Lalu Prasad Yadav could probably be called the worst politician India ever had. He ruled Bihar (directly or indirectly) for 15 years and in the process devastated the State. He ticked all the boxes when it comes to what can go wrong with a politician.
He offered zero governance and zero ideas and didn’t even make an effort. Under him crime reached epidemic proportions and Bihar became a joke. Booth capturing flourished in his regime and he loved to spout nonsense.
When it comes to corruption he had the fodder scam for which he was eventually convicted. He played caste politics openly on his sleeve and treated bureaucrats like dirt. He campaigned shamelessly with an Osama bin Laden look-alike and somehow that was OK.
There was nepotism too when he installed his wife Rabri Devi to the Chief Minister’s chair. In fact it is difficult to even think of one positive thing in his Bihar rule.
But strangely the English media simply loved him. He was seen as a rustic genius and reporters used to fawn in his presence. His every word was appreciated and analysed and he generally got good coverage. The media cared two hoots for his governance skills.
This has not been an isolated case. Two dynasts in the form of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav burst into the scene. While it is understandable that Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav would push them, what was the interest of the media?
Both of them were presented as young dynamic leaders who would be brilliant as Prime Minister and Chief Minister respectively. There was absolutely no evidence of this, but since when did the media care for governance anyway?
While today Pappu is a laughing stock, Akhilesh did get a chance to rule and has made a total mess of Uttar Pradesh.
There are two other politicians who were disasters: Digvijay Singh as Chief Minister and Mani Shankar Aiyar as Union Minister. Both go around making nonsensical baseless statements and both of them are absolute darlings of the media.
In the backdrop of all this it should come as no surprise that the media loves Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too. Kejriwal came with a Communist Manifesto and his 49-day rule was a Grade I disaster.
After he resigned as CM, he was a laughing stock and the people of Delhi said they would never have anything to do with him again. One must say that the public like really does suffer from Ghajini-style short-term memory loss.
Now here’s the thing, just because he has got 67/70 seats; it doesn’t mean that overnight he has become a great administrator and become great at governance.
Remember Mayawati, Lalu and Mulayam (through Akhilesh) all got re-elected and they still didn’t do much for their States. There is no guarantee that Kejriwal’s current term may not be any better than his last one.
People who give good governance are generally not popular with the media. Whatever Narendra Modi did as Gujarat Chief Minister in terms of roads and electricity was discounted by the media.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s reforms and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s governance skills hardly make news. Even Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has embarked on an ambitious expansion in his State but no-one seems to care much.
Manik Sarkar will be Chief Minister of Tripura for 16 straight years next March. What are his governance skills? What is his leadership style? Most of India hasn’t even heard of his name.
But when it comes to Kejriwal, how he shaves his stubble, how he does Yoga, what time he gets up, what he likes and dislikes is breaking news. This despite the fact that his 49-day rule showed him as an anarchist.
There are many stories in many States related to crime, agriculture, reforms etc but they are generally passed by for something comparatively trivial. The Delhi Chief Minister is the weakest one in the country with the least powers but he probably gets twenty times more coverage than the second most covered Chief Minister in India.
Even Sheila Dixit at her peak never got this kind of coverage, maybe because the governance she gave was far superior to Kejriwal.
Kejriwal backers may argue that this is because Kejriwal may one day become PM but that was the same of Naidu and Chouhan once upon a time. Plus winning just 4 Lok Sabha seats out of 400+ contested does turn that argument into a joke.
The truth is that no matter how well people like Naidu and Chouhan perform, it will always be politicians like Lalu and Kejriwal who have bad governance skills who will be darlings of the media.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here