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Home page > English > Opinion > Amma’s antics

J Jayalalithaa’s latest intolerance of the media is a despicable act. Sunil K Poolani wonders why the country has to suffer this churlish, tin pot dictator

All these years one has been wondering why the media and J Jayalalithaa’s cohorts have to refer to her as (according to her own instructions, obviously) ‘Puratchi Talaivi’ which in Tamil means ‘Revolutionary Leader’. Jayalalithaa a radical supporter of political or social revolution? Whoever said Jayalalithaa doesn’t have a sense of humour?

India has had enough of the antics of this sulky, petulant brat. Her intolerance of criticism, whether it is from political opponents, the media or even the public at large, is legendary. And who does she think she is? Queen Cleopatra? Even the queen regnant of Egypt couldn’t have dreamt of the shenanigans the booty queen (as once described by Frontline magazine, from The Hindu stable) of Chennai has managed to achieve so far.

Now Jayalalithaa has gone too far. The Tamil Nadu assembly’s resolution sentencing the editor of The Hindu and four others to 15 days’ simple imprisonment for breach of privilege of the House, is an unpardonable mistake. And, make no mistake — this time there isn’t a single voice in support of the lady.

The Tamils, whose psyche is difficult to fathom, might have elected her to lead their state. But the latest despicable act against the most venerable and respected newspaper in the country is not something the Tamil Nadu electorate is going to forget very soon. And it will be evident in the coming polls.

What’s her problem?

Okay, she might have had a turbulent childhood, might not have been able to study further, might have had to come to the Tamil tinsel town quite early in her life and might have had to listen and tolerate the whims and fancies of M G Ramachandran, former Tamil Nadu chief minister and, well, her mentor. And she was always been alone, physically and psychologically (of course, not forgetting MGR and, later, her bosom pal, Sashikala). But that doesn’t mean she has to vent her frustrations against anyone whose face she doesn’t like — not when you are handling an important job. It’s not done.

What does the lady expect? To bow before her and applaud each time she makes a mistake that costs the constituency and the people a fortune? Look at Tamil Nadu today. Poverty is so widespread that in some districts the hungry have to eat raw rats. Education and living standards are in a shambles. The roads resemble ploughed fields, potable water is unheard of, female infanticide is at an all-time high, companies are vary of investing in this state ruled by someone who thinks she is a tin pot dictator… the telling evidences are aplenty. And here is this madam who can afford to buy 10,000 sarees, truckloads of shoes, and piles of diamond-studded gold jewellery from her pocket money.

As The Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi wrote in Sunday Mid-Day, is it time that we all put our heads together and found her a nice room in a comfortable sanatorium somewhere?

The media-hater

Adlai Stevenson once said: “The free press is the mother of all liberties, and our progress under liberty.” Stevenson should have known. He knew the power of the press. It is by now well established that he lost the US presidential election (not once, but twice) because of his irrepressible wit which the Fourth Estate failed to savour. And after seeing the political failure of such a man, American politicians seem to have, despite occasional lapses, taken seriously the advice preferred by Senator Thomas Corwin to James Garfield: “Never make people laugh. If you would succeed in life, you must be solemn; solemn as an ass. All great monuments are built on solemn assess.”

Now we have a problem here. Jayalalithaa does behave like a solemn ass and she doesn’t make people laugh; instead she makes some people cry and many people angry. Even Indira Gandhi didn’t treat the media in the Emergency period like the way the churlish Jayalalithaa today does. People with some self-respect wouldn’t have minded if Jayalalithaa attacked a rabble-rousing paper like Bal Thackeray’s Saamna; but this is The Hindu. Either she was absolutely foolish or was absolutely garish, but of course not brave, to take on the Maha Vishnu of Mount Road.

C P Scott, the founder editor of The Manchester Guardian, once said: “News is sacred, opinion is free.” In Jayalalithaa land, nothing is sacred and nothing is free. Let’s all join hands to fight the last hope of freedom of expression.

Home page > English > Opinion > Amma’s antics

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