Former cricketer Kirti Azad who defected from the Congress to the Trinamool in November last year, has put his party in a very tough spot by mocking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, over a Khasi jacket that the latter wore during his visit to Shillong last weekend (18 December)
Azad, son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad, had tweeted a photo of Prime Minister Modi wearing a traditional Khasi jacket and sporting a Garo headgear with a derisive text: “It is neither male nor female, he is only a priest of fashion”.
Azad’s derogatory tweet triggered a storm of protests with chief ministers of three Northeastern states — Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh — condemning his “disrespect” of tribal attire and demanding an unconditional apology.
Azad, who knows precious little about the Northeast, shared a morphed photo (read ) of Modi wearing a jymphong (a long sleeveless jacket without collar and decorated with floral motifs worn by Khasi men) while addressing a rally in Shillong, Sunday (18 December).
Immediately after Azad’s denigrating tweet on Wednesday (21 December), Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma his condemnation: “It is saddening to see how @KirtiAzad is disrespecting the culture of Meghalaya and mocking our tribal attire. TMC must urgently clarify if they endorse his views. Their silence will amount to tacit support and thus will not be forgiven by the people,” tweeted Sarma.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu used stronger words of condemnation. In a on Thursday (22 December), Khandu said: “Your making mockery of rich tribal traditions of Meghalaya, and our rich tribal heritage, is contemptuous and abominable. Your language is pitiable, and an affront on the dignity of womanhood. I condemn it”.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma was cryptic. Sangma a photograph of himself clad in the very same Khasi jacket with a text: “Proud of our culture….condemn those who disrespect us”.
The BJP Scheduled Tribe (ST) Morcha condemned Azad and termed his tweet “extremely derogatory” while terming the three-time MP from Darbhanga ‘uncouth’. The Morcha demanded action against Azad.
Samir Oraon, the national president of the BJP ST Morcha, condemned Azad and termed him badtameez (ill-mannered and rude) and asked him to educate himself on tribal affairs.
All these tweets evoked hundreds of responses not only from the people of Meghalaya, but from all over the country, condemning Azad and his party.
Seared by the backlash, a chastened Azad ran for cover and deleted his offensive tweet. And he replied (see ) to the three chief ministers, Samir Oraon and others with an asinine statement: “I have not disrespected the attire, I love it. I am trying to express that our Prime Minister loves to make fashion statements. Never misses an opportunity”.
But Azad was far from remorseful. He replied to the BJP ST Morcha’s of his original (deleted) tweet with: “Ardhanarishvar. Her her Mahadev” (see ). This further enraged netizens who blasted him for his insensitivity and visceral hatred for Prime Minister Modi.
A severely embarrassed Trinamool, which is pitching for power in Meghalaya, also ducked for cover.
Nearly one and half days after Azad’s derogatory tweet, the party : “We uphold India's diversity & respect the vibrant culture of our nation. Proudly, we celebrate the ethnic traditions of diverse people and strive to empower them. We do not support ’s comments & strongly condemn it. His remarks do not reflect the party's views”.
But the Trinamool’s ‘strong condemnation’ of Azad’s mockery of Prime Minister Modi did not cut much ice, not at least among the people of the tribal state of Meghalaya.
Condemnations of Azad and his party continued to pour in and social media was flooded with strong denunciations. Many in Meghalaya called for a criminal complaint to be filed against Azad, while others even called for a boycott of the Trinamool.
Trinamool leader and former chief minister Mukul Sangma (who defected to the Bengal-based party from the Congress a few months ago) went into an embarrassed silence.
Other Trinamool leaders of Meghalaya who are very active on social media withdrew into a shell and have not even conveyed Christmas greetings on twitter or other social media platforms to the people of the state.
Azad’s tweet is sure to become fodder against the Trinamool during the campaign for the Assembly polls scheduled for early next year. All opponents of the Trinamool are planning to highlight it and use it as a stout stick to beat the Trinamool with.
Leaders of the National People’s Party (NPP)-led ruling alliance have already started holding up Azad’s comment about the Khasi attire as an example of the ignorance of the Bengal-based party about Meghalaya.
Azad’s comments are, thus, sure to hurt the Trinamool in the weeks to come.
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