Insensitive Bengal politicians- mirroring our prejudices

Couple of insensitive remarks by Trinamool Congress’s Loksabha election candidates created much furore among the intellectual and liberal circles. In a society where prime time news is all about anchors howling about the outrage of the day, the gaffes made for good fodder.

Popular Bengali actor and TMC candidate from Ghatal, Dev equated being part of the election experience akin to that of rape. In a print interview given to a leading media house, he said in a joking manner, “It’s just like being raped yaar. You can shout or you can enjoy.” The interview transcript clearly mentions that the actor was all beaming after he gave the rape metaphor. In another incident, educationist and former Minister of State in UPA government Sougata Roy warned CPIM cadres of dire consequences in the elections if they cross their line. In a veiled threat, he urged party workers to remind the opposition that CRPF forces won’t be present in every para (nukkads).

Even the diehard TMC supporter would find it hard to defend the kind of insensitive comments Dev made or the threats served by veteran politician Sougata Roy. As panels in channel after channel dissected the comments, it was a field day for the opposition party. They gleefully invoked how these people are detrimental to Bengali culture. Old clips of similar insensitive comments were played in loop.

While no body can condone what these celebrities said, it is interesting to go beyond the outrage to the thought process in those statements. Are these carefully calibrated statements or just said in haste and jest? Careful consideration does lead me to belief that in many cases these are said in an extremely intentional manner in an attempt to reach to the lowest denominator of the society or to grab eyeballs. They just provided the fodder to public prejudice. Yes it is cynical business, but who said politics is for the holy.

Look at the coarse language used by normally erudite Salman Khurshid when he visits his home state of Uttar Pradesh. He knows as a wily politician that the subtlety apt for Lutyens’ Delhi won’t work in the dust of Hindi Heartland. When educated people like ManiShankar Aiyar and Subramanian Swamy launches their uncouth tirade, it is an agenda at work. The same thing is at play here. Sougata Roy a professor of physics is normally known for his measured statements. Here he virtually acts as a rabble-rouser, to give “vocal tonic” to the party workers at large.

Another actress and TMC MP Shatabdi Roy said in a rally that if people want to see her for free they need to vote for her!! Dev, the current superstar of Bengal is best known for his nimble footwork and smiling dimple. The flippant comment made to a youth-centric tabloid may well be interpreted as a way to appear cool to his followers.

One can well argue that politicians play this Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde persona as it pretty well mirrors the society at large. The same person outraging with Aamir on Satyameva Jayate is a voyeur watching Big Boss. How many times have we laughed at “Chris Gayle aping a bowler” joke?

On Twitter, the way people trolled Sunanda Pushkar before her death can be made a case study. Probably like our politicians the society in general is hypocrite holding different morals for different people. In India movies with crass humour get to the 100-crore clubs, pornstars become major stars, parents still believe in corporal punishments, and fairness creams are advertised to be the only way to women empowerment. If we want to change our politicians, maybe it is a time to change ourselves. Or else, it will be merely hollow outrage with good TRP numbers for television.

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