“Talibanism” of Times Now

I speak for many people when I say that Arnab Goswami is a one of a kind anchor (not so much of a journalist) in Indian Media today. His fiery tone, oozing anger and relentless pursuit to nail a panelist if he/she has said something wrong sets him apart from others. I give it to him that he, more than other anchors, does not get sidetracked by rhetoric and mindless answers.

But he is setting a bad precedence for Indian Media. His aggressiveness, many a times, comes in the way of freedom of expression. He per-determines his mind on what stance he would take in the ensuing debate and goes all guns blazing on anyone who disagrees with his viewpoint or stand. Now it is one thing to get aggressive on Congress spokespersons while exposing a scam but it is an altogether different case when you start badgering a panelist who supports criminalization of Homosexuality or defends a party/client in an alleged case.

The media trial that Arnab runs on his show is needlessly aggressive and full of emotionally charged up but baseless commentary. And I now notice that many panelists also resort to such an aggressive tone. Say you are exposing the Augusta Wesland deal or Adarsh scam then you come with facts, papers and evidence that can really put the concerned party’s spokesperson in a tight spot. And when you have cornered him/her with irrefutable arguments you have exposed that person on TV, now that is the power of Media. But you can’t just raise your voice and speak over the spokesperson and let other panelists also throw muck on him and embarrass him with little substance in the debate. Many a times that is what goes on in the show.

Unless the case has been proven in the court you can’t presume the party to be guilty of anything and them call them on TV to defend themselves from constant badgering from other panelists and the host himself, the debate must be conducted so that the defendant gets a chance to put his/her point in his/her defense. If the defense or arguments are weak then people will get that, you don’t have to guide people to dislike the person or organization.

But we all love to hate our politicians and we love to see them get embarrassed even on baseless grounds and when that happens it strikes an emotive chord with us. Now that is what Arnab does so well , he shouts and yells and speaks over the allegedly guilty and makes him/her look weak and defenseless, which the people like to see. He plays with the emotive value more than good arguments.

Secondly, when you deal with a sensitive case like rape or homosexuality you can’t just take a side and start attacking people with another viewpoint. You can’t be the spokesperson for one constituency of people and attack others who think otherwise. One of he most brazen debates I have seen is on homosexuality. Arnab makes up a mind that homosexuality must be decriminalized and anyone speaking against it is just wrong, medieval etc etc. Nobody is here to decide what is right or wrong, you just fight on arguments to change the discourse, you can’t attack someone for just taking the stance that you “feel” is wrong. Imagine if Arnab had a view that homosexuality should be criminalized and if he came so strongly against those who believe in decriminalizing it. He uses phrases like “you should be ashamed”, “it is because of people like you that…” which are simply stupid arguments to counter one’s point of view. If you feel a person is regressive in his thought then try to bring to light how he/she is regressive, and first of all please explain what is regressive. What is exactly regressive and what is progressive? A thought may be unpopular or may not go down well with some or many people but you can’t label it as good/bad or progressive/regressive. Labeling any thought as regressive itself makes that thought unpopular and wrong and then you don’t need another argument.

The freedom to express one’s point of view is snatched on a show like News Hour. We have seen many panelists walk away from that show and in many cases I don’t blame them. If Arnab has made up his mind that the person is to be attacked today he will not even give him/her a chance to speak. Anyone would get irritated and walk away. And the funny part is that many panelists who sometimes enjoy the good side of Arnab have also walked away from the show on other occasions when they are similarly mistreated.

Not long ago he exposed a junket of Karnataka MLAs going on a holiday to Amazon and Australia. In all fairness if the MLAs have opted for a Study tour and taken their entire families on a vacation then it is wrong. But that does not mean that you call the the accused MLAs on the show just to insult them mindlessly. Let them at least keep their point, if they have done wrong they will come with stupid arguments and reasons and they will stand exposed but it does not mean that you start barking on them in anger and not let them speak a word. Embarrass the MLAs with good augments, backed proofs not with aggressive and loud tones and by continuously cutting their sentences.

Credibility of Indian media is always under question, it conceals more than it reveals. The last thing it needs is drama shows with hollow debates and poor discourse.


