Ranjona Banerji: News Entertainment UnLtd

23 Jan,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


The tussle for supremacy between Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party and his former ally Kiran Bedi, now with the Bharatiya Janata Party has dominated airtime and cybertime in India. Kejriwal has asked for a debate before the Delhi polls, campaigning for which is now on,  and Bedi has refused. And both have added to the drama by their own actions. Bedi by deleting all her tweets criticising the BJP and Modi and Kejriwal by saving them and retweeting them. Plus there are all those tweets by Bedi about the need to debate during an election campaign. These are those rare occasions where journalists don’t have to do much work – the entertainment is laid out for them.


Bedi provided extra grist to the mill by walking off on national television in the middle of a cross-interrogation by Arnab Goswami of Times Now. Although Bedi did indicate that she was in a hurry and had to leave soon, she chose to get up and take off her mike just as Goswami asked a question about her former mentor Anna Hazare. She did not answer the question. Anyone familiar with Indian TV knows what a gross error that can be. Goswami does not take these slights lightly. Technology being what it is, the gif was all over social media almost immediately.



The funniest part of the interview however was when Bedi accused Goswami of “cherry-picking” and the conversation turned into one of those tongue-twisting rhymes for children, with cherry-picking being used every third word.


The next day, Goswami had yet another debate on who ran away and why they ran and so on which turned into an expected slugfest between the AAP and the BJP. This was an Indian TV speciality: a debate about whether there should be a debate.


In an aside, Sunil Alagh, once head of Britannia and now a BJP PR person of some sort, should have walked away from the show after being chastised by Goswami. However, as many evil journalists know, some people are so desperate for publicity that they are willing to put up with just about anything including being spoken down to on television.


The battle for Delhi however does have big competition in the media. The mess in Indian cricket, the witch hunt for former BCCI chief N Srinivasan’s head and the Supreme Court’s pronouncements are putting up a strong competition here for media time. At least when it comes to cricket, there are number of serious issues at stake from match-fixing to the control of cricket to conflict of interest and the future of the Indian Premier League.


But there’s a third party here as well: The renewed investigation into the death of Sunanda Tharoor also threatens to oust Kejriwal and Bedi. And if BJP spokesperson Subramaniam Swamy has his way, this investigation would never go off the air. So we have to listen to friends of Sashi Tharoor, friends of Sunanda Tharoor, various lawyers who say little other than the law and Swamy who says just what he wants. People discuss medicine and drugs and diseases without being doctors and pharmacologists and everyone who has read the FIR and post-mortem reports is now both a coroner and a forensic expert.




And then there’s the biggest problem of all for diehard publicity hounds: the visit of US president Barack Obama on Republic Day.


Hmm. Tough call.




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