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No one to take on the Goddess of Big Words

Election programmes have become a bit of a bore. Perhaps people in the state in question really care but the rest of us are beginning to long for the return of regular programming, writes Poonam Saxena.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2009 23:04 IST
Poonam Saxena

It’s not just David Dhawan who silently urges you to leave your brain behind when you go to see a film of his. Often people who appear in TV discussions do the same. Like Arundhati Roy who gave us her valuable gyaan on the Naxalite issue (on CNN IBN), which went something like this: The Indian State is Very Bad. The Naxals are Very Good. The State is Very Rich. The Naxals are Very Poor. Hence it is a very unequal battle.

“But what about Naxalite violence?” Rajdeep Sardesai asked, and Arundhati Roy almost had a violent fit: how could he compare that with the power of the (Bad) Indian State, which is a Nuclear Power to boot and has an Army and Air Force. (She forgot the Navy and the paramilitary forces and several other Symbols of Oppression).

Further, Ms Roy declared that there was no point in the Poor, Good Naxals joining the mainstream because the Indian State is so Bad and so Corrupt, what would the Poor, Good Naxals do, being part of it?

Once upon a time, I seem to remember, Arundhati Roy had grandly proclaimed herself to be a mobile independent republic. If only she would demonstrate this mobility and — for starters at least — exit TV news channels, never to return.

As a matter of interest, what were the ground rules for the show? Usually, such discussions take the form of debates where people with opposing points of view put forward their positions. But in this case, The Goddess of Big Words appeared not to have any opposition at all. The one other panelist shared her views and each time Rajdeep Sardesai went incoherent with anger, Ms Roy’s eyes flashed dangerously but contentedly, knowing there would be nobody with any experience of the issue there to take her on.

On the day the Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh and Haryana election results came out, so did the usual suspects. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP appeared everywhere, declaring, with the air of a judge pronouncing judgment, “The EVMs have become Electronic Victory Machines for the Congress.” This remark was the subject of so much mirth that Naqvi had to eventually present himself before TV cameras all over again and reassure everyone that he had not taken leave of his senses. (Other BJP members had already appeared in between to earnestly say that they accepted the “people’s verdict with humility” — and to feign amnesia if Naqvi’s name was mentioned).

Meanwhile, Rajdeep Sardesai kept urging all Congress-NCP heavyweights to send thank you letters to Raj Thackeray. They declined. But many TV channels had already started treating Raj Thackeray with gushing reverence (a new star is born! Charismatic new leader! The man who finished the Shiv Sena! Etc etc) — and, incidentally, also calling Bandra by its Marathi name, Vandre. Now, all news anchors must start going for Marathi lessons — and also learn to never ever say the B-word again, or else the charismatic new leader might do something very charismatic to their studios and office. They might start with NDTV where panelists continued to refer to Bombay.

But the truth is that election programmes have become a bit of a bore. Perhaps people in the state in question really care but the rest of us are beginning to long for the return of regular programming. There is a case for doing an election show as the results come in when there is at least some element of breaking news.

By the evening however, the analysis shows have little left to say that’s not already been said in the morning by the same anchors and panelists. Certainly, by the end of Thursday, I had heard so many people refer to the Raj Thackeray factor, the imminent demise of the BJP and how the Congress had won by default that it was all merging into a sameness.