Decoding The Press Meets Of Annamalai
'Is Annamalai unnecessarily aggressive towards journalists?'
'Does his wrist-watch really have a recording device embedded in it?'
Myths around Annamalai's press interactions, busted here.
By the looks of it, it appears that K Annamalai, president of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is harsh on journalists. It is alleged that he insults and shouts at them. He is said to have mocked a journalist in a press conference through a fake auctioning. In another, he flatly refused to apologise when some journalists demanded an apology.
Wednesday's (4 January) press meet too became a metaphoric battleground.
So what is happening in Annamalai's press interactions?
Since Annamalai — born to a farming background and a real life cop before joining electoral politics — became the leader of Tamil Nadu BJP, the party has witnessed two clear phenomena. One, a widespread, and hitherto unseen, acceptance across the Tamil population. And two, a series of scandals.
However, the scandals seem to have made little to no impact on the party, and its popularity under the new state president has only been growing.
For the first time in Tamil Nadu, we are seeing schools and colleges invite a BJP leader to address their students. This despite the hostile atmosphere towards BJP under the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) regime.
Annamalai is not merely a politician. Many youths of Tamil Nadu are seeing in him a symbol of hope. He is not seen as belonging to any one community. He is not seen as belonging to any one region in Tamil Nadu. On his part, Annamalai has been able to communicate to the people that he has a vision and that he is here on a mission.
The ruling party leaders, including Chief Minister M K Stalin, has acknowledged that BJP is becoming their main opponent. From being a party that was looked down upon as a competition to NOTA in the state, the BJP has come to be seen as an electoral force whose growth makes senior DMK leaders openly express fear and apprehension.
Annamalai has been exposing not just corruption but even potential corruption in the Tamil Nadu state government. He has been criticising the government for its inability to conduct proper investigations into terror modules.
Almost every time he had made such allegations — from Aavin products to Kovai bomb blast — he forced the Tamil Nadu government to change course and act. As one political commentator on social media jokingly said, it looks as if Annamalai should be called "the CM who acts for the people".
This is a challenge to dynastic politics. With even DMK's own cadre murmuring their dissent in whispers, the dynasty of the Dravidianist supremo clearly realises the danger posed by Annamalai.
The BJP is no more the good ol' punching bag for Dravidianist politicians. Under Annamalai, it has become a formidable electoral machinery challenging not just the dynasty of DMK but also the larger Dravidianist hegemony in Tamil Nadu polity.
In response, many sleeper cells have been activated by the Dravidianist ecosystem. Dissenters to disgruntled 'senior' leaders, agenda-driven journalists to sponsored YouTube channels — all have started attacking Annamalai. A 'Hate Annamalai' club has emerged, uniting all vested interests.
In Wednesday's press meet, Annamalai showed how the "propaganda-journalists" bring bad name to the genuine ones.
He pointed out how journalists of a particular type jump to term one death a "murder" while on the other hand are unable to ask any senior DMK leader about the misbehaviour of their cadre with lady constables.
He also called the bluff of a journalist who asked if his watch contained a bugging device. He simply took off his watch and gave it to the journalist, asking him to keep the watch for 24 hours and do all the tests on it and that Annamalai himself would pay the bill for the tests.
Spreading rumours, exhibiting double standards and displaying arrogance— all of these seem to have become the defining features of the agenda-driven journalists who have been exposed to scrutiny like never before by Annamalai.
This has been possible because Annamalai himself is always ready to offer himself for questioning. He asks his political opponents as well as their media acolytes to scrutinise him. This seems to have made many a politician in Tamil Nadu uncomfortable, to say the least.
In the same vein, it was in dealing with a question on Subramanian Swamy that Annamalai showed his mettle. He made it clear that the only certificate he needs is from the people of Tamil Nadu, and not from Subramanian Swamy. (That statement by Annamalai should actually nudge Swamy into a dignified exit from politics).
If one looks at all of Annamalai's press meets, there is a pattern.
He answers difficult questions patiently and elaborately. He explains with facts and figures. Sometimes he answers as much as 10-15 questions in this manner.
At the same time when questions are asked with an ulterior agenda and are in bad taste, he responds accordingly.
Through his press meets that appear aggressive and combative, Annamalai is actually uncovering the agenda-based journalism that has been strangling genuine press in Tamil Nadu. He is also bringing in a new discourse that focusses on development and cultural as well as economic renaissance. More power to him.
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