Rahul Gandhi is a poor “story teller”

Rahul Gandhi is the son, grand son and great grand son of Prime Ministers. He is born in one of the most powerful families in India. He is a prince yet to be crowned. Not that he is the first of such leaders in India. There are many 2nd and 3rd generation politicians who are born in rich, wealthy families with influence. And many such leaders have done good work and earned the respect of their people. E.g. Nehru was the most charismatic leaders of his time. Indira Gandhi had a difficult time even opening her mouth in the Parliament (from where “Gungi Gudiya” came). But despite all that she rose to power by herself (obviously with help of colleagues) and earned the love and respect of Indian voters (before Emergency). She single handedly defeated the Syndicate , Swatantrata Party and Jan Sangh to win comprehensively in the Lok Sabha.

So what is so uncharismatic about Rahul Gandhi. Why does he not earn the respect and trust of the voters (even Congressmen) as her mother did in late 90s/early 2000s. Why can’t the youth connect to him. I find the major flaw in the story he builds around himself. One of the most important concepts of marketing is that you never sell facts or figures, you always sell stories. A story that is built around your personality (for an individual) or a product or a service (for a company). Now, Modi has built an excellent, sell-able story. A no nonsense man who has a vision for India and believes in development. He has complimented this story with Vibrant Gujarat, large industries, great infrastructure etc and aggressive marketing for all of the above. You believe in the story of Modi. You believe that this man will deliver what he is talking about because he has built a personality around these points. Some of the figures and facts in that development model may be wrong, bogus and plain lies but now people have bought that story and they either still defend Modi or ignore those facts completely. Now he is trying to link that story with another one – of being from very humble background. And these two are not complimenting but not conflicting either. So he has these two niche marked for himself, he has an identity around that.

Even Kejriwal has a story of an honest, simple man who believes in restoring power in the hands of Aam Aadmi. He dresses very simple, always with a chappal, travels in a Wagon R etc. I don’t say he does it to make a point, he must truly believe in it, but you can’t deny that it adds to that Aam Aadmi image of his. So he has also told a great sell-able story.

Now what does Rahul Gandhi do. He is a prince, born with a silver spoon and he can never shed that unless he leaves 10 Janpath and lives on his own. He claims to be an outsider (even MSM idiots try to project him as one) when he is the most insider person in the system. But he always tries to project himself as being an ordinary folk. He will work as a labor (NREGA) for camera, eat at a dalit’s house, but people will always see all this as gimmicks. He really does not belong there. And he can’t change that perception . He must not even try all this. When he travels in a local in Mumbai you can’t actually relate to it. Has he ever done those things again. Will he ever do it again, unless elections are round the corner and he has learnt nothing from the past. You never see Raj Thackeray or Sachin Pulot or Jyoti Scindia ever do it. You don’t have to do it. You talk about other things that do not contradict your image.

He talks about ending dynasty politics while he is the biggest beneficiary of dynasty. And can he really wish to topple dynasty politics which will harm him the most one day. People will never believe these lies. He talks about ending corruption while UPA II has been the most corrupt government ever. I don’t suggest that he start endorsing corruption but he should not talk about ending corruption now when his party’s government is mired with scandals. Just like Modi will never talk about communal harmony and secularism because people will never believe him on that subject.

Rahul Gandhi must realize that Congress is in its worst shape since independence and there is nothing Congress can do to revive its image before 2014 elections. Unless BJP or Modi make a folly and that benefits Congress there is little Congress can do that people will believe. According to the perception matrix, you can never change a mild negative reaction to mild positive  but you can change a mild positive reaction to strong positive very easily. Rahul Gandhi must target the next elections and enter with a new marketing strategy. No more trying to be a common man, no more trying to be an outsider, no more telling incoherent stories. He has to play by his strengths (first he must find those) and then market those strengths aggressively.

Inputs (perception matrix) from Amit Kumar.

