The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi has experienced a gradual but definite electoral surge in recent weeks. A party written-off by most as a product of “OB-Van” frenzy that won’t last has now established for itself an impressive position in the electoral race in Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal and his team of Anna’s foot soldiers in the India Against Corruption movement appear to have come of age and are on the verge of emerging as the true champions of the Aam Aadmi in Delhi. After 15 years of Congress rule and a weak opposition in the form of the BJP, the people of Delhi seem to be leaning slowly but surely towards an alternative that never existed until a few months back – The Aam Aadmi Party.
There is little doubt that everyone including the media completely missed what could turn out to be a tectonic shift in India’s political history. AAP’s consistent message and extensive ground campaign operation seems to have resonated with the people. Even Sheila Dixit who pooh-poohed AAP for the longest time seems to have recognized that “AAP has captured the imagination of the people.” The BJP meanwhile appears to be shaken and has decided to change horses midstream – out goes Vijay Goel and in comes Harsh Vardhan. Modi fans are now gravitating towards, “Kejriwal for CM, Modi for PM” mantra. Clearly, India’s two leading parties appear to be on the back foot on a turning electoral wicket.
As the AAP bus leaves the station, many are jumping on board and not surprisingly this includes the media. After blatant threats from industrial powerhouses the media had stayed away from covering AAP for several months. In hindsight this seems to have served as a blessing for AAP. While Kejriwal and his rag-tag team of die-hards were busy doing the hard yards going door-to-door spreading their message of anti-corruption, accountability, transparency, and reform in governance and simultaneously winning the hearts and minds of citizens on the Internet, the media was busy focusing on the wrong stories. “What would you do if AAP lost the election?” they would repeatedly asked Arvind Kejriwal in the hope that they would land a sound bite that could rake up their TRPs. Frankly, how does it matter what Arvind Kejriwal does should AAP lose the elections? Does the media ask Sheila Dixit or Harsh Vardan (or whoever else is the leader du jour of the BJP) the same question?
From the Radia tapes it is evident that leading lights in our media frequently act as go betweens industrial houses and politicians fixing everything from licenses to ministerial berths. While the investigation continues and will in all likelihood continue for years till it looses it relevance, the media has a chance to redeem itself over the net few weeks in so many different ways that could have a lasting impact on our democracy as a whole. There is a golden opportunity for the media to do some serious investigative reporting to expose routine practices that occur prior to elections like distribution of cash and liquor to voters. It could bear upon the election commission to act swiftly to reign in any campaign malpractices. It could highlight the need to bring political parties under RTI and question the source of funds for the fancy rallies and the frequent helicopter rides of our political leaders.