The raised finger
Regardless of how benignly Arvind Kejriwal is viewed by those who voted for him with their wallets, there can be little doubt that the Delhi chief minister has been a very poor advertisement for yoga, vipassana and nature cure in the first 100 days of his second stint. Putting the mind and body at ease, bringing calmness and serenity, banishing negative thoughts and deeds, and purging the poisons and toxins eating into your vitals—these are the purported benefits of those therapies. But looking at the man minus his muffler, would anybody think they have worked on Kejri?
The venomous extermination of sane voices in his party was bad enough, but his execrable call for public trials of the media and his government’s circular for criminalisation of defamation show how poorly Kejriwal is being advised. With the Congress and Left in retreat, and with a score of 67/70 under the nose of Narendra Modi, AAP was justly seen as a potential alternative to BJP. But in no time, Kejriwal has shown that his party is cut from the same cloth of vengeance, doublespeak and skulduggery as the others. That prime minister Narendra Modi holds the non-embedded media in similar contempt is instructive.
Kicking the media ladder after climbing to the top has been the hallmark of democrats and dynasts, from Ramakrishna Hegde to Rajiv Gandhi, not to mention his mother. But it takes a special skill to show an authoritarian streak when you supposedly have your ear to the ground and your closest aides are all ex-media karamcharis. Looking at AAP’s implosion, a visiting Bangalore journalist said, “Clearly, Kejriwal went to the wrong institute in our city after being sworn in.” If he knows that city, Kejri should sue: for mental agony.
What’s the code?
Eating out has become so easy in the wired world that it can make any fool think he is a genius—and most do. All you need to do is trawl the web or open an app, and voila, next thing you know, you are being ushered to your table and spoon-fed like a baby. There is no “product differentiation” except perhaps for the colour of the cutlery. But what if it was made a bit of a chase, an adventure, where obtaining the key to the store is part of the experience?
PCO, short for Pass Code Only, the speakeasy launched by the children of Ravi Dhariwal, the Unilever and Pepsi marketing whiz who made the Times of India what it is today, takes “access” in access-obsessed Delhi to the next level. Entering the easy-to-miss bar in upscale Vasant Vihar requires a four-digit code which has to be punched into a telephone dial at the door. No code, no entry. The digits change daily, no restaurant review site can give them to you at a discount, and you need to know Dhariwal’s son Rakshay or daughter Radhika, or someone who knows them, to get hold of the magic numbers that will let you in.
Of course, PCO places who-you-know over and above what-you-know, but the fun is in the pursuit. Last week, an additional treasure greeted your reporter. After being told “No, Sir, not available” in bars across the capital, PCO pulled out the much-awarded Japanese single malt, the Yamazaki 12 from Japan’s Suntory. Next stop, ATM.
As a magazine which has got its fair share of opinion polls and guesstimates wrong (example: “nda 229” last year, against the actual 334), it gave a vicarious pleasure to see the British papers and TV stations fall flat on their faces. Until polling day, pollsters were predicting a neck-and-neck race between the Conservative and Labour parties. An awe-inspiringly precise 0.4 per cent gap in voteshare was seen. A hung Parliament was in the air. In the end, David Cameron’s party got 331 seats to Ed Miliband’s 232.
Moral of the story: polls will go wrong not because of “presstitutes” or “news traders” but because that is the nature of the beast. But what is interesting in the Indian context is the setting up of an inquiry by the British Polling Council to look into the “possible causes of this apparent bias” and to subject the methods employed by the polling agencies to “careful, independent investigation”. No such collective soul-searching followed the general elections or the Delhi elections, which is why Today’s Chanakya sounds better than yesterday’s—or tomorrow’s.
Climb the wall
With Modi sarkar on the verge of completing the first year of UPA-III, unsolicited advice is pouring in from all sides to help pull the government out of the rut. In an open letter to the PM, Prof Ramesh Thakur of Australian National University has an interesting suggestion: “Make Rahul Dravid our high commissioner to the United Kingdom.” Knowing Dravid, he must already be perspiring at the prospect.
I ate a chutney made out of a red flower from Himachal Pradesh called brah. Apparently it has curative properties.
Krishna Prasad is the editor-in-chief of Outlook. Follow him on Twitter @churumuri; E-mail your diarist: krishnaprasad [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com