If two of the nation’s best thinkers (and loudest voices) turn their attention to an important question, can answers be long coming?
by Shovon Chowdhury
Last night a murder case was solved live on national television. Two of our best-known detectives examined the evidence, interrogated experts, and looked bitching in expensive suits. Who won? At Scroll.in, we respect our readers more than blood-relatives, which is why we are presenting the facts, so that you can decide.
Arnab was supported by no less than eight small talking heads.Rajdeep had less heads, but more photographs. I started with Arnab, because of the nation. Since this was an important case, Arnab dropped his introductory harangue and went directly to sarcastic remarks.
“Why is Mr. Tharoor stunned?” he asked. “We are stunned that he is stunned. The nation is stunned. Why is he stunned? It’s stunning.”
The Arnab advantage
He repeated this several times, while the talking heads looked on hopefully. On the whole, he was quite cheerful, and not as angry as you would expect. The talking heads, who looked nervous initially, began to relax. Shazia Ilmi looked nice without her hat. Her hair looked full and shiny, with plenty of bounce. She still seems a little confused, though, and her only contribution to the debate was that we need proper labs, and that investigation needs to be more efficient. A BJP person with a shiny, bald head said that the law should be allowed to take its own course. The Congress person from Kerala immediately brought in political conspiracies.
“Who’s bringing in politics? Who? Who?” demanded Arnab, at which point the Congress person from Kerala realised that it was him, and did not speak any further. Arnab then presented evidence. He spoke at length about Alcoprax, Lupus and coconut water. He was very upset about all these things. He heaped scorn on Shashi Tharoor, who is currently at an Ayurvedic Centre, showing that he believes in our ancient heritage, and possibly receiving enemas.
“How could he not know,” Arnab demanded, “that his wife did not have Lupus?” He also spoke of coconut water very sarcastically, making samosa-twirling movements with his hands whenever he mentioned the word “coconut water”, as in “And now her husband says all this was due to coconut water?’ (hand twirl).
There is no lack of bravery in the Congress, which is why at this point, another Congress person tried to say that a highly placed person was involved, and Arnab should not speak like this. Arnab glared at him, and he too spoke no more. After a few more disparaging remarks about coconut water, he held up a document, at which point I switched over to Rajdeep.
Rajdeep was taking a far more forensic approach. Nalini Singh spoke on the deterioration of viscera. A Supreme Court lawyer told us how witnesses are unnecessary. But his primary tool was visual. Having already established a reputation as a man who likes beating up his audience, Rajdeep now went one step further and showed them photographs of a dead woman. The dead body coverage was excellent, with multiple angles and repeated zooming. It made the whole thing much more interactive.
The big picture
On top of that, he was wearing a much better suit, but at the end of the day, I was not satisfied. He confused the issue. His visuals cried out for detailed analysis, but instead he talked about timing. “Why now, one year later?” he asked, “when the NDA government is in power?” Instead of a murder, he was investigating a conspiracy. He started very scientifically, but he frittered away his advantage.
Subsequently, he shifted attention to Delhi Police, questioning the long delay in filing an FIR. This is blatantly unfair, as they have taken only one year, which is brilliant compared to 1984. Apparently, this is the precursor to a tatkal scheme, which will be announced shortly. Yet he refused to let it go. Broadly speaking, he focused on dead bodies and larger issues.
So what do you think? Did Arnab make a strong enough case, and if so, can he pronounce sentence by Friday? Or did Rajdeep raise new issues that need to be discussed? And which dead person will Headlines Today feature next? The nation has spoken, and so has Rajdeep. Now you be the judge.