July 07, 2020
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Delhi Diary

The irresistible rise of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Admi Party (AAP) is nothing short of a miracle...

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Delhi Diary

Pehle AAP

The irresistible rise of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Admi Party (AAP) is nothing short of a miracle. It is a political rags-to-riches story, for it shows that politics and power are not the exclusive preserve of fat cats with money and lineage. Arvind has had his share of reverses (the bad-tempered split with Anna Hazare, alle­gations of links with the Sangh parivar which almost saw his party gobbled up by the likes of Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), yet today opinion polls suggest he is a serious challenger both to the Congress and the BJP. Moreover, he is the most “preferred” candidate for the post of chief minister. All this in just over one year.

I have known Arvind from well before he took the political plunge, when he was merely an RTI activist. His drive, determination, energy, organisational ability, talent for generating buzz around himself and the AAP, capacity to raise funds in a transparent manner are an object lesson in how to start from behind and end up in front.

When Arvind was still playing second fiddle to Anna Hazare and thoroughly resenting it, he invited me on a hot Sunday afternoon to Jantar Mantar, where the anti-corruption movement was in full flow, to release (along with Yogendra Yadav) a book he had written on decentralisation. It was a unique experience for me, sitting on the dais and getting a feel of the pulse and passion of the mov­ement. The ‘hero’ then was Anna Hazare but it was only a matter of time before Arvind assumed his rightful place. The script had already been written.

Whichever way the results in Delhi go, and even if Kejriwal emerges as an honourable third, he will remain a source of inspiration for those itching to take on the system. Not everything Mr Kejriwal does deserves kudos. Now that he is a serious contender, he needs to be less reckless in the charges he throws round. That said, all right-thinking citizens will welcome his entry into the political arena and wish him bon voyage.

No Scope for Phailin

The cyclone has come and gone. And for once we have no reason to reprimand the authorities. Everyone involved, from the meteorological department to the state government, coped with distinction. I wish to single out the role of the media, especially the electronic media, which has not received its due. Without the boys and girls on the spot—bef­ore, during and after the cyclone struck—giving us a ball-by-ball commentary of the situation at “ground zero”, the results could have been different. The babus may have been less alert.

I particularly wish to mention the brave girls, all in their early 20s, with little experience of reporting natural disasters, recording even while the storm was raging. Armed with nothing more lethal than hooded raincoats and umbrellas twisting furiously in the storm, they did a heroic job for those catching up on the news from the comfort of their bedrooms. Channels competed claiming “the most detailed coverage” boasting of deploying the largest number of correspondents. The boasting served the public well.

The electronic media has changed the nation for both good and bad. We concentrate on the bad (me included). It is an event like the one in Orissa which makes us see it is also a force for good.

Bio Fuelled

Javed Akhtar did the honours at my Meena Kumari book launch and made a brilliant speech full of witty anecdotes. It seems when Javed arrived in Mumbai to chance his arm in the film world, Kamal Amrohi (Meena Kumari’s husband) hired him on 50 rupees a month and allo­wed him to sleep in his garage. A fantastic tale, one which Javed could have written himself.

Personally, I was relieved that a biography I had written 41 years ago had a few takers. For all its flaws, some generous friends said it has a certain callow charm though it tends to be boastful. “There is more about you than Meena Kumari in the book,” was one of the criticisms. Whatever its merits, I am delighted a book languishing with raddiwallahs is back in print. Meanwhile, HarperCollins tells me the bio is selling quite nicely. I have one last book left from my early life. So, beware!

Incidentally, some folks are under the impression I am some sort of authority on the art of writing biographies of film stars. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A couple of offers have come my way, all of which I have politely refused.

When Editor Fell Ill

Editor gave us a real fright last week. He woke up unable to sit or stand, he was shivering, he refused to go out for his morning business. Dr Gandhi, his vet, diagnosed a mysterious 106 degree fever. Sumita and I have nursed him back to health. He is better now, but still not his usual self. Pray for him.

Last week...

I discovered how expensive dog medicines were.

Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com

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