“To not decide” is a decision in itself

Why does any person or party contest elections? To win and come to power. While the motive to get power can be righteous or ulterior but the aim of winning is to come to power. More fundamentally why does one vote for a particular candidate or party? So that he/she can come to power and govern the state. Now that inspiration to vote for a party/person can be driven by caste preference, party loyalty or ideology but the central motive is to see your candidate/party win and make it come to power. There are times when people realize that their candidate can never win or their party will not form the Govt but they still vote for it. But given a choice they would want their preferred party to form a Govt.

I do not suggest that coalitions should be formed just to avoid re-elections because then what is the point of taking support from people for what you believe in. But yes if a Common Minimum Program can be achieved without seriously impacting your core agenda/philosophy then a compromise must be made and save the exchequer’s money.

In Delhi AAP is the only party in any position to form a Govt. BJP falls 3 short (including SAD) and there are only 2 Others. Unless INC or AAP lends support BJP can’t form the Govt. Agreed that abstention of few MLAs during vote count in the house can put BJP Govt in power (although always at the peril of being rocked anytime), any party which is going to polls in LS in 5 months and that too with a stand against corruption and wrongdoing of incumbent Govt would never make the mistake of playing such a trick.

Now AAP had unconditional support from INC just after elections. It refused, understandably, to not arouse public sentiment. Then AAP prepares the most preposterous list of 18 demands (to both INC and BJP) of which 16 are administrative and need no approval from any party. INC again agrees to all. First of all what is the point of sending the demands to BJP when it never lent you any support. Were you just passing your time by asking to such questions when it is irrelevant what they say. You just want to know their stand. That’s it. Even if you aim to expose their stance on these key issues what is the point of it now. You did that before elections, now is the time to concentrate on forming a Govt. Now when AAP had asked for an answer on 18 demands did they not have a road map ready. Say like “If INC disagrees then we will not form Govt” or “If they agree on all or some issues then we will form the Govt”. There can be no third option. Either you form the Govt or you don’t. Unless you just want to fool around.

Now AAP was again faced with forming the Govt and it dodged it by switching to a referendum from Delhi’s public. Seriously !! If you were to ask people about every decision that you make then why did they elect you in the first place. You made your point clear that only if your core demands or all demands are agreed upon will you go for a coalition, then why ask people again. If people will feel cheated they will not vote you next time and if people feel you did the right thing then you will be voted again. And say even in this referendum 30% people say don’t form the Govt. And you decide to go for it because majority feels otherwise. So is that any respite to those 30%. They would still feel cheated. They can be won over only by taking the responsibility, forming the Govt and running a good government for 5 years. What problem does a referendum solve in this case is beyond logic. Even if AAP is afraid that INC will fell its Govt before 5 years then it would only dent INC and AAP will emerge out as the sincere party trying to run the Govt.

And even this aside why go for a referendum at all? Kejriwal had even suggested a referendum for FDI. How on earth are you supposed to take a response from the entire nation on an issue. And if you say that a small sample is enough then who decides that the sample is representative or not. And what about the cost of such a referendum. And then why leave other important national issues aside. Also take a referendum on new Energy policy, new Education policy etc etc. Then even a captain should ask all 11 players for every move he is about take in the next over. But we don’t want a whimp who meets 4 players after every over. We want someone who is experienced, smart and intuitive and who can stand by what he feels. Why select a CEO why not elect him/her and he/she takes a decision only after referendum from employees/investors and all stakeholders.

I agree that elected representatives must have devotion to public service but we don’t need servants who have to turn to us for everything. We want leaders at the helm who we can trust and rely on. We don’t need indecisive and confused leaders who are so afraid to put their neck on the line for everything. We expect leaders to be wise and smart so they can take good decisions. So that we can worry about our lives. And whenever such a leader fails us we vote him out and other strong leaders emerge to fill their place.

Either AAP is being too conscious about its image as a party or it is deliberately delaying the formation of Govt. In either case AAP must step up and show some true leadership. Winning elections is commendable but to deliver was the aim and they must prove that they are up to it. Their evaluation on performance can only come after that. AB Vajpayee once said about PV Narsimha Rao in Parliament that he is so indecisive that he defends by saying “निर्णय न लेना भी एक निर्णय है |” I hope that is not the case with AAP.

