With mere days to go for the Delhi Assembly Elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the party that promises a cleaner political environment than all the sparkling white shirts that detergent ads show, its leader and a household name – Arvind Kejriwal – has come up with a startling (literally) revelation.
Kejriwal has launched a counter-point of all counter-point against mediasarkar.com’s sting operation against several AAP leaders; he says he was “told Rs 1,400 crore has been distributed to a few media houses. Who are these media houses? There are a number of media houses and journalist who are honest but a few are black sheeps who have sold their soul”.
Perhaps he credits himself with more value than all the poll pandits and aam aadmi credits him with. Perhaps Anuranjan Jha, the MD of the first 24-hour matrimonial channel, Shagun TV, now better known as the man behind mediasarkar.com, indeed doctored the sting tapes to ‘expose’ AAP leaders agreeing to extend support for recovery of money from individuals and getting land deals done in return of donations in cash to AAP. Whatever the point of investigation to ascertain what really happened, the whole issue only points to certain unsettling possibilities:
1. The aam aadmi can try as he might stop being party to corrupt practices but corruption is not going anywhere. Even Kejriwal can’t promise a foolproof corruption-free system.
2. Media will continue to grow in a market where there will be always takers for new newspapers, channels and portals but will continue to be at the risk of sensationalism and vested interests. And, there will be takers in a country where rumours, twisted facts and half-truths garner better TRPs, page views and circulation than actual news itself.
Let’s try and understand the two prime players in the sting-operation incident – Kejriwal and Jha.
Kejriwal’s been around for some time now, with or without Anna Hazare. Controversies have dogged him since the time he broke ranks with Anna to join politics but he’s continued unfazed, placed some explosive revelations of the corrupt society we live in and has shown the mirror to many a public figure who have no right to be one. He has also made the aam aadmi realise that it is possible to come together to fight the cancer of the Indian society – corruption.
Jha has been around for some time now too. His Facebook homepage updated seven months ago describes him as a ‘strong-headed’ man and draws attention to the fact that he is a senior journalist who in the past has worked in prime positions with some of the best known brands in the Indian TV news industry. On the other hand, Kumar Vishwas, the Hindi poet, professor of Hindi Literature and AAP leader in the middle of the sting-tape controversy, told a fledgling media outlet, Haryana ABTAK, that “this man named Anuranjan Jha is my friend for the last six years. His wife and children also visit my house”.
Vishwas’s take on the incident that seemed to be so well-timed to hurt AAP is difficult to ignore: “Few days back, he called me and said that an event management company wants to organise an event. I told him to talk to my personal assistant. I directed my secretary to talk to Anuranjan regarding an event and give him some rebate in the fee if he asks for it.
A woman came from Anuranjan’s reference and said she was a big fan of mine. She wanted to book me for an event in Pune. I told her my fee and also said that the event should not have any tobacco or liquor company as an advertiser. She wanted to make an advance payment to me. I agreed and said the money should be given to my secretary. The woman, instead of giving the money to him, was willing to hand over the money to me. She told me the money was given by political sponsors who don’t want to be identified. I do 200 shows in a year. It is impossible for me to track the trail of money in each and every show. So I agreed. She kept on insisting that I touch the money for once. When she left, I called Anuranjan. He said she was his friend’s wife. I got to know about the misdemeanour when some TV channels started showing the doctored clip as the big expose. I immediately called Anuranjan. But he did not pick his phone up.”
One would comprehend, given that Vishwas participates in kavi sammelans across the country, the “event” he talks about could be one of them. Other AAP leaders who also got ‘caught’ in the sting in similar ways include Manoj Kumar, Dinesh Mohaniya, Irfan Ullah Khan, Mukesh Hooda, Prakash and Bhawna Gaur.
Whether the tapes are authentic or the result of an editing table is for the Delhi court to decide as it has posted for January 25 the defamation case filed by AAP against mediasarkar.com and a private TV channel India News, alleging that they conducted a fake sting operation to harm the party’s reputation. Meanwhile, it has put a big question mark on trial by media, yet again.
The social media eruptions in support of Kejriwal and co. allege that the whole sting operation is a sham-taint on Indian media, where journalists turn prosecutors. “The entire story seems to convey that an editor decided his story, wrote the script and then asked his reporters to collect video footage of those to be dragged in; when failed (he/she) did little editing and (an) unethical VO. The result is a hot story for ‘prime time’ on which a media trial can be based,” says BlogSpot Thirdcall.
What seems to have hit the voters is not a sense of futility as far as AAP is concerned but open anger and dislike for an alleged plot by the established parties. “… the motivation of the “Media Sarkar” sting is not to enforce clean candidates in the AAP or among the MLAs standing for election in Delhi – the motivation of the sting is to malign the party – plain and simple. And without any doubt “Media Sarkar” is a plant of either the BJP or the Congress,” writes Indrajit Chatterjee in India Opines.
There’s an apprehension that the whole sting episode is nothing more than last-minute mudsling. For, whether AAP will emerge victorious in the polls or not is for the electorate to decide but it is common, street knowledge that Kejriwal and Co. will cause main parties’ strongholds to breach. Significantly.
Notwithstanding the fact that the sting clearly raised some doubts, it is also clear that it failed to take AAP out of the political game altogether.