Very rarely does history present a delightful chance to witness parallel career and life graphs of two well known people who not only are contemporaries in years but almost mirror each other in success and personality. It is happening in our times. For everyone to see, observe and conclude.
I am not politically inclined towards either, but I do echo the sentiments of countless mango people from across the country who I meet regularly as a part of my daily livelihood. You may enjoy this piece more if you read it through a lens of detached indulgence. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the lives and times of Arvind Kejriwal and Arnab Goswami.
Two men who started out as non descript, self effacing and almost diffident messengers of change. They were both a part of a larger than life idea – one of India Against Corruption and the other, NDTV, that was then revolutionizing news coverage in electronic media by literally jumping into the battlefield by sending intrepid journalists. Both were the lesser known foot soldiers of the change they represented. There were other, more famous faces attached to the respective ‘movements’. Both had different ideas about how the campaign was handled but they never let it known to their mentors till they were ready to break away.
Yes, both Arvind and Arnab snapped their umbilical cords while all the time nursing a new and different idea of bringing about the change they were championing. Both had the onerous task of emerging out of the larger than life shadows of doyens like Anna Hazare and Dr Pranab Roy.
Which they did successfully by clever marketing and execution, not strategy.
Both represented a different and refreshing idea that captured the imagination of people. Whether it was the smooth transition from the ‘Main hoon Anna’ on the Anna cap to ‘Main hoon Aam Aadmi’ caps or in Kejriwal giving the name of the party or the symbol of the broom that promised to sweep away corruption, everything was calculatedly different in tone and style from the tolerant and patient personality of the IAC. Arnab too represented a firebrand anchor and editor-in-chief who questioned big and influential people without fear and created a brand of straight talking that was so alien to his more compliant, appeasing and almost pacifist alma mater.
Both focussed on delivering a different experience to their audience knowing fully well that their biggest advantage lay not in their personality but in its packaging. Whatever they did, they did out of passion and undiluted passion comes through warm and square even through the cold and glazed LED TV screens striking a chord so universal amongst like minded people who felt they were also fellow sufferers as much as they both were. Both came across as objective and fearless – traits used in modicum in the fields they represent.
Success has a way of showing itself in snatches even before the final denouement. People get attracted to the idea of success like a swarm of bees. Way before AAP won 28 seats and TRPs put Times Now as the certified leader, the ripple effect was already evident. Scores of volunteers, buzzing social media, thousands of forwards seeking donations and actual donations from across the globe propped up AAP’s morale and image. Likewise every other news anchor tried to be like Arnab, politicos started coming prepared to ‘face’ Arnab, people started posting vociferous and angry updates on corruption in the social media which saw a virtual reply, counter-reply on each update almost mirroring Arnab’s panel. His popularity was evident in people posting about how Arnab made a politician squirm indicating that the channel was being switched on as a channel of choice by the people.
With success comes a feeling of pride and then power, of infallibility, of invincibility, of being never able to do any wrong as you feel reassured by the love of millions around you. They must know that much as their unbridled passion and conviction could reach out to the common man, so can their confusion and loss of objectivity.
The week that went by, tested the tenacity of both of them. Neither seems to have handled it with their characteristic aplomb. Kejriwal was asked to form the Delhi Government and Goswami’s ego came in the way of objective anchoring when speaking to Meeanshi Lekhi on the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s LGBT verdict. Not just this, if there was one channel that was expected to objectively report the Aston Martin accident, it was Arnab’s. But he did not. Kejriwal on the other hand was keen on maligning both mainstream parties further – a point he had already proved by winning the numbers he did. He even suggested BJP should have bought the MLAs to form the Government. Both forgot their real role they had started out with – Kejriwal of giving a clean government to Delhi and Goswami of giving a sharp incisive analysis of Section 377 and the unanswered questions of the accident.
Had both stuck to their honest and original agenda, things perhaps would stand differently today.
When did they lose sight of their vision to fight for issues? Why are they today focussing on criticizing personalities? Both seem as if they have another agenda. Both should know that clean governance and fearless reporting are executional strategies; not an ideology to stand for. Should not the clean governance lead to a loftier goal of inclusive growth or world class development? Or fearless reporting lead to a speedy, sharp and objective analysis or the real truth that impacts our lives? Time for both to introspect. The good news is, it is not too late for either to course correct.
A lot of aam aadmis’ love for both of them is just waiting to come back.
(The writer is managing consultant of The Key Consumer Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, a Mumbai-based qualitative research company)