The Big Three Face Off on TV

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VANIT SETHI

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ust the other day, the No.1 news anchor of India today, Mr Doorknob Gogetter of Your News Channel (YNC) managed to pull off a coup on super primetime TV by getting the top three leaders of the national parties together to discuss some very vital issues facing the country today. Given below is a blow-by-blow account of the enlightening, live debate held at the capital’s upmarket National Global Centre (NGC), for those who have missed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Doorknob Gogetter (highly excited): A very, very good evening to all you viewers tuned in to Your News Channel today for the debate the whole nation has been waiting for. We have a highly educated and enlightened audience here at the NGC, waiting to hear the views of our extremely distinguished panel of guests here on the stage. Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome Raag Darbari of the Indian Nationalised Caucus (Raag starts smiling and folding his kurta sleeves), Namo Namah of the Indian Public Party (Namah’s 56-inch chest swells with pride), and Rewind Cagewall of the Mango Man’s Party (Rewind starts coughing and scratching his monkey-capped head).

(A round of applause reverberates in the jampacked, chandeliered, and Persian-carpeted main hall of the NGC, which has a generous sprinkling of India’s who’s who in the field of politics, administration, business, media, education, arts, sports, cinema, and social service).

DG: Alright, let me begin the much-anticipated debate without any further delay. My first question is to the leader of INC. Mr Raag, does your party have any hope of salvaging even half the seats you won five years ago? In short, let me put it rather bluntly – will INC even cross the 100-mark on its own?

RD: Doorknob, we are not just going to cross the 100-mark, we are going to shoot way beyond even the 200-mark. You just wait and see on May 16.

DG: Mr Raag, how can you be so confident when all the opinion polls predict a massive downslide for India’s ruling party. Are you kind of living in a make-believe world?

RD: Mr Gogetter you will soon discover that the make-believe – what you call – is the only reality. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘maya-jaal’ or ‘illusion trap’. That is what the IPP creates in favour of its leader. The INC believes in giving people the chance to escape their miserable surroundings.

DG: And how is that, Mr Darbari?

RD: Simple – through ‘escape velocity’. You see, in spatial physics, there is this concept. which an IIT professor told me…

DG: Oh come on, now we don’t to hear about ‘escape velocity’. You think those United Provinces villagers understand ‘escape velocity’. Well…

NN (butts in): It’s true (laughs)! The UP villagers want to escape the INC with double the speed of the gravitation pull of Brahaspati (Jupiter), and they want to land up in Nightend (Gujarat) – the land of milk and honey. You see in Nightend of which I’ve been the CM three times, there’s 24×7 bijli and paani. And see the sadaks in Nightend – they are as smooth as the cheeks of… of… (thinks hard) ah.. Mallika Sherawat.

(Loud laughter erupts in the audience).

DG: Why Mallika? Why not Hema Malini? Redoo had said earlier that the roads of Vihara (Bihar) were like the cheeks of Hema – the dream girl.

NN: That’s old-fashioned – typical of Redoo and Vihara. We talk the language of today – development. Mallika stands for growth and progress. Besides, she’s wished me on my birthday.

(For the first time, a smile appears on DG’s stern face after another round of laughter in the audience).

DG: Okay, Mr Namah, enough of your jokes, you know I’m a very serious journalist. The nation wants to know the answers to some very pertinent questions on Your News Channel – the No.1 English news channel in India today, outshining all its competitors and leaving them way behind.        

RC (coughing to make himself heard): Doorknob, you haven’t given me a chance still (coughs again and flings his muffler across his throat). Can you ask somebody to reduce the AC please? I’m shivering… (folds up his arms).

(DG waves his hand at one of the helpers in the hall and makes a gesture to turn up the temperature).

DG: Alright, Mr Cagewall. Let’s come to you now (Cagewall scratches his armpits and yawns). Your Mango Man’s Party has absolutely failed in the country’s capital. Out of the 49 days you were in power in cahoots with the INC, you were out on the streets on dharna for 9 days, 2 hours, 11 minutes, and zero seconds – incidentally, this is the data I have collected from India’s leading market research bureau, commissioned by YNC.

NN (butts in again): Uske baad woh nau do gyarah (9/2/11) ho gaye! Aur result hai total zero! (makes a circle in the air with his right index finger).

(Loud laughter in the audience, to which Namo waves grandiosely).

DG: Alright Mr Namah, this is not a rally ground, and you know I’m a serious journalist. Back to Rewind (smiles at the unintended pun). Yes, people accuse you of being irresponsible and an opportunist. Do you have any defence for that?

