The India Today-hosted “Panchayat”-sort of events (held all day Feb 13) with politicians debating, discussing, publicly quarreling with each other have three aspects. There is the plain entertainment value, say, of the recent entrant to Mulayam’s party, the commedian Raju Srivastav having a blast with AAP’s Kumar Vishwas and the more sober Bhojpuri film hero Manoj Tiwari displaying earthy cow-belt lingo and humour in skewering each other and the unfortunate Congress MP aspirant, the actress Nagma, who seemed like the proverbial witless ingenue winning a beauty title and claiming her aim in life is to work for “world peace”! There’s the high-octane verbal kinetics, with the Congress minister of state Manish Tiwari losing his cool when verbally prodded and deliberately provoked by the AAP member and fellow lawyer, Mehra (?) even as the former deputy chief minister of Bihar Modi on the panel enjoyed the show. And then there’s the seriously political. In the exchange featuring Amit Shah, Narendra Modi’s canny chief campaign strategist, and Jairam Ramesh, the resident intellectual in the Congress Party ranks, the latter was clearly bested with Shah being relentlessly on the offensive charging the Congress with politics of polarization and vigorously defending the Gujarat model of economic growth, which RFamesh had hard time refuting. What was more revealing than what was said and how it was said was the body language. The impression was conveyed by all Congress reps throughout the day that the party sees the writing on the wall, is reconciled to defeat in the coming general elections, and is already looking ahead to the 2019 polls, with Ramesh painting Rahul Gandhi as a political “marathoner”, not a 100 metre “sprinter”.
P.S. — The real stinger, I forgot to mention, was the quicksilver reaction by AAP’s Mehra to Manish Tiwari. The latter was reminded about Kapil Sibal’s comment that there was “zero loss” on the coalgate and 2-G issues in the context of the GOI yesterday realizing some Rs 61K crores for the spectrum recently in a transparently-conducted auction, which’d indicate the extent of loss to the public exchequer when the 2-G bandwidth was allotted to his cronies by the DMK minister K. Raju w/o any openness. Mehra’s stinger was that of course, the Congress “felt insulted” considering it was such a small amount compared to Rs 1 lakh74K crores the CAG said Congress had “eaten up” in the 2G scam!