Arvind Kejriwal and AAP’s dream run continues relentlessly. Despite a few hitches, the juggernaut advances. Now there are reports that the party will contest 400 Lok Sabha seats. I suppose when you are on a roll, a daily upward revision of targets is unsurprising. The sceptics have been silenced largely. They are just waiting for a major fiasco (like not being able to deliver on the power tariff cut) to derail the toofan mail.
Meanwhile, criticism of the media mounts. It is not playing its role as watchdog; in fact it has become a lapdog. The criticism is not entirely without merit. Every new government, whether in India or overseas, gets a 100-day honeymoon period, especially one which has come in with such stunning public endorsement. Nevertheless, I fear AAP is stretching itself too thin. While AAP has other luminaries, the party’s core strength comes from Arvind Kejriwal. He is the pivot. If he is pulled in a hundred different directions, it can only harm AAP.
Thus, I am slightly alarmed by AAP’s national ambition. If Kejriwal is going to be the party’s PM nominee, who will mind the shop in Delhi? My advice, totally gratuitous, would be to scale down the Lok Sabha ambition to a manageable 100 urban seats this time. Kejriwal must be left to give an efficient, clean, responsive government in the capital, and use that as a springboard to make a mark on the national scene. After all, in five years, if not earlier, another general election is scheduled. That is the one AAP should prepare for. I can understand the haste of some party cadre who want to strike while the iron is hot. Believe me, the iron will stay hot if they perform in Delhi.
That said, what extraordinary times we are living in! The way the people are responding to the winds of change sometimes appears incredible. Not since 1977 has the nation experienced such a self-generated wave of optimism.
For poor Rahul to take up the leadership at this time is going to be a Herculean task. What can he do in three months to reverse the fortunes of the Congress? Incidentally, I would like to meet the genius who designed the election posters for the Congress. To proclaim Rahul as a crusader against corruption, given the record of UPA-II, is either a bad joke or monumental ignorance.
Out of Print
“So, when are you joining the Aam Aadmi Party,” enquired a half-friend, half-enemy? Given the avalanche of mediapersons queuing up, it was a good question. Fortunately, for me, the question does not arise. All my working life, I have been a print journalist and when I go up to meet the Editor-in-Chief at the Pearly Gates, I hope He will welcome me in as a print journalist. The magic of the written word still hypnotises me. I consider being a journalist as a privilege and honour. And journalism for me is the highest calling; much higher than politics. Also, I operate on the Groucho Marx principle: I refuse to join a political party which will accept me as a member!
If there is one journalist I tried to copy shamelessly, it was Simon Hoggart of The Guardian, who passed away two weeks ago. Simon wrote the parliamentary sketch for the paper, a genre unknown in Indian journalism, and also the Saturday Diary. (The jokes in this column were usually pinched from Mr Hoggart’s Saturday Diary.) Both made for compulsive reading.
The parliamentary sketch takes a sardonic look at the day’s proceedings in the House. In other words, the sketch writer’s mandate is to take the piss out of MPs and simultaneously convey the mood in parliament on a particular day. It has to be at once factual and farcical—an impossible assignment which Simon Hoggart performed superbly for over a decade. He described Prime Minister David Cameron as “smiling like a Cheshire cat after a large sherry”. And this masterly description: “The formal Washington dinner party has all the spontaneity of a Japanese imperial funeral.”
Once, Simon was travelling in the same train compartment as the ultra-serious London Times columnist, Peter Riddell, who hated sketch writers. “I read your sketch from start to finish today, Simon, and found nothing to smile.” Hoggart replied, “Oh, and I read your column and fell about laughing all the way through.”
When I appear on one of TV’s hour-long debates, I usually sip a glass of single malt. If I happen to be on Arnab Goswami’s heated shows, I consider myself lucky if I manage to get three sentences in—although Arnab periodically reassures me, “Just coming to you, Vinod Mehta”. Therefore, my reputation in the social media as a ‘drunkard’ on TV is undeserved. The single malt, of which I consume just one chhota peg, is my ‘time pass’.
Thanks to the bitter cold, I did nothing useful except play with Editor.
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com
Apropos of Delhi Diary (Jan 27), Mr Mehta’s last hurrah could be signing on as an AAP member. They may look a ragtag bunch but their efforts and sincerity of purpose should be a lesson to all those armchair pundits who do nothing but slouch in their couches and complain. And what are our options anyway? The Left has nothing left to talk about and the Right is so insanely wrong. So why not give our support to this dirty dozen, we may be wrong about them but it cannot be worse than what we have on hand so far.
Yunus Sait, Chennai
AAP had promised 500 new schools a year if they came to power. That works out to around two new schools every week. Any news?
“Not since 1977 has the nation experienced such a self-generated wave of optimism.” Bravo, in one sly shot VM has compared this UPA rule to the Emergency days.
K. Suresh, Bangalore
Amazing how emotional seasoned journalists have become. Mark this ‘100 seats for AAP’ line folks, though none of Mr Mehta’s predictions ever come true.
I am really glad that Mr Mehta’s passing time on TV debates with a glass of single malt. It sharpens your wits, no doubt about it.
Navin Malhotra, Delhi
In his Jan 27 Delhi Diary, Mr Mehta uses the words “especially one which has come with such stunning public endorsement” while talking of AAP. What does he mean? Did they earn an absolute majority? Were they the single largest party? They just won more seats than expected.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Rahul is pretending to be the 'angry man'.
First, Congress gave us Integrity Singh, as a mask for all the corruption.
Now, when 'angry' Kejriwal appears on the scene, 'angry' Rahul is projected as the Congress face!
What chameleons we have in politics!
Rahul is slowly becoming irrelevant; the common man party is catching imaginations everywhere.
The "winds of change" did not blow in Delhi. In fact, a hurricane blew away the support Kejriwal was enjoying in Delhi and he had to import people from haryana.
Vinod Mehta has a real reverse Midas touch. Everything he approves crumbles in the end. He had high hopes on Advani to rein in Modi. Advani is no where. Kejriwal has imploded. Nitish Kumar is no where to be seen.
"..what extraordinary times we are living in!"
Where the heck is Vinod Mehta? I am eagerly waiting for his brilliant political analysis of how AAP is steamrolling the Opposition and is a force of change.
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