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Why AAP and media have fallen out

india Updated: Mar 15, 2014 07:35 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times

This could hardly have escaped national attention: the media’s distrust of Arvind Kejriwal is deepening.

The spat on Friday between some reporters and Aam Aadmi Party leaders on live television is the latest example of how quickly the two have fallen out.

Journalists exist to hold power to account, but Kejriwal’s claim that media houses have taken bribes to play Narendra Modi up is a serious charge he must be able to substantiate.

In politics, people tend to make sense of an evolving situation by listening in to the political discourse, which is never sufficient to explain things fully.

Read: Kejriwal warns 'sold out' media of jail, eats his words after backlash

Relying on the actual chain of events, without any help from political theory to fill the gaps, would be like falling one sandwich short of a good picnic.

So, some current theories around politics and media can help us crack the media’s growing quibbles with AAP.

Kejriwal lends himself easily to wide media coverage by adopting a format “suitable” for modern “media representation”, to borrow a phrase from Danish media scholar Stig Hjarvard, who developed the concept of “mediatization” of politics. Such a format included Kejriwal’s 24x7 public fast, a cliffhanger for the 24x7 media.

Read: Kejriwal alleges media is 'paid' to promote Modi, denies later; AAP leaders defend him

Read: 10 big moves and moments in Kejriwal’s journey a month after he quit as Delhi CM

Some scholars have argued that Kejriwal’s anti-government rants – “politicians will always be crooked” – initially began to be understood as passive support for a more efficient privatisation of basic services. “The media peddled this with the alluring figure of the ‘upwardly-mobile middle-class’ who aspired for a change,” Sahana Udupa of the Göttingen-based Max Planck Institute told HT.

The first real signs of a break-up came when an AAP minister, incredibly, took the misstep of raiding a Delhi locality to bust an alleged prostitution ring. The “activist” Kejriwal soon came to be personified as the “anarchist”, to which he unflinchingly agreed.

Now staunchly leftist, AAP has positioned itself doggedly against big corporations. Firmly rooted in market economics, India’s media has been disaffected towards radical Left ideas of “expropriation” of public resources by private industry.

Read: Why Kejriwal will thrive despite controversial leaked video

Kejriwal’s own petulance has reinforced a view that he is good at flagging problems but hopelessly bad at solving them. Even some ardent admirers say they are now jaded by Kejriwal’s intolerance of criticism.

AAP, from being a short-term asset, has gone on to being viewed as a long-term liability in a nation still sifting its political priorities, much like Kejriwal himself.

Watch: 'Kejriwal has put a gun on every politician's head,' says Sibal

Full coverage: Arvind Kejriwal, a common man in politics