Narendra Modi, who had agreed to be Madhu Trehan’s first guest on the Facebook Talks series on the Indian election on Monday, fled the field and Arvind Kejriwal got a head start. And we always thought that the Sangh Parivar were the masters of the internet. Actually, they were, ages ago when Kejriwal’s flashmobbers were still in short pants. Maybe they feel a bit slow now.
The Talks series is a ripoff of Google’s Hangouts. The election show is a cobranded venture between Facebook, Trehan’s Newslaundry and NDTV — social media, internet media, traditional TV. The buzz is that NDTV put off the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate but equally, it may have been Modi’s known discomfort with interviews where the question paper is not leaked in full. Newslaundry offers to reveal all after the series ends.
Trehan offers a non-invasive, low-decibel alternative to talk show hosts who sound like a Stuka in a power dive. There’s humour, too: “After the break, we’ll talk about... no, I won’t tell you.” And then: “Welcome back. You choose your viewing well.” It worked with the soft-spoken Arvind Kejriwal, whom she dubbed the “Manoj Kumar of politics”. Not so with a querulous Mamata Banerjee, who tried to score by disparaging the media. She went on about “paid newspapers”. Well, actually, she did exactly the same thing with the Stuka of Stukas, Arnab Goswami, whose Mamata interview had a huge “exclusive” logo hanging over it, as shiny as a gold biscuit. It was 24 hours after the Facebook Talk, but such technicalities need not deter Times Now.
Goswami had a firmer grip on his guest and was able to make her come clean on the Modi question. He was frankly amazed to hear the third front being disparaged as “a tea party, a tea break, a lunch break”. But a question posed by Trehan about Singur elicited a Silent-Spring-on-speed diatribe about the “torture of nature causing global alarming, er, warming”. Then Banerjee digressed into a mystifying plan to nurture talent banks which would bring back PIO youth, bearing sacks of black money. No Hangout ever featured such amazing stuff. The copy is better than the original.
In another successful ripoff, India News has swiped a programme name from India TV and made it fly, or at least chug. Last year, Chunav Express was a standard India TV election news programme covering the assembly polls. Now, in the hands of