Vantage point

Friday, May 12, 2006

PC Bullshits PR

Saw something absolutely hilarious and yet infuriating on NDTV yesterday. The election results had been declared and the DMK alliance was a clear victor in Tamilnadu (are there ever unclear victors in Tamilnadu?). Prannoy Roy, sitting in a studio asked Chidambaram, sitting in some other studio about the "populist" free TV scheme.

Chidambaram then gave a classic performance. He clucked his tongue, increased the condescension settings of his face, and said something whose gist was(and I try my best to recall from memory here) -

See Prannoy, why are you looking at it as a purely populist scheme? There could be ways in which the scheme could be so designed that it will cost nothing to the exchequer. one needs to speak to the television manufacturers, other parties involved, explore how the payment and the other aspects are examined, like whether if we explore the options of amortised payments over 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, what will it cost? One can not dimiss it as outright populist without examining closely how it will be implemented. For all we know it could be packaged and designed creatively in a way that would cost the government next to nothing. What if I resent it to you as a commercial project than as a populist scheme? Then its feasibility changes.

This is not what he exactly said, but it was similar semi-gobbledygook. The smoothness and the speed with which he spouted whatever he did, and ended it by stating that the scheme may not cost anything at all, and could be a commercial project, probably left Prannoy Roy flabbergasted. Perhaps he had no idea whether Chidambaram was serious or whether he had just been bullshitted upon.

Prannoy Roy of course is an experienced hand. He did not betray the confusion in any way, and responded with a statement which would be an appropriate response, whether PC was bullshitting or not. He said,

"Well, that is the cleverest defence of a populist scheme I have ever heard anyone give"

But not wishing to dwell on the subject further, he moved on. I would have loved it if Roy had asked Chidambaram to elborate how giving free televisions to lakhs of people could be designed in a way that it won;t cost the exchequer anything. That would have been fun.