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Interview, scripted in a break

New Delhi. March 11: A segment of Arvind Kejriwal’s interview to a television channel on February 14 appears to closely follow a script discussed by the former Delhi chief minister and his interviewer, recordings of the interview and their off-record conversation suggest.

Viewed together, the two recordings challenge Kejriwal’s projection of himself as a straight-talking, no-holds barred politician, and instead raise questions about attempts to painstakingly sculpt that image.

Kejriwal is seen telling his interviewer that he fears turning the Aam Aadmi Party’s “middle class support against us” if he criticises the entire corporate sector, in a minute-long conversation that was not meant to be telecast but has received over 1 million views on YouTube.

The interviewer also asks Kejriwal whether he should next ask him a question on the “80 per cent of society on the margins” that is the “real vote bank,” to which the fledgling politician responds saying “absolutely” in that conversation.

At 30 minutes and five seconds into the actual 43-minute interview, the Aam Aadmi Party leader specifically interrupts his own argument about the influence of industrialists on the Congress and the BJP to state that “not all corporate firms are bad”.

In the very next question, the interviewer — Punya Prasoon Bajpai of Aaj Tak channel — asks Kejriwal: “What is your vote bank?”

Kejriwal responded: “People say that 80 per cent of this country’s population lives below the poverty line, is poor, downtrodden. If these 80 per cent people are our vote bank, then that’s wonderful. Elections are won with even 50 per cent votes.”

The recording of the actual interview examined by this newspaper is the one uploaded on YouTube by Aaj Tak itself.

The office of Ashish Bagga, chief executive officer of the India Today Group, which owns Aaj Tak, told The Telegraph he was not available to comment on the interview on Tuesday.

Bagga had yesterday said in a statement that the video clip of the off-record conversation was “part of a motivated campaign to malign” the channel’s reputation, and that the entire interview had been broadcast live the day it was given by Kejriwal.

The Telegraph’s own examination of the recording of the off-record conversation on YouTube suggests it consists of two sections spliced together, identified as separate because of a clear break in the video’s editing.

The first section of the conversation, 42 seconds long, appears to have taken place during a break in the interview where Kejriwal and Bajpai discuss the politician’s worry about turning away the middle class and the upcoming question about the “80 per cent” vote bank.

This break in the interview was likely a commercial break that allowed Kejriwal and his interviewer to plan —when they thought they were away from the scrutiny of cameras — for the remainder of the interview that was indeed broadcast live, as India Today has said.

“Last question,” Bajpai asked Kejriwal, 37 minutes and 9 seconds into the interview, as the politician sat in front of a portrait of Bhagat Singh. “There is this portrait of Bhagat Singh behind you. There’s no other photo in your room. What is the significance of this?”

“I get inspiration from these leaders,” Kejriwal replied.

The interview ended with this response, but the second section of the spliced video clip of the off-record conversation appears to be from a brief 20-second chat that began now as they unclipped their microphones and slowly walked off the sets.

In this chat, Bajpai is seen telling Kejriwal that the politician appeared “revolutionary” in the interview. Kejriwal smiles, pulls out his microphone to stand up, and responds by asking him to “play that up.”

Bajpai then says: “That Bhagat Singh sectionů that will get massive reaction.”

It has, at least on YouTube, but not of the kind Bajpai or Kejriwal may have predicted.