Defamatory Politics Has Deeper Roots in Tamil Nadu

Elangovan’s unsavoury remark as brought to the fore the despicable art of provocative and defamatory politics practised in Tamil Nadu.

Published: 20th August 2015 02:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2015 09:31 AM   |  A+A-

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president E V K S Elangovan’s unsavoury remark about the recent luncheon meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has brought to the fore the despicable art of provocative and defamatory politics practised in the Dravidian State.

While a section of analysts point an accusing finger at the Dravidian movement for bringing the level of political debate to an abysmal level, historians of the movement argue that Congress functionaries were the pioneers of such rustic and crude speeches. Many political parties have dedicated and popular platform speakers who ‘entertain’ cadre through their double entendre attacks on opponents. What stands out, however, is that even prominent leaders play with words to personally humiliate and provoke rivals.

Defamatory.JPGAnalysts pointed out that even in the Legislative Assembly, some chief ministers, ministers and MLAs have unabashedly made disparaging remarks against women leaders or wives and daughters of politicians. It was one such distasteful ‘off-the-record’ remark by then chief minister M Karunanidhi in response to a provocative charge by then Opposition leader J Jayalalithaa that triggered violence in the Assembly in 1989. 

“This is the other side of personality-oriented politics in Tamil Nadu where the merits and de-merits of leaders take centrestage and issues and principles are pushed to the sidelines,” argued political commentator Prof A Marx. According to him, when parties hail their leaders as heroes, naturally there is a tendency on the part of rivals to defame him/her through personal barbs.

“Even leaders who are no more are not spared,” he said referring to BJP leader H Raja’s speeches targeting the late social reformer ‘Periyar’ E V Ramasamy.  Prof C Lakshmanan of the Madras Institute of Development Studies pointed out that even freedom fighter Annie Besant had suffered such insults.

“Revered leaders of the Dravidian movement too have made unkind insinuations against stalwarts like Nehru, Lal Bahadurv Shastri and Kamaraj. This is an unhealthy practice,” he said adding that in Tamil Nadu leaders of rival parties don’t even greet each other at private functions.

Rejecting charges that the Dravidian movement had started this trend, veteran political writer ‘Sangoli’ Thirunavukkarasu contended that the Congress had pioneered this.

“The Congress had platform speakers like ‘Tirupur’ Vincent, ‘Viboodhi’ Veeramuthu and M S Girivoyi, who reveled in making vulgar personal attacks against Dravidian leaders and their families. CPI leader Baladhandayudham was also known for marking personal remarks.

Even Congress veteran Kamaraj had made disparaging comments against Indira Gandhi and freedom fighter Sathyamurthy made contemptuous remarks against fellow Congressman Ramasamy Mudaliar,” he charged.

Thirunavukkarasu claimed that the DMK had to field speakers to give it back the Congress in the same coin. The trend has lived on.

“In all sections of society and all fields, the emergence of women is not tolerated. Losing to a woman is considered an insult by most, who do not agree that she won because of her talents and knowledge. They try to degrade her success by coming out with allegations on her character and morals, alluding that she won because of her compromises on cultural values,” said advocate Sudha Ramalingam.


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