Perhaps the court was the right venue for trying to find out if Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law was really guilty and perhaps the journalists who investigated the matter, at best, should be rewarded.
We are not talking of the Vadra case, so we’ll not talk much about it. We are talking of Kejriwal here; so, a question here that needs to be asked is why Kejriwal – with all his aspirations in politics – not go to court himself if he and his team had substantial evidence against Vadra?
There is but one answer to this, or at least that’s what Kejriwal has revealed in his modus operandi – he knows how to use the media. As Adiya Kalra writes in his column, India Insight, in Reuters: “Kejriwal is promoting nothing but the concept of ‘media trial’ — a cynical but sometimes effective circus that involves leaders, would-be leaders and various experts debating and levelling charges against each other in press conferences and during prime-time news hours. Whether justice gets done is an open question, but there is no question that it’s good for ratings and that people get their entertainment.”
Indeed, the media had catapulted him to stardom a year ago, buying without disbelief whatever he uttered for public consumption. At the risk of courting the rhetoric, the media has focussed, time and again, on what Kejriwal repeated. Charges – however repetitive they are in a scandal-prone system – do not ever get rubbed off of their ability to shock, so Vadra, BJP president Nitin Gadkari, RIL’s chief Mukesh Ambani, all are same. The targets only had to be high enough in profile and stature for Kejriwal to target.
Kejriwal’s tactics can best be described ambushes or low-intensity allegations’ warfare that have not only shaken the political class, stretched the limits of political discourse but also caused quakes among the established ‘pillars’ of the system. So, forget about Vadra and Ambani, he has not even spared President Pranab Mukherjee.
This is perhaps the first time that India has witnessed such an aggressive and irreverent brand of politics that pledges to come from no one else but the aam admi (common man).
Are people like Kejriwal, whether it is Kiran Bedi or Shanti Bhushan, media crusaders or what I call them Media Lo Manic (s).
But then here where the efforts seem all managed for a purpose. For, one of the reasons why Kejriwal and his close aides have done so well in generating a mass appeal is embedded in their ability to manage the media. Periodic exposes have been imperative tools in keeping the media engaged. One saw that in his ‘hey days’ even if a Kejriwal press conferences lasted up to an hour, the TV news channels gave him uninterrupted coverage. Is media playing up people like Kejriwal more than it should? In my view, yes and in my view, in the last six weeks, media has finally realised this.
But then there is another side to the whole story, much beyond bytes and coverage.
For the media, Kejriwal has also acted as a catalyst with his ‘exposes’. For example, when Kejriwal staged a press conference against Gadkari, it was all but the reason the media seemed to have been waiting to dig out alleged irregularities of Gadkari’s Purti Group and his controversial links with IRB.
Another aspect which lays bare an astute media strategy of the activists is that they invariably attach ‘faces’ to issues. As Mail Today says: “Just as Anna Hazare was the face of the Jan Lokpal movement, Vadra, Ambani and Gadkari are depicted as the faces of the crony capitalism.”
In the article penned by Aditya Menon and Kumar Rakesh, the Mail Today further said that the “strategy is also evident in the individuals that they glorify: from Aseem Trivedi to Ashok Khemka or, for that matter, even the deposed Union petroleum and natural gas minister S Jaipal Reddy”.
It goes without saying that India as a nation, a progressive one at that, has had enough of corruption, nepotism, and the red tape. We know it and we realise it. At the same time, we, as a nation, also realise that a fight against such social evils cannot be based on Utopia, on emotions and idealism, and diktats that propound the ‘us and them’ theory. Of course, neta may be a bad word in our psyche but one cannot say that “all politicians are bad”, so we need a in a new league of leaders to vote for – and only those of the Brand Kejriwal would do.
Till now, Kejriwal and his close aides have used all forms of media – the traditional and the online – to sustainably and substantially influence people and make them feel more victimised at a time when the whole nation – from the babus asking for bribes to pass a file to the safai karamchari who expects a baksheesh every festival, to those who give the bribes and baksheesh – needs to introspect.
Yes, India has its problems but a solution cannot be based on an impulse, on a movement that is bound to die because it is so unreal. A solution cannot be found on how good you can play up a situation in newspaper columns or on TV news bulletins. Worse, none of Kejriwal's claims and promises has yet been followed up with tangible plans, and the demands for changes are nearly fantastic.
Of course we have had enough of what’s wrong with the society. We also have had enough of huge aspirations and people who just want to hog the limelight. From Media Frankestians to Media Lo Manic (s), Indian media has to introspect their own creations.