3 April 2014

Jaitley's Tragedy

Uncomfortable in the open?
   In the late 1980s, when satellite television was being demonstrated as a possibility, a senior journalist friend told me with a smug satisfaction, "Just wait till we have live coverage... the camera will expose all these chaps, it will show the expression on their faces". Sadly, he is no more, but I recalled his clairvoyance during the recent coverage of Amritsar and Chandigarh in all TV channels.
    Television can indeed expose things for what they are, specially outdoors during election time, when politicians have no place to run or hide. Take for example, Arun Jaitley, the BJP candidate from Amritsar. The camera showed him on his road show waving here and there - that established his credentials as a candidate. Then the camera went mid-shot and showed him standing cheek-by-jowl with other party personnel. They weren't his regular Delhi club pals, these were the local Amritsar cadre, who were pressing their sweaty kurtas against his, and Arun Jaitley looked distinctly out of place. Then the camera went closer up, and it showed a face held in steady grimace; it was the face of a man in pain, caught by circumstances in a wrong place. The camera will speak, my late friend had predicted, and last week, I saw that the camera did speak, quite clearly.
   Strangely, it appears that today's television journalists have not realised that the camera is speaking, so they end up talking non-stop - just try muting your TV while watching road shows and rallies, you will see things the camera shows.
     But to the media's small credit, one reporter actually noticed Jaitley's discomfiture and queried him - to which he replied, "haan, election hai to logon se milna padta hai". It looks worse than it is for the BJP man because this is his first Lok Sabha election. So far, for 25 years, he has been in Parliament through the back door entry of Rajya Sabha, where people like him have made their careers by cleverness of speech and elite networking - all in an air-conditioned environment. And now, he out facing the heat and dust. Oh, the tragedy of being Jaitley! 
     What about Captain Amrinder Singh, the Congress candidate? Singh, a former chief minister, was in his own environment and therefore looked more confident; he fired his first salvo by accusing Jaitley (rightly) of being an outsider. I may be wrong about this, but I feel most Sardarjis are comfortable in a rough and tough outdoor environment, so even though Capt. Amrinder is also a luxury-drenched elite with a pot belly, he still looked comparatively fresh outdoors. I reckon the Amritsar seat is going be a tough contest.
     The television cameras in Chandigarh showed two dimpled ladies with gorgeous smiles, and one grumpy Congressman in Pawan Bansal. Kiron Kher, the senior dimple, is on a BJP ticket, is also facing the outsider charge (rightly) since she has been living in Mumbai for 20 years. The cameras have uninhibitedly revealed the changing quality of her smile, from fresh to forlorn - lately, she looks more and more like Jaitley's sister. Gul Panag always exuded a charm which went beyond her dimple, even before she became candidate for Aam Aadmi Party. And television cameras are showing this fact, that she connects easily, ordinarily, with people of all segments.
     If I may move beyond the cameras to what the microphones revealed, it is true that Gul is being nice and positive by saying things she wants to do for Chandigarh. But my feeling is that she must go beyond the 'Pawan Bansal uncle and Kiron Kher didi' bit and get the focus clearly on corruption, especially the Congress party and Bansal's gross corruption - I would like to remind her that this chap had a open and shut case against him in a Rs 10 crore scam, for which he had to resign as Railway Minister. A shameless Congress has still given him a ticket. Go for it, Gul, we can do with some genuineness in Parliament.
     An issue of substance which emerges in this blog is:
1. No party, or the media, is willing to look and resolve the 'outsider' problem in the Indian political system. Hundreds of our MPs have been living continuously in Delhi, and yet 'represent' constituencies far and wide. Our prime minister himself, a native Punjabi and a continuous Delhi or Bombay resident for 35 years, claims he represents Assam?!
2.While all parties are doing such jumping around, the BJP is visibly doing the most - their president Rajnath Singh runs from Ghaziabad to Lucknow, Murli Manohar Joshi goes from Banaras to Kanpur, Hema Malini comes from Mumbai to Agra, etc. etc.
3. And finally, seen in a purely ethical light, neither Narendra Modi nor Arvind Kejriwal is setting a good example on this 'outsider' issue by going to Banaras. I know AAP has stated that its reason is purely circumstantial, but will the party declare its policy on this issue?