Arvind resigns, Hindi press opines

BY ANAND VARDHAN| IN Opinion | 21/02/2014
Editorial commentary in the Hindi press sought to read some of the subtexts and implications of Kejriwal's resignation â€" sometimes succinctly, sometimes not,

Anand Vardhan 

In the last few days the showmanship of resignation as a media spectacle in Delhi made readers rediscover that the editorial commentary in Hindi press is engaging with the same world on which the English dailies have been reflecting. Of late, they had reasons to believe that they were reading about different worlds. While Penguin India’s withdrawal of American scholar Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative Historyignited a lot of sound and fury in the opinion pages of English dailies, the perceived ‘silencing of liberal India’ (to use Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s phrase) was met with editorial indifference in major Hindi dailies except a short edit in Dainik Bhaskar (Desh mein udaarta ki sikurti zameen/ The shrinking liberal ground in the country, February 13). It didn’t take too long for the two worlds to meet, the byte-happy AAP obliged again—this time with Arvind Kejriwal’s resorting to that worn out tool for staging a political event—resignation.

Thinly disguised as a report, the country’s most read newspaper had its editorial take on AAP’s Delhi exit on the front page itself. Dainik Jagran’s headline (Dilli ko dhokha de kar bhaage Kejriwal, do mahine bhi nahi chala sake sarkar/ Kejriwal runs away after deceiving Delhi, could not run the government even for two months, February 15) could be a case of editorialising a news story, though it clearly stated how the paper viewed the resignation move. In an opinion piece (Jhooth ke sahaare bhrashtaachar se laraai/ Fighting corruption with lies, February 18), Rajeev Sachan (Associate Editor, Dainik Jagran) sought to expose AAP’s dubious claims to an anti-corruption perch and listed  details of the instances which made Kejriwal government a major disillusionment for the people. Not pulling any punches, Sachan tersely wrote (as translated from Hindi): “Kejriwal and his colleagues came to power on the plank of fighting corruption with honesty but they resorted to lies, deceit and hypocrisy in the days that followed.”

AAP’s pull-out also raised questions about the options that need to be explored for the formation of a government in Delhi. Seeking A fresh electoral verdict seems to be the most plausible option and appeals to the democratic common sense as well as a way out of the deadlock. That’s what Dainik Bhaskar argued in its editorial comment (Naya janaadesh hi sahi raashta- New mandate is the correct way, February 17) as it said (as translated from Hindi): “The opinion is divided on whether Arvind Kejriwal ran away from his responsibilities or lost Chief Minister’s post in pursuit of his objectives. However, a view has strengthened in a large section of public opinion that Kejriwal doesn’t have any concrete action plan for delivering a better and clean government. The only means to know the view of the majority of the people about this is to conduct fresh elections for the Delhi Assembly as soon as possible... Afresh mandate is the only way out of theDelhi stalemate. The Centre should act in this direction without any delay.”

There is some degree of inevitability to the disillusionment that polemics-loaded narratives woven by Kejriwal ended up with. In her column in Dainik Bhaskar (Kejriwal ke jaane mein achambha kaisa/What’s so surprising about Kejriwal’s departure? February 18), eminent journalist Mrinal Pande finds Kejriwal’s exit a part of the clichéd script on which rhetoric-run political mobilizations  like AAP run their show with the subtext of self-righteous anarchy and total indifference to the issues of day-to-day governance and devoid of any depth in political vision. Writing in the same paper, Prashant Dixit (Editor, Divya Marathi, Maharashtra) sought to understand the gullible popular psyche which is ready to accept political gimmickry and dubious motives of resignation in terms of sacrifice. In his piece (Kejriwal ka raaj sanyas/Kejriwal’s power-renunciation, February 19), he observed (as translated from Hindi): “Kejriwal resigned cursing and abusing the system while E Sreedharan used the same system to run Delhi Metro but he doesn’t enjoy popularity. The system is the same; one mocks it, and the other uses it positively. The view entrenched deeply in the Indian thought system is that the world is for renunciation, not for trying to change it.”

Concurring with the editorial stand of the  group’s flagship English daily The Hindustan Times, in his column (Rajneetik sahadat ke ore-chhor/The ends of political sacrifice, February 15) in Hindustan, editor-in-chief Shashi Shekhar viewed Kejriwal’s resignation as nothing more than an act of  escapism from core issues of governance and a headline-grabbing political stunt for gaining ‘sacrifice-sympathy’. The same chemistry however is not seen on the issue between The Indian Express and the group’s sister publication in Hindi, Jansatta.

The Indian Express' edit on Kejriwal’s exit (Troubling Performance, February 15) critically dissected what the 49-dayAAP government (the core of the edit’s argument quite in sync with what The Hindu, Story of a story foretold, February 17, and The Times of India, Times View- His Delhi report card is too wretched for Kejriwal to win over India, February 17) had to say on the resignation episode. The paper’s editorial comments were well complimented with two incisively argued pieces by country’s leading political scientists Pratap Bhanu Mehta (It’s not just corruption, February 17) and Ashutosh Varshney (The Importance of Being Dull, February 18). However, breaking rank with its English counterpart, Jansatta was quite supportive of AAP’s stint in power in Delhi and in its exit also it editorially endorsed the move and has been soft on Kejriwal’s glaring failures. In its edit (Ant mein ishtifaa/Resignation in the end, February 17), the paper not only gave benefit of doubt to AAP’s decision but also bought the arguments about a short-lived government’s achievements which Kejriwal has been selling for public consumption.

The orchestrated resignation was a spectacle—something Kejriwal loves and the news media relishes. The editorial commentary in the Hindi press has sought to read some of the subtexts and implications of this of theatrical politics—sometimes succinctly, sometimes not so.

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