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Changing Political Discourse: WILL KEJREWAL MAKE A DENT?, By Syed Ali Mujtaba, 29 Oct, 2012 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 29 October 2012

Changing Political Discourse


By Syed Ali Mujtaba

India’s changing political discourse and its implications on the 2014 election is something that is being hotly debated among certain sections of the intelligentsia.

Significantly, this new discourse came in to limelight with Gandhian and social activist Anna Hazare’s movement to bring in an effective Lokpal Bill to check the menace of corruption that has seeped into the body politics of the country.

Buoyed by the social and electronic media, particularly 24x7 news, this fresh political discourse took off with a flying start. Many compared Anna Hazare with Hamilton’s pied-piper, who would banish corruption from the country.

Indeed, the sheer number of people, who came out on the streets to support Anna Hazare, demonstrated that a new freedom struggle has begun in the country. 

While there was a general consensus on controlling corruption in high places, the demand for an extra Constitutional authority to adjudicate on governance was unacceptable to the people. Undoubtedly, it is this realization that dampened the initial euphoria for Anna’s movement.

Besides, the movement further lost its sheen when it started dictating terms from the streets, attacking the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues by levelling corruption charges. Whereby, the people, who had firm faith in the system of governance, started cold shouldering those trying to bring a systemic correction to the political apparatus of the country.

Eventually, the fledgling Anna Hazare movement fizzled out. The Gandhian unsure whether his vision and mission could ever be achieved disassociated himself from his team and withdrew from centre stage. It seemed he was more bothered to salvage his personal integrity rather than changing the political discourse in the country!

However, from the debris of the Anna movement emerged another harbinger of social change, India Against Corruption’s (IAC) founder Arvind Kejrewal, who is currently trying to hold aloft the flag that Anna unfurled to start a new political discourse.

Towards that end, Kejrewal, armed with documents, he acquired through RTI, shot his first salvo at Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.

The IAC founder’s next target was former Union Law Minister and presently Foreign Minister Salman Khrshid over his “corrupt deeds” in a NGO run by him and his wife. Next Kejriwal trained his guns on BJP President Nitin Gadkari, and exposed alleged fraud, forgery, benami holdings et al in his Purti group of companies.

This strident campaign heralded Kejrewal’s entry into politics. Buoyed by the public response, he now aspires to win a majority and change political dissertation.

Raising a moot point: Will he be able do all this? Needless to say, one will have to wait till the 2014 election results are out to ascertain if the people believe in the IAC outpourings.  

Undeniably, in changing political discourse, the media, particularly the 24x7 news channels are supposedly playing a big role. However, the question remains how far they are positively inclined? 

Remember, even as Assam burned with human exodus reaching unimaginable numbers; the 24x7 media focused on Anna’s fast in Delhi.  For them, Ramdev and Anna’s fast were more important than Swami Nigmmananda’s fast who died trying to save River Ganga from pollution.

This is not all. In order to change the political dialogue, trial by the media has become the order of the day. Namely, performing the role of courts, wherein people like Kejrewal rush to media cameras and level charges against public figures.  Thereby, their coverage assures huge eyeballs. But one needs to assess at what cost?

Thus, instant charges, instant prosecution, instant justice, have all become the trade mark of the electronic media reportage these days. Not a few, equate the functioning of these TV channels with the Khap Panchayats because of the similarities between them. 

Arguably, if Kejrewal is so convinced about his allegations, why he is not going to the courts to seek justice? Why he is rushing to the media? Speculation is rife that there is some quid-pro-quo arrangement between Kejrewal and the media, which is giving him undue coverage.

Pertinently, former Supreme Court judge and current Chairman of the Press Council of India Markandey Katju commented on this phenomenon. Stated he, “The Salman Khurshid incident is not just an isolated one, because often complaints are made that in their hurry to give breaking news, the media, specially the broadcast media, does not do proper investigation before attacking someone’s reputation. For a self respecting man, death is preferable to dishonour.”

In fact, in this context, two important developments have taken place. The first, a defamation suit has been filed by Salman Khurshid against the media channel for damaging his reputation. The outcome of this case is eagerly awaited because it will decide whether the free run the 24x7 television media is enjoying now would continue or would it be made accountable, as demanded by Katju.

The second is the defamation suite filed by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, against Kejrewal, for tarring her reputation as a public figure. This verdict too could have a far-reaching impact that might give a new direction to future political discourse. ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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