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Krantikari Kejriwal, made in TV studio

Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi, March 10: A video clip uploaded on YouTube has shown Arvind Kejriwal requesting a television interviewer not to ask him about the corporate sector and turn “all the middle class support against us”.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader is also seen telling the interviewer to play up a part that will portray him as revolutionary, possibly a reference to Bhagat Singh whose photograph is shown behind Kejriwal.

Bahut krantikari, bahut hi krantikari (Very revolutionary. Indeed very revolutionary),” the interviewer replies when Kejriwal asks him how the interview went.

The clip has not only raised questions about the Aam Aadmi Party leader’s efforts at projecting a particular image of himself but also the role of media in conducting what critics have referred to as “collusive” interviews.

Kejriwal was interviewed soon after his resignation as Delhi chief minister for the Aaj Tak channel by Punya Prasoon Bajpai.

The India Today Group, which owns Aaj Tak, said in a statement the video clip was “part of a motivated campaign to malign Aaj Tak’s reputation as an independent channel, which fearlessly broadcasts the truth”. The statement added that the “entire” interview was telecast live and no part was edited out.

But the statement said: “In the conversation, Arvind Kejriwal is asking the anchor to highlight parts of the interview.”

Neither the media group nor Kejriwal has questioned the authenticity of the clip. The conversation appeared to have been recorded during a break. But it is not clear whether the break was in the middle of the interview or at the end of it.

The future tense used by Kejriwal in some parts of the conversation (see chart) — such as “I will speak on this” — suggests the interview may have continued.

If that is the case, questions can be raised whether the interviewer asked all the questions he originally wanted to ask even if the channel had broadcast the full interview as the media group has pointed out in the statement.

Indian media rarely subjects itself to the scrutiny that it reserves for politicians. One reason has been the reluctance to be seen as fishing in the troubled waters of competing media organisations. For instance, The Telegraph is owned by the ABP Group that also runs ABP News, a Hindi channel which competes directly with Aaj Tak.

However, the media did not fight shy of reporting on two cans of internal worms — one was linked to “paid news” and the other revolved around the rape allegation against Tarun Tejpal.

The current controversy assumes added significance because it has broken in the middle of the election season. This does not mean that someone deliberately recorded the conversation to embarrass Kejriwal — recording usually begins and ends a little before and after each session. But a key — and unanswered question — is how the clip — the unedited tape is the property of the media organisation — got leaked.

AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh said: “There is nothing wrong in the video. We are just trying to stress our point.” Bajpai, the interviewer, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts by this newspaper.

AAP sources said the party was dismayed by the undue focus on the video, which had clocked 5.68 lakh views by 10pm today.

Politicians and celebrities, including some in Hollywood, are known to lay down terms for interviews and some media organisations have been accused of indulging them to gain “access”. Critics also accuse a section of the media of creating a halo around Narendra Modi and his so-called “Gujarat model”.

But when a subject of news asks a journalist to play up a particular portion or a politician running for public office seeks help in preserving the support of the middle class, the journalist is expected to remind the person that what to highlight is the prerogative of the editorial team and it should not be the concern of the media outlet to protect the support base of a politician.

Arun Jaitley, the leader of the BJP whose associate parivar arms have been accused of threatening “hostile” journalists, seized upon the “curious” video featuring Kejriwal.

Jaitley issued a statement titled When ‘Punya’ meets ‘Paap’ (when virtue meets sin), playing on the names of the interviewer and the AAP.

“We have never been fortunate to be extended such a privilege by any anchor or media organisation. Friendly and collusive interviews intended to cultivate a particular image is a strategy of the AAP. This clearly shows the party and its leader are pretending to be what they are notů. Between reality and projection there is a complete mismatch,” Jaitley said.

THE VIDEO

What the footage on YouTube shows. It appears that the conversation took place during a break

Arvind Kejriwal: (leaning forward towards interviewer Punya Prasoon Bajpai): Woh wala thoda theoretical hai, corporate wala jo aap bol rahe the na. (That section about corporates, that you were talking about; that’s a little theoretical).

Bajpai: (leaning forward towards Kejriwal): Achchha (Okay).

Kejriwal: Kaafi theoretical hai. Isiliye main usme nahin ja raha tha. Usse jitna middle class hain woh anti ho jayega. (It’s quite theoretical. That’s why I was not getting into that. That will turn all the middle class support against us.)

Bajpai: Achchha (Okay).

Kejriwal: Ki hum privatisation ke khilaf hain, companiyon ke khilaf hain. Isliye main uspe nahin aa raha tha. Us debate par nahin pad raha tha jaan boojh kar. Baaki poochhiye (That we are against privatisation, against companies. That’s why I was not getting into that. I was not getting into that debate deliberately. Ask me anything else).

Bajpai: Aur jo hashiye pe 80 phisadi samaj hain? (And the 80 per cent of society on the margins)?

Kejriwal: Isme bolenge (I’ll speak on this).

Bajpai: Isme ab aa jaye na? Vote bank to vahi hai na desh bhar mein asal me. (So let’s get onto this subject now, right? After all, this is the real vote bank across the country).

Kejriwal: Bilkul (Absolutely). Ab yeh bolna hain. Bhool gaya tha main yeh bolna (This is what I want to say now. I had forgotten to say this).

Bajpai: Agar hum unke liye kar rahe hain to... (If we’re doing things for them, then)...

Kejriwal: Main yeh nahin kehna chahta ki yeh saare private wale kar rahe hain... aur koi bhi sarkaar aa jaye private se commission leti hain. To hum saare private sector to nakar denge. (I don’t want to say that the private sector is doing all this. That any other government that comes takes a commission from the private sector. That would be dismissing the entire private sector). Which is not right. Aur middle class haar jayenge (And we’ll lose the middle class).

Bajpai: (nods his head): Hmm.

Kejriwal: (pulling his microphone off): Theek tha? (Was it okay?)

Bajpai: Bahut krantikari. Bahut hi krantikari (Very revolutionary. Indeed very revolutionary).

Kejriwal: Usi ko jyada chala deejiyega. (Play that part up more).

Bajpai: (standing up): Woh to chalega... Hum to maane... Woh Bhagat Singh waala hissa... bada reaction aayega ispe (That will run... I think... That Bhagat Singh section... that will get massive reactions).

Kejriwal: (coughs)...

(They both walk away from the camera.)


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