The Grand (alleged) Conspiracy


I once read somewhere “Not everything is a conspiracy, only the important stuff”.

Learning about conspiracies or grand strategies drafted and played at the highest levels of power always gives a rush. One is always eager to listen to such stories because it dazzles them beyond their wildest imagination. Because you can never think of the things that people/organizations do to retain their position or get to the top.

Say in politics, what is the next big move of Modi? or what is Rahul planning to do next to trounce BJP? We get answers to such questions only once has all been done. We think that these politicians and ministers must know everything and that they see it all from such close quarters. Well that’s not true. I am in the industry of politics and I have met many politicians, MPs and MLAs alike. And from what I have learned and observed they are also not fully aware of the big games. Such games concern only the crème de la crème of politics. Only certain trusted lieutenants know and run the show and others are as clueless as we are.

I made the above point because I want to impress upon the fact that big games are played in extremely closed quarters and even though you might think that you are so deep in the organization you may be completely unaware.

Politicians are the smartest bunch of people I have met. They may not be able to solve a differential equation but they can scan a person in seconds, they plan things years or even decades ahead of time and they are great executioners. Rahul Gandhi has become the laughing stock for quite some time now. Names like Pappu or Buddhu are associated very naturally with him. If we can see that the man is incompetent, that he can’t strike a chord with the people or that he can never inspire people the way Modi or even Jyotiraditya Scindia can then doesn’t the Congress top brass see that too. Are they so foolish or arrogant to absolutely rubbish these realities. Do they have no Plan B at all !!

Yes they do. Modi has taken the center stage in Indian Politics since past 2-3 years with his development model, oratory and powerful personality. He has done great work in Gujarat and has flaunted every bit of it too making him impossible to ignore. Leave Congress it is difficult to find any leader in any party in India today who can match his credentials and qualities.

Congress must have realized it long ago (say after UP or Bihar debacle) that Rahul can never compete with Modi and that they need someone else. Ofcourse picking someone from the the pool of Congress politicians is just in violation of Section A of Congress’ constitution which says “Gandhis are always on top”. So what to do. It is not easy to find a solution to this pickle you know. But as I said these politicians spot people in the first glance and even turn problems into opportunities.

Dark clouds loomed over Congress as a spate of scams were unearthed in 2010-2011. In comes Anna movement and his brigade of activists. One is an SC lawyer, one is an ex IPS officer, one is an IITian-IRS-activist, one is a Swami and many more. But wait, who was that third one – IITian-IRS-activist? Lets call him A.

  • Can he speak well and gain people’s confidence – yes infact he speaks quite well.
  • Does he appeal to youth because they are the undecided voters (who love Modi too) and are the game changers in an election – yes he is quite popular in youth.
  • Can he say a story of being an honest, people serving, sacrificing leader (of which Rahul Gandhi is the opposite) – yes yes yes he is all those things.

Well, we may have the solution for Modi !! “Call madam, she might want to take a look into this one”.

You see Modi is a strong personality and he has shifted the focus of 2014 LS elections from party to himself (individual). Since Modi has changed the game so drastically Congress realizes that to counter him they need another personality. Party and ideals rhetoric wont do. Because it is no more BJP vs INC (communal vs secular or High caste vs Backward caste or business sympathizers vs poor sympathizers), it is more than that. All the above aspects are just a part of it. It is about a clean, strong PM candidate vs all parties of India and their cliches. That’s why many people who may not be fans of BJP want to vote for it because they trust Modi. It is not like 1999 where people wanted BJP against Congress.

Anna movement ends and Anna  plans to resurface with the same demands in a couple of months. But now there is a rift in the Anna team. Some people led by A are demanding to enter into politics. Anna is taken aback as to how did that thought cross their mind. “We are activists and it is our job to keep pressure on the Govt to do good work, we are the fifth pillar of democracy, we can’t enter electoral fray, we will lose tack of what we set out to do”. But this team had made up its mind. And they broke apart and formed a party.

In the meanwhile the fourth pillar of democracy (Media) is busy creating a personality cult around A. Making him the fresh face of clean politics of India. Since youth don’t connect to Rahul make them connect to this guy. The youth must completely trust and follow this guy as the hope for India. Something that Modi had managed to do for himself and hence he had become the greatest danger to Congress.

