Kejriwal Is News, News Is Kejriwal

03 Jan,2014


By Shailesh Kapoor


On Koffee With Karan last weekend, a seemingly innocuous question left Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt stumped. When asked to name the President of India, their answers were Manmohan Singh and Prithviraj Chauhan respectively. If they were made to sit and watch news channels for a week as punishment, their answer would have probably changed to Arvind Kejriwal.


Why just Dhawan and Bhatt? The way our news channels are covering Kejriwal these days, even the aam aadmi can be excused for believing that Kejriwal has replaced Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister of India.


2014 has arrived. We are in the year of the General Elections. Every political news story, across channels, is invariably trying to find a link with the General Elections. The news media have three poster boys in this pursuit: Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal.


Narendra Modi’s speeches are interesting, bordering on mild entertainment, and hence make for good live coverage. Rahul Gandhi makes news for leaving his party wondering if he’s on their side. His “personal” views may be heartening, but they come across as pontification at most times.


Faced with entertaining but stereotypical competition, Arvind Kejriwal has managed to create a league of his own. A new style of governance is on display. It’s like Anil Kapoor’s Nayak playing out in real life. Even Salman Khan is creating aam aadmi songs against corruption. Idea created a commercial within days of AAP going to the people of Delhi for a referendum on whether they should form the Government in the capital. ‘What an idea, Sirji’, it acknowledges.


It is easy to understand why Kejriwal and AAP have caught our fancy. It’s a radical departure from the politics we have all seen for years on end. From politics of greed, arrogance and corruption, we are now seeing the virtual other end. We would have been excused for thinking this happens only in movies. Till about a month ago, that is.


The Delhi Government is getting coverage even the UPA Government at the Centre has rarely got. In the debate on the trust vote, Dr Harshvardhan, whom Arvind Kejriwal certified as a good man in the wrong party (BJP), commented on how even he has taken the Delhi Metro several times, but has not used it as a photo-op.


But isn’t that precisely the point? What’s a “photo-op” to Dr Harshvardhan is “innovation” to the rest of the country. Tokenism and symbolism may come across as shallow words, but they hold so much relevance in this context. By traveling in his Wagon R and declining a luxurious bungalow, Kejriwal is giving messages, however symbolic, that may have far-reaching consequences in the shaping of the history of our polity.


AAP is in a honeymoon phase with the media right now. It is difficult to fault their intentions. Their ability to execute will be realistically known only in six months or so, assuming the Congress doesn’t pull the plug. In fact, how openly AAP ridicules Congress even now, after having their outside support, itself makes for delicious copy.


We needed the Aam Aadmi Party. We needed Arvind Kejriwal. Not just as citizens of India, but as media houses and media consumers. The political news on TV and in the papers was getting way too predictable of late. But here’s the man with the twist. If he can manage to translate even 20% of this euphoria into results in the General Elections, and win about 50 seats, I can assure you we are in for a rollercoaster ride on the political news front for several years ahead.


Meanwhile, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan may as well declare him the Prime Minister of India right away.


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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