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In India, it is not news until it happens in the national capital. They say in the last two decades more people have died of malaria in West Bengal than the great famine of 1943. However, little has been written on it.
Similarly, one does not see too many statistics on the number of dengue and chikungunya deaths across the country. But, one death in Delhi and boom – the national media jumps upon it like the country is on fire. This is not to in anyway to discount the tragedy or the seriousness of the health scare that looms over the National Capital Region.
Arvind Kejriwal understands this better than most politicians and he has successfully manipulated it to his best advantage since the days of the Anna movement. He realised that an anashan in Jantar Mantar or Ram Lila Ground can get him a thousand times more mileage than a flop-show in a 100 acre Mumbai Maidan.
As a result, Kejriwal has managed to get disproportionate amount of airtime on television and column centimetres in print media, thanks to lazy journalism, than many more accomplished Chief Ministers and seasoned national leaders of long standing. No wonder he fancies himself as the virtual shadow Prime Minister with a licence to comment on anything and everything under the sun – including foreign affairs.
There are two issues at stake here, both affecting the residents of Delhi. First, of course, is the threat of a virtual epidemic which needs to be tackled on war footing. The second is the larger debate about governance in Delhi.
No matter what Kejriwal’s views may be about the powers and responsibilities of the Centre for the civic administration of Delhi, the Union Health Ministry cannot be rushing SOS teams to tackle local health issues of every State.
But, in its enthusiasm to trade blame with AAP, the BJP has missed a huge opportunity to retrieve the moral high ground from under Kejriwal’s hospital bed. It was like the BJP spokespersons trying to shoot mosquitoes in the air when it were the drains that needed cleaning up.
Where are the AAP volunteers who symbolically swept Delhi clean with “jhadus”, the BJP should have asked while hitting the streets with their own workers and RSS swayamsevaks to get MCD and NDMC do their job. That would have earned the BJP gratitude from the people of Delhi and exposed Kejriwal, not just in Delhi but also in Punjab and other States where he is contemplating an entry by AAP.
That Kejriwal is a shirker should have been known to any politically aware observer since he threw in the towel in AAP’s first term in Delhi. This impression was further reinforced when he chose to become a Chief Minister without portfolio.
He has spent his time blaming the Prime Minister and fighting with the LG when not travelling around the country to build a national image for himself as PM-in-Waiting or taking off for Vipasanna and naturopathy retreats. He did all this under the indulgent eyes of the media which for some inexplicable reason has developed a huge soft corner for him.
On his part Kejriwal has assiduously cultivated the media at large and some so-called five-star journalists in particular. Many media worthies have been favoured with coveted positions in educational and other institutions of the Delhi administration and there are rumours about one former editor becoming AAP’s Chief Ministerial face in a coastal State. Therefore, it came as a shocker when Kejriwal tweeted gutter muck at arguably one of the most formidable journalists of our times, Shekhar Gupta, and got into an unseemly spat with a TV anchor.
In the past Kejriwal has not always followed decorum or political etiquette in public life. He has hurled abuses at the Prime Minister. But in using a word like “Dalal” he has gone well beyond his own past record. At one level it reveals Kejriwal’s opinion about journalists, even very senior ones. Whether this has been formed by his own experience and how many “Dalals” masquerading as media doyens he has encountered or done business with, one cannot comment. But, it does smack of there being more to the implosion than can be seen on TV screens.
Here too Kejriwal is singled out for kid-glove treatment by his friends and admirers in the fourth estate. Imagine what the reactions would have been if another Chief Minister had made such a comment. Hell would have broken loose and would not have subsided until the person, however, high and mighty, apologised or expressed regret. The silence of the fraternity is intriguing, to say the least.
There are jokes doing the rounds on Whatsapp about how Kejriwal beat Pinocchio in a lying contest. Kejriwal seems to be on the path to disprove Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote, “You can’t fool all people all the time”.
One can understand if Narendra Modi is giving Kejriwal a long rope to hang himself. But, why is the media soft on him is not only “mushkil” to explain but almost “namumkin” to fathom.