So A starts off with one state, the capital, the heart of India. Since most of our National media channels are Delhi based anyway the “tyranny of distance” wont be an excuse for not giving 100% floodlight attention to A and his new party. Now Congress is going to lose and BJP will garner all the votes that it loses. So it is the most earnest attempt of Congress that the anti-congress vote gets divided between BJP and A so that BJP is kept out of action. Initially people speculated that A will split anti congress votes and finally Congress will win again in Delhi. This was speculated to be the master strategy of Congress. Yes to win back a state that has 7 MP seats!! Those think tanks are much better than this, don’t insult them like this.

What Congress was eying at was LS 2014. Delhi elections are just a stepping stone to make A such a popular figure that he can stand up to Modi in the LS elections 2014. “A” may not damage Modi completely but even if 10-15 urban seats across India can be snatched away from Modi (not necessarily meaning victory for A but to cut votes) it can mean that BJP is restricted to a smaller number and Congress will give outside support to a third front Govt and then fell it in a couple of years to come back to power. Well yes history may repeat itself.

So A was not being prepared to be a vote cutter in Delhi but on a national stage. Why did Rahul Gandhi did more than 20 rallies in Rajasthan and only 2 in Delhi. And Sonia Gandhi did only 1. And no other tall leaders were seen campaigning aggressively across Delhi. It was as if Delhi was purposefully neglected. Sheila Dikshit knew that onion prices are the biggest concern for Delhiites and if that can come down it can bolster Sheila’s position. She kept knocking at the door of Agriculture Ministry for extra supplies but nobody listened. In-fact trucks loaded with onions were to be dispatched from Mumbai for Delhi but it just DID NOT HAPPEN. This is what a senior Congress minister said on the day of result that they tried but it just DID NOT HAPPEN. Do you believe this. We all know what parties are capable of doing in the desperation to retain power. Fetching temporary supplies had suddenly become such a herculean task for Congress and it cost Sheila Dikshit dearly, very dearly.

So the idea was not to split anti Congress vote but to defeat Congress in Delhi so that A could emerge as the victorious warrior, a hero, a HOPE FOR INDIA. Success is the strongest magnet. Once A is successful in Delhi people across the nation will believe him and flock to lend him support. And bam !! exactly what happened. Congress was routed, BJP humbled and A was victorious. And since A’s victory record number of people are applying for AAP volunteers, membership and tickets for upcoming LS elections. On the results day BJP’s massacre of Congress in Rajasthan was not discussed, its 3rd time victory in MP and CG was not discussed, what was discussed was only Delhi. And how A had become a national figure with this achievement. Media was eager to strike off Modi wave because in Delhi A stopped him. Even A has said it that there is no Modi wave. And many media cronies are eagerly asking A to step up to the national level. Despite half the time they had in Delhi for a country 100 times bigger than Delhi media is literally begging A to step up. And A does not disappoint them. He has announced that A’s party will fight LS elections.He says he does not care about wining or losing he just wants to fight elections. He has announced that his party will fight LS elections, even in Gujarat.

Now all this might seem a little far fetched but there is also a link between A and Congress – Mr Y. Y is a senior leader in A’s party and has been the political advisor for Rahul Gandhi for years. Infact he was the advisor to Rahul Gandhi not long before 2012.

Now the stage is set. With 5 months to LS elections NaMo wave will be on the rise. And that will rout Rahul or Sonia or entire Congress for that matter. But now there is another man – A. He is the cult who can stand against Modi. He is the man created to dent Modi’s vote share. I have rarely seen a politician rise so quickly ever in my life. With all good intentions and good work and administrative experience people like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sardar Patel, AB Vajpayee took decades to make their mark and become a force to reckon with. But Mr A has landed in that sweet spot in much less time.

Now people might say that this is too big a game to go unnoticed from people who are working closely with A such as my many friends and relatives. Hence I wrote earlier that bigger the game, smaller the coterie. Watch Out !!

P.S. – The blog is fictitious and only encapsulates thoughts of the author.