One has to hand it to Arnab. Even if there is no news, he will break something. Anything! Tuesday morning I actually forgot, yes forgot initially that election results were expected. At 9 am when I finally realized what I was missing, I dropped my spoon into the muesli and pounced on the remote. My fingers automatically go to Times Now. Don’t judge me. I can’t help it. You can say what you want about Arnab’s style, but things definitely happen on that channel! And if they don’t, he forces his guests and panelists to acknowledge something. Anything! I find myself inexplicably drawn towards hearing his hysterical dialogue delivery. It’s like watching a horror movie to take your mind off two screaming kids.
The first hour or so saw some real fireworks. All the big guns were there. Lord Meghnad Desai (who clearly doesn’t have a job), Vinod Mehta (recently unemployed), Shankarsan Thakur, Navika Kumar who comes from the Arnab school of volume and pitch. Much like a whole bunch of people sitting on endless panels on both sides and on various boxes on screen; Arnab moving back and forth conducting the orchestra. It kind of reminded me of Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars.
First there was some hysteria over the fact that the congress was being routed everywhere besides Manipur. We were informed around 20 times in five minutes that the Congress was pitoed. Half an hour later, (when the results actually became clear), it was now communicated that the congress wasn’t really routed in Uttrakahand. Immediately Arnab took the “now we’ve seen some changes and the initial euphoria on the show will have to be revised”. Basically implying that he wasn’t the one who was getting euphoric and hysterical about Congress getting thrashed, but the guests were! Neat.
Then came Ravi Shankar Prasad. Arnab asked him point blank about what the BJP will do in Uttarakhand? Will they try and tie up with the BSP MLA’a and form the government? Prasad says that the BSP in Uttarakhand is very different from the BSP in UP and that they are politically not very close (whatever that means). Aha! says Arnab, “so you are saying that you are tying up with the BSP to form a government in UP! This is breaking news! The BJP will break the BSP and tie up with them to form a government in Uttarakhand.” Something. Anything!
Not one to be easily bullied a livid Ravi Shankar Prasad shouted, “You are putting words in my mouth. I said nothing of the sort!” Too late though. It was already breaking news.
Deepankar Gupta in the ensuing discussion on Headlines Today said that the caste based projections given out by the media are bullshit. This miscasting (so to speak) has been happening since the last few elections where it was clear that Mayawati won from non-Dalit constituencies. It’s obvious that people are not voting on caste anymore. Is the media listening? Are you capable of getting out of the caste hang-up? Rahul Kanwal agreed, but there was no attempt to admit that the media perpetuates this myth of caste based voting. That part was nicely swept under the carpet and the discussion continued, mainly blaming politicians for the misconception.
Why do reporters in every English news channel insist on speaking to Akhilesh in English when he’s consistently giving answers in Hindi? Why can’t they just ask in Hindi then! When it’s becoming embarrassingly obvious that he is NOT going to speak in English, can’t reporters gently break into Hindi too? The reason for Akhilesh’s reluctance could be fluency or symbolic. In case you o reader, are wondering why it’s because the Samajwadi party and Mulayam are products of the political ideology of Ram Manohar Lohia who was famously anti the English language. The English question-Hindi answer format sounded ridiculous to the point I actually cringed when the next question too came in English. And it’s not as if no one noticed it. You had to notice! There was a whole conversation in the studio about him speaking in Hindi and why he doesn’t speak in English. This goes on to how in UP there’s a hostility against English and so therefore everyone speaks Hindi, although speaking in good English is something they all aspire to! Wah! Who wouldn’t aspire to be like all of you guys. Maybe Akhilesh likes the language, and doesn’t feel the need to speak in English, and would like you to address him in Hindi, or maybe his English just sucks! Just like your reporter’s Hindi.
Other moments of awesomeness were Prannoy Roy with Sukhbir Badal and Akhilesh via satellite. The grand old man of TV news says how proud he is of these two young men (?) (Sukhbir’s beard is as grey as Prannoy’s for heaven sake), and can he have the screen with two windows of them next to each other so Dr. Roy can feast his eyes. Window granted. Prannoy’s next wish or command – “now come on say something to each other.” Sukhbir to Akhilesh “…………*………… congratulations…….*………”. Akhilesh to Sukhbir “………………*…..err…….. hmmm…….” Ok then! That was a WTF just happened moment for all involved. Sukhbir, Akhilesh, Barkha and the viewer.
But the moment of the election was not Akhilesh beaming, or Badal, or anyone. It was Arnab’s announcement while interviewing Arun Jaitly. Jaitly, who was saying something about the UPA becoming weaker in the centre and the BJP knowing this, or some such brilliant deduction, that suddenly Arnab interrupted – “FOR THE FIRST TIME ON TIMES NOW…A FULL FRONTAL…” Everyone held their breath. Jailty must’ve thought “Just how far am I expected to go to generate TRPs. I may be a chaddi wala but this is ridiculous!” And then Arnab finished the sentence “…FULL FRONTAL ATTACK ON THE GOVT. BY THE BJP.” Jaitly heaved a sigh of relief and then once again panicked to clarify that this was not the case. But Arnab had got his moment of something. Anything!
But on the whole on NDTV – much nicer and more staid discussion. The new look is very slick but Prannoy and Barkha looking a tad depressed. Maybe the Congress rout was too much to bear. No scope for telephonic conversations about who gets which portfolio this time huh Barkha?