Delhi based journalists who cover politics have been at their wits ends trying to explain and understand this phenomenon called Arvind Kejriwal. They have never seen an animal like him before. And since they don’t understand him, they tend to run him down.
What is new in what Kerjiwal is saying is their constant complaint. All this was already in the public domain is a point they often make. Take the case of the links between Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, and DLF, the biggest listed real estate company in India. The moment Kejriwal started talking about the link, several journalists who work for Delhi headquartered newspapers and television channels were everywhere trying to tell us that all this was already reported by The Economic Times in a story that appeared in March 2011.
They were of course right about the same. But the question is even with The Economic Times, the largest business daily in India and the second largest business daily writing about the link between DLF and Vadra, how many Indians actually knew about it?
But when Arvind Kejriwal went to town with the issue it was reported on almost every news channel in English and Hindi, and almost every newspaper in the country (except a particular Delhi based broadsheet) had it as the lead story on the front page the next day. And that being the case every Indian who gives any newspaper even a customary glance came to know about the issue.
Yes the link between Vadra and DLF was in the public domain. But it was in the limited public domain. The Economic Times despite having the size it has is only the seventh largest read English daily in the country. The biggest vernacular papers have a circulation which is any times the circulation that of The Economic Times. Hence, with Arvind Kejriwal and India Against Corruption exposing the links between Vadra and DLF, the issue was placed on the national agenda.
What also happened was that once Kejriwal went to town with the issue, newspapers and television channels got more courage to report on the issue and dug up more dirt. A story in The Hindu brought to our notice that how an honest IAS officer Ashok Khemka was transferred for poking holes in the dealings between Vadra and DLF. Several newspapers and websites reported how DLF gave Vadra a Rs 50 crore advance, which remained with Vadra for more than three years. Vadra used this interest free money to go on a property buying spree.
This advance was given against a plot of land of 3.5 acres that Vadra bought for Rs 7.5 crore and within months sold it to DLF for Rs 58 crore. The Business Standard reported that the Haryana chief minister might Bhupinder Singh Hooda have had more than helped Vadra in this initial purchase of this 3.5 acres. Also for this purchase Vadra issued a cheque of Rs 7.5 crore without even having 1% of that money in his bank account. This was done with the help of the seller who was close to Hooda not encashing the cheque immediately.
The Daily News and Analysis reported that a part of the advance was used to buy up land in Bikaner which went up in price by 40 times since Vadra first started purchasing plots of lands in 2009. The point being that once Kejriwal raised the issue several media houses unearthed more and more angles to the basic story of the link up between Vadra and DLF. This happened because once Kejriwal raised the issue it came from being in the limited public domain (as it was when reported by The Economic Times) to being in the full public domain.
The same thing happened when Kejriwal placed Nitin Gadkari, the president of the Bhartiya Janata Party on the block. Once Kejriwal raised the issue about Gadkari indulging in corruption the same set of journalists went to town saying that there is nothing new in what Kejriwal is saying. It is all there in the public domain. But Kejriwal’s expose led to newspapers unearthing more and more muck about Gadkari and firmly showed that his claims of being a social entrepreneur were all a one big hogwash.
The same model was followed after Kejriwal attacked Reliance. Several editors of business news channels and business newspapers were seen on prime time television right after Kejriwal’s press conference trying to tell the world at large that their newspaper or television channel had already reported extensively on the issue of Reliance first agreeing to a certain price for KG D6 gas and then wanting a substantially higher price for it.
This of course was true. But then how many people read business newspapers in this country? The answer is around 1.5million, which is around 0.13% of India’s population. Does that even qualify as being in the public domain?
And let’s not even get into the television rating points of business news channels. They are a joke.
As Gyan Chaturvedi wrote in the brilliant satire Narak Yatra
इस देश में लिखे को पढता कौन है?
लिखते रहो सालो.
कितने पढ़े-लिखे हैं इस देश में?
और पढ़े लिखों में भी कितने पढ़ते हैं?
और जो पढ़ते हैं, उनमें से कितने समझते हैं?
और जो समझते हैं,उन्हें सोचने की फुर्सत कहाँ हैं?
वे महंगाई, दफ्तर तथा बीवी-बच्चों के पचड़ों में ही मर खप रहे हैं.
बाकी देश तो अनपढ़ है ही,पढ़े-लिखों का भी डर नहीं.
So given that, yes, Arvind Kejriwal is copy pasting from what has already been reported in the media before (though I have my differences on this having written extensively on the link between Vadra and DLF, what Kejriwal and his team put together on the issue was much more than what was reported in The Economic Times March 2011 story). Nevertheless, it is his copy pasting that is really putting out these issues in the real public domain and not the one created by television news channels and business newspapers.
And hence it’s important that he continues.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at [email protected])