RC: Doorknob, this is a part of the paid media conspiracy, you see. They accuse us of a number of things. They have all been paid by my opponent Namah’s party IPP to oppose me and the MMP. By the way, are you or your channel also a part of that?

(Namah raises an uproar, and so does Doorknob)

DG: Rewind, how dare you accuse us of being a part of the paid media? I’m a very serious, honest and transparent journalist. I will not tolerate this nonsense. You have to apologize to the nation for calling me a paid journalist – I’m only paid by my channel, not by Namah’s party. Take back your words and apologize this very moment. The nation is waiting for it.

RC: Alright, alright! (fiddles with his mobile phone). Let me just SMS my supporters and find out if they want me to apologize to you.

DG: What? Are you serious? (in disbelief). But I’m a serious journalist. Okay, I’ll wait for your apology. In the meantime, I turn to Namah again. Mr Namah, a lot of people are picking holes in your state’s model of development. And it’s not just the INC and MMP, but also independent national and international agencies. What do you have to say to that?

NN: Bhaiyon aur behnon (looking directly at the audience), ye sab ek shadyantra hai. Ladies and gentlemen, this is all a big conspiracy.

DG (butts in): Aren’t you using the same language of Mr Cagewall. By the way, Rewind, have you received your SMSes?

RC: Yes, yes. I’ve already received 420 SMSes in precisely 49 seconds. You can calculate that per second, we have received….

DG: Rewind, rewind. Come on, we are not interested in all that data. All I’m asking you is ‘are you apologizing to me or not?’

RC: I’m coming to that. Out of the 420 SMSes, a total of 272 people have asked me to apologize and get on with the debate – a clear majority. So, I do apologize as per the wish of my supporters – many of whom are NRIs too.

DG: Okay fine, I have nothing against you, Mr Cagewall. But I’m a serious journalist. Well, Mr Darbari, do you have anything to say?

RD (surprised): On what?

DG: On what the INC intends to do after the elections?

RD: Mr Rulewick…

DG: I am Doorknob, not Rulewick. He’s from some BMM-ACM channel, or something like that, my rival – but his TRPs are way below mine. Anyway, you were saying something.

RD: Was I? Ah yes, you see – we should encourage our women, empower our youth, and change the whole system…. in fact, tear up the old system (tears a piece of paper on his desk, after folding his sleeves).     

NN (immediately): Yeh shehzada to pura nautanki hai! This prince is a drama king.

RD (angrily): And you’re a feku! The whole Nightend state model is a feku model. In fact, the Hurricane (Haryana) state model is a much better one. Let me show how.

NN: Ah, that state where girl fetuses are aborted, and you have those abominable, mad Cap Punchhits killing young lovers?

(The atmosphere gets heated up, now).

RC: Doorknob, you see how these two principal parties behave. That’s why we must have an alternative like the MMP. I’m immediately going on a hunger strike here to clean up the bloody, corrupt political system we have.

(Takes out a chatai and spreads it on the floor, and prepares to lie down on it).

DG: Wait a minute, wait a minute! This is not Janpath, this is a convention center. You can’t have your dharna here.

RC: This is a democratic country. I can sleep anywhere I like.

(Meanwhile, Namah and Raag are still fighting it out over Nightend vs Hurricane model of development)

DG (butts in and mutes their sounds): Viewers. We have to take a commercial break now. But we’ll be back soon. Don’t go anywhere. This debate is just warming up.

Commercial of Idea comes in – No ulloo banaoing, no ulloo banaoing.

In the hall, Doorknob and Rewind try to broker a truce between Namah and Raag, but they have almost come to fisticuffs. Raag folds up his sleeves, and Namah bares his 56-inch chest, but Raag’s slap accidentally lands on Rewind’s face, and so does Namah’s slap lands on his other cheek. Rewind ducks below, and runs out of the hall, while Doorknob pulls down the curtains.

Meanwhile, in the studios of Your News Channel, the ads are interrupted by Breaking News: “The EC has, with immediate effect, banned the telecast of any material or program that inflames the people’s passions before the elections. We are sorry to announce that we will not be able to continue with our live debate now from the hall of NGC, as the drama there has come to the EC’s notice. We will, however, challenge this order. Wait for our next episode, if it happens.”

The screen blanks out………..for a while.

(This was a light-hearted fictional account of the much-desired debate on prime-time national television between the bigwigs of the three most important parties in India today. Its only purpose is to inject a touch of humour into some little-too- serious debates on 24×7 English news channels. Therefore, no offence is meant against anyone, either intentional or otherwise.)

 

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