This appeared in Sunday Times today....
The utter confusion of the chatterati….
Listen up, all you people. At the end of the day, we are all chatterati, okay? Don’t feel bad. It is not such a terrible thing to be. Let’s face it, nobody but nobody knows what the hell is going on in our country right now. The Prime Minister is as clueless as you and I. It’s a game of hit and miss – mainly miss. And all the self- styled experts who are grandly making predictions about Elections 2014, may have to eat crow eventually. This is how it has always been for the past few general elections. It works something like this: overnight, as it were, an entire industry springs up out of nowhere. Fossils of various vintages are dug out of obscurity and asked their opinions on the outcome of the elections. And they dutifully trot out numbers that nobody remembers once the results are out. Suddenly, a hush descends across television channels as the fossils go back into their burrows and we all look for new topics to devour.
But, this election is going to be qualitatively different. The cast of characters is new and untested and the quicksand of shifting loyalties is keeping everybody guessing. That includes the very vocal and opinionated chatterati. For the first time in the history of India we will be participating in an election that will be considerably influenced by assorted internet platforms… where the chatterati count.. If the last general election was about the power and penetration of television, this one is definitely going to be defined by Twitter, FB and beyond . And here is where the chatterati play such a critical role. The only neta to have recognized the power of this phenomenon is Narendra Modi. With his tech-savvy team working in over drive for the past three years, the man has a plan in place, and that plan includes incorporating all the clout which is abundantly available across social media platforms – that too, for free! Well – nearly free. His team has also factored in the multiple voices of the chatterati and instead of talking down to this influential segment, has strenuously courted it.
Rahul Baba’s approach is far more baffling. One would have thought he would have been the first chap off the mark in harnessing social media . But no! He is still standing at the gatepost obstinately refusing to throw his hat into the ring , while keeping the country guessing with his infuriating ‘will he or won’t he’ game. One really feels tempted to give the reluctant debutant a good shake and say, “ For God’s sake, dude… make up your mind, so we can make up ours.” In all this mess, guess who is slowly but systematically climbing up the popularity charts? An unlikely candidate, according to the chatterati… but he’s right there ! And nobody can ignore him now. Arvind Kejriwal is attracting his fair share of sincere supporters who see him as the big change. So, while the experts refuse to take their eyes off NAMO and RAGA, there’s actually a third bloke sneaking up on the two of them. Not that Kejriwal stands much of a chance, poor fellow. But one must hand it to him for giving the fight a good go. Even more amazingly enough, the chatterati are suddenly keen on him, for he represents something that is glaringly…. blindingly…. lacking in public life today - a conscience. I have been talking to several sympathizers who are reaching for their wallets and sending contributions to Kejriwal, only because they are so utterly , bitterly disillusioned with and disgusted by the rest. Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi pitch is increasingly appealing to this lot, and no – nobody is feeling sheepish about expressing admiration for an individual who resolutely refused to give up. Even when everybody else had … on him. Kejriwal was brusquely written off by India. And yes,by the chatterati, too. It needs guts and determination, they are now saying, to take on a system this corrupt, this all pervasive. And he has done just that. Kejriwal seems to be the dark horse who just may have understood the tricky path that leads to the heart of the betrayed Indian voter. If, indeed he has, then the confusion of the chatterati may actually help propel the man who can never be the Mahatma, but could do the job just being himself.