Tamil Nadu Election Campaign Reaches Crescendo: The Good, The Bad, And The Downright Repulsive
While the DMK leadership is notorious for making unprintable remarks about political adversaries, this time the party seems to have doubled down on the attitude.
As the election campaign in Tamil Nadu reaches its zenith amid a soaring heat wave, there are certain disturbing trends that are emerging.
It is not unusual for political party ‘orators’ at ground zero to talk in an obscene way. It has its own audience – usually male and very limited.
All parties do have a few such orators. They are used during election campaign, but they do not go high up in the party hierarchy.
The higher-ups in the party usually talk in a measured way, though occasionally, the top leadership - particularly the late Karunanidhi of DMK – does indulge in a few below-the-belt remarks too.
However, this time though, such a pattern seems to have changed.
In a video that has gone viral, DMK MP and ex-Central Minister A. Raja compares the lives of DMK chief MK Stalin and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy.
He said that while Stalin was a “healthy child born out of proper wedlock”, Palaniswami was a “premature delivery born out of an illegal affair.”
In yet another clip, Raja is found saying that Palaniswamy was listening neither to his ‘little’ mother (Sasikala) nor ‘Big’ mother (Jayalalithaa) and now, he could not even listen to his own mother as she too had died.
This was with reference to the recent death of the Chief Minister’s mother.
In another video, Raja makes fun of the humble origins of the Chief Minister. He states that a man who started his life working in a grocery shop could never become equal to Stalin.
“Even the footwear worn by Stalin has more value than Edappadi Palaniswamy,” he is seen saying.
In yet another video, Raja referred to the death of the Chief Minister’s mother saying that Edappadi would meet a “worse end”.
The DMK is notorious for these kind of remarks – particularly those disparaging women. But this time, it was as if the DMK leaders were contesting against each other for a slice of the mudslinging and pie.
In an old video, Stalin, the DMK dynast, was seen saying that when Narendra Modi became the CM of Gujarat, the then TN Chief Minister Jayalalithaa went to Gujarat for his swearing-in ceremony. Similarly, Modi came for Jayalalithaa’s swearing in ceremony too. He then quoted the clichéd romantic verse from Kamban - the exalted one looked and she too looked – implying a kind of romantic relation between the two.
This election, Dayanidhi Maran, not to be outdone, spoke similarly.
As Modi is considered as a father figure by the ruling alliance and Jayalalithaa is called Amma (mother), “what then is the relation between the two?” he crudely asked.
These speeches by the DMK did not go down well with the masses of Tamil Nadu. The DMK alliance partners also exhibit the same arrogance.
In another shocking video, an orator of VCK, the alliance partner of the DMK coalition, is seen speaking about “beating the enemies to death”.
“The law and order situation is neither with the commissioner’s office nor with the police force but with the VCK cadre,” he is heard saying.
In many places, these speeches seem to have turned the tide against the DMK. Already for months, the DMK has been gradually losing out on the initial sweeping advantage it seemed to have.
And now, such speeches by the top DMK leaders, and the almost-reluctant condemnation of them, have made people further turn away from the DMK.
Fortunately, the response of Chief Minister Palaniswami has been extremely dignified. Though the Chief Minister was visibly emotionally choked when talking about his late mother, he said he was aware of his humble origins and was proud of them.
He also rose above his personal hurt and stated that the way the DMK’s top leadership spoke humiliatingly of his mother was not an insult to him, but to the entire motherhood of Tamil Nadu.
The dignified response of the Chief Minister has touched the hearts of many Tamils.
Meanwhile, in another development, Kamal Hassan was challenged by Vanathi Srinivasan to a direct debate. Campaigning with Vanathi Srinivasan was the Union Minister Smriti Irani. Both Srinivasan and Hassan are contesting from Coimbatore South.
Already in a Republic TV debate, the minister exposed the actor’s utter ignorance of politics and basic principles of logic.
In the official reply on the party letterhead, the actor-turned-politician called Vanathi Srinivasan a person “inferior to debate with Kamal Hassan”.
The Tamil word used for Vanathi Srinivasan was ‘thukada’ – more a swear than a parliamentary word.
Earlier, Vanathi Srinivasan had wished Kamal Hassan well when the latter was ill.
Not a woman to take insults meekly, Vanathi responded with equal vehemence in her campaign, describing Kamal Hassan as a person known only for ‘lips service’ – simultaneously referring to his track record of having done almost nothing substantial in public service and in a veiled way, referring to his misogynistic kissing scenes he is notorious for.
While some people have criticised Vanathi Srinivasan for stooping to the level of the actor-politician, there are others, particularly women, who feel that the response befitted the male arrogance the actor-turned-politician exudes.
Yet another video going viral on social media is that of Jegath Gaspar Raj, the Catholic strategist, speaking about Aravakurichi elections, where ex-IPS officer and BJP candidate K Annamalai is contesting from.
The priest-turned-political analyst-strategist says that the DMK seems to have made a pact with the BJP or is compelled by BJP not to work to win.
“We are observing carefully what is happening,” he says.
What is more important than the substance of the video itself is the way the Church seems to monitor the working of the Congress-DMK alliance as if the Church is its puppeteer.
The body language and the commanding posture that Caspar shows indicates who actually holds power inside the Congress-DMK alliance.
As the D-date approaches, one can expect more heat in the already hot election kitchen.
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