It was 5 am when I received a call from Sushil, enquiring if I had a back-up plan. Sushil is in-charge of my show. "Back-up plan?" I asked, wondering if we wouldn't even get half an hour for the interview with Kiran Bedi that we had scheduled. I was prepping for the interview, drinking a cup of tea, and Sushil's question got me worried. My show on NDTV India, Prime Time, is hour-long, and if I didn't get enough material, I wondered what we would broadcast. Amidst thick fog and a very cold wind, I started driving towards the office.
My drive to my destination - Uday Park, where Kiran Bedi lives - was crowded with hoardings of the Congress, BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party. The various political slogans have no place for questions, nor do they offer answers. At the office, I met our cameraman Mohammed Mursalin. Because security was in top gear for President Obama's visit, we made sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to Uday Park.
Kiran Bedi met us on the road near her home bang on time. But she made it clear that she was in such a hurry, that there was no time to exchange in pleasantries or small talk. In fact, she was walking so fast that we could barely keep pace with her. It was wonderful to see how fit she was at this age. And this led me to ask her my first question - does she think she is the right fit for politics now?
She replied that she was a Political Science student. I wondered whether being a Political Science student and a teacher are sufficient qualifications to become a politician and quickly adapt to the complex world of politics. At this point, it seemed like Kiran Bedi decided to explore her past on camera in length to avoid taking questions about her current status. Her past may have been spectacular, but politics questions the present.
I had only been scheduled ten minutes for the interview, I was informed. I had barely stretched it to 12 and requested that she allow me to go on for another ten minutes, but unfortunately I didn't even get that. I carried on with the hope that once a politician starts talking, the interview more often than not exceeds the pre-arranged time limit. But Kiran Bedi kept looking at her watch. I had prepped many questions for her, but my concern over this rushed interaction distracted me a little, and the preparations I had made till 2.30 that morning for this interview seemed to be coming undone.
We were both speeding now. She, due to her time constraint, and I to cover as many of my questions as possible. You can never get to know a politician in 15 minutes. Kiran Bedi's cop-like style amazed me.
"You had towed Indira Gandhi's car," I said this while trying to keep pace with her. She stopped when she heard this. "No, I didn't tow her car away," she replied. I thought to myself, so who told us these tales about Kiran Bedi towing Indira Gandhi's car? It has become a sort of urban legend. It has become a part of her image. Kiran Bedi reaffirmed that she never had the Prime Minister's car towed, but that it was Nirmal Singh, was Sub Inspector at the time and would go on to retire as Assistant Commissioner of Police for Traffic. So why didn't Nirmal Singh become a hero? Why doesn't the world praise Nirmal Singh? Why doesn't any political party give a ticket to Nirmal Singh?
The only success of this interview was that an old fact came to light in the public domain in her own words. Kiran Bedi said that the car was towed away by Nirmal Singh, but she never succumbed to pressure to bend the rules for VVIPS. But the question still arises, why should someone put pressure on either Kiran Bedi or Nirmal Singh if a car from the Prime Minister's Office is given a ticket. Kiran Bedi herself admitted that the car was not Indira Gandhi's nor was it of the Prime Minister's. When the car was given a ticket by Nirmal Singh, Indira Gandhi wasn't in it. When I asked Kiran Bedi whether the car was a part of the PM's convoy, she said that the car belonged to the PMO. It's anyone's guess how many cars the office of the PM might have.
So that myth was unraveled today. We started running again after this question. I want to explain to everyone that during election season, a politician is always short of time. We are thankful to any politician who takes out time for an interview. Everyone promises thirty minutes but ends up giving an interview of only five minutes or sometimes even refuses to give an interview. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to make the best of the time and ask another question.
The last question was on the Right to Information Act. Kiran Bedi has been a champion of this cause. Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh, Arvind Kejriwal are all fighting over how political parties should disclose who gives money to their parties and how much is received by each party. When we used to ask this question during Prime Time shows, all those mentioned above, including Kiran Bedi, used to attack the BJP and Congress. But ever since Kiran Bedi joined the BJP, she's immediately issued a certificate that party funding in BJP is transparent. I should have asked her if the BJP maintains a file on all the political funding its leaders get. And has Kiran Bedi been shown such a file? But anyway, on the question of political funding and disclosure of expenditure under Right to Information, what I conclude from her answer is this - Kiran Bedi has completely changed her stand.
The whole interview was done at such great speed that I was barely able to assimilate what was asked and what was answered. I was worried that my cameraperson would trip and fall down, because he was moving so quickly to keep up. Thank you, Mohammed Mursalin.
Seeing this interview trend on Twitter makes me happy and anxious. It has started like a WWE match on Twitter between BJP and AAP supporters. I am not a "super-journalist." That term suggests some sort of power. I have no interest in power, and I am not comfortable with it.
I was doing my job. I tried to do it well.
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