What is the best way to achieve instant television fame these days?
Be a bulldozer. Seriously.
If that is not feasible, try being so offensive in your public remarks that you stand a very good chance of being arrested, a la Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga. Get arrested by threatening to recite or actually reciting the Hanuman Chalisa in a public place without official permission as did the Rana couple in Maharashtra; file a case demanding that the Taj Mahal’s ‘history’ be revisited; demand that roads in Delhi named after Mughals be renamed; demand that the Qutub Minar be renamed — in other words, if you want to be an overnight TV star, create a controversy with a religious angle.
And by the way, it would help if you are a member of the BJP or of a group ideologically sympathetic to it. If you’re in the opposition, these methods of mass distraction, as everyone calls them, won’t get the TV cameras looking your way for very long.
But nothing beats a bulldozer for being in the spotlight, these days — it is, quite literally, breaking news. Inflation can soar, rupee can fall to an all-time low, Sri Lanka can burn, why even the sedition law can be put on hold by the Supreme Court, but if there’s ‘Bulldozer action live’ (Republic TV), it will flatten all comers and command the headlines.
By far the luckiest bulldozers are the ones used by the municipal authorities in Delhi. Those in other states may receive glancing attention — bulldozers in Gujarat got a look in on TV news, Tuesday — but the JCB in the national capital gets the best treatment: live, carpet coverage for hours and hours.
For instance, from the moment the TV camera crew saw a bulldozer `move’ towards Shaheen Bagh Monday, soon after 9.30 am till the `demolition drive’ was abruptly halted at about 12.15 pm, the JCB remained the sole news story on news channels.
It’s become a TV star. In fact, bulldozer tourism is providing stiff competition to the military tanks in Ukraine, as a tourist spot for TV reporters.
People walked alongside it, people lay down before it in protest, people posed next to it. Reporters ran after it, reporters clambered aboard its wheels — why, they even sat in its driver’s seat. Remember the Aaj Tak anchor at the wheel of one in Jahangirpuri, last month? Better still, the bulldozer achieved instant international fame after Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson jumped into its lap during his visit to India.
Lucky JCB. Of course it had to leave Shaheen Bagh, somewhat shamefaced, with its crane between its wheels after `bulldozer politics’ (CNN News 18) prevented it from showing us any of its tricks—`Yahan sirf rajneeti chal rahi hai,’’ observed TimesNow Navbharat, `bulldozer ruk gayi hai.’
The JCB returned on Tuesday and Wednesday for real action in other parts of south and central Delhi — smash, bang and onto the next alleged encroachment and the news channels dutifully, followed it, giving us regular updates on its destructive progress through the city — ‘Jahan bulldozer, wahan live reporting,’ said NewsNation.
Also read: So happy Indians in Europe, so angry Indians back home – the two India stories on TV news
Not bulldozer? Here’s how to be a newsmaker
If bulldozers aren’t your thing, you could follow the example of Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga. Last weekend, the BJP member dominated the news after the Punjab Police picked him up from his Delhi home and tried to take him to Chandigarh but their convoy was waylaid by the Haryana Police.
What could be more enticing for news channels on a Saturday: they spent most of the day chasing the Punjab Police, the Delhi Police and the Haryana Police, higgledy piggledy. They went after Bagga’s family too. Nobody knew what exactly was happening but who cared? A car chase was on and you saw it first on TV: reporters and cameras hung out of windows to capture the fast-paced development of events.
Bagga was the TV hero of the day and sought out for interviews by most news channels — all because he had made remarks against Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.
This is another sure fire way of becoming a newsmaker — as a BJP wala, attack other parties, their leaders, and you’ll find the TV news channels have time and space for you.
Or there’s the overnight success of the Ranas. BJP MP Navneet Rana and her husband Independent MLA Ravi Rana are not only perhaps the best looking couple on television these days but also the best known.
Since they were arrested for threatening to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the home of Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhhav Thackeray on 23 April, they have been a constant fixture on the news, be it when they were taken to jail, or when they were drinking tea at the police station, or during their complaints of mistreatment and eventual release on bail—the TV cameras have been on hand to witness their moment of history. So much so that on Monday, TV crews were stationed outside their home in Mumbai to report their departure for the airport and flight to Delhi. ‘Rana vs Uddhav Sena’ has become trending news.
Would the Ranas have been news if the Uddhav government hadn’t slapped a case of sedition against them and sent them to jail? Probably not.
Still, it’s a sad truth that news TV chases after trivial pursuits which may well end in a blind alley, only because it has religious underpinnings. Why should one BJP leader, Rajneesh Singh, suddenly be the lead story on Monday morning just because he had filed a case in the Allahabad High Court demanding to know the ‘history’ of the Taj Mahal? Thousands of cases are filed across India each day but news channels will always pick up anything which has a Hindu-Muslim slant.
Hence, coverage of the hardline Hindu group that chanted Hanuman Chalisa near the Qutub Minar and demands for its name change. Hence the bulldozer in Shaheen Bagh at the very spot where the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests were held.
So if you want to be in the news, get yourself a bulldozer or learn Hanuman Chalisa.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)