Almost a day after the Tamilnadu assembly decided to imprison six persons, including editors of The Hindu and the Murasoli, to 15 days simple imprisonment for an alleged breach of privilege (see the Hindu's front page, from the print edition here), comes news about the reactions of various politicians.
T.S Subramanian had detailed the chain of events that has led to this fracas in his column way back in the May 10th issue of the Frontline (read it here). But this is what apparently caused the fracas - an excerpt from the The Hindu's editorial titled Rising Intolerance on the 25th of April this year:
With each passing day, the Jayalalithaa administration in Tamil Nadu seems to be scaling new heights of intolerance. The crude use of state power against various sections including political opponents and the independent media shows a contempt for the democratic spirit that is deeply disturbing. Perhaps because she was at the receiving end of a series of criminal cases filed by the previous DMK administration, she sees her return to power as an opportunity to wield the sanctioning and prosecuting power of the state blatantly to her political advantage.
Another article that the TN Speaker mentioned as acts intended to "blacken the reputation of the government" was this one - CM taunts Marxists again.
But one thing that strikes me as strange as to why something like this be done just on the day on which the Assembly is adjourned sine die and why should this happen almost 6 months after the above mentioned articles in the Hindu? Is 6 months the usual time for a House Privileges commitee to table its report? Someone clarify this for me! I think that the same thinking that goes toward making political arrests on a Friday evening knowing that bail cannot be received till Monday morning when the courts meet after the weekend has been put to use here too. But perhaps the move has backfired.
Maybe the honorable TN CM could not fortell what her fellow politicians would react. Two Chief Ministers from adjacent states have expressed disapproval of what happened in Chennai, one in a public meeting in what can be seen as a rebuke and another in a personal phone call. Karnatka CM, S.M Krishna, while speaking at the 125th anniversary celebrations of The Hindu in Bangalore on Saturday, expressed displeasure regarding developments. AP CM, Chandrababu Naidu called up N.Ram, The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief and echoed the same comments. As did ABV when N.Ram called him up and Sonia Gandhi, who was "quoted in a New Delhi report" that she "deplored the attempts made to curb press freedom in Tamil Nadu". Even people like IK Gujral and Digvijay Singh, of whom nothing has been heard, maybe even in the last decade have got mileage with their statements expressing support for The Hindu.
What will be the ramifications of this whole issue? I am sure it will end with all cases being dropped or going sub-judice for such a long time that we will forget this whole issue. But with each passing day, TN politics is going murkier. After a good first year or two, the TN government (read the ruling party) is perhaps slowly starting to repeat its mistakes from last time. Though the whole issue of talking tough with truant Government employees was appreciated by the mainstream press, the decision of the government to build a new secretariat in the middle of a city already plagued with badly planned civic projects has perhaps not found enough takers among the people. Already the Government has been forced to retrace its steps in more than one issue - the Queen Mary's College issue being the key. But the CM's public diatribe against Mayiladurai MP Mani Shankar Iyer and his subsequent assault near Nagapattinam (apparently inside Pondicherry state limits and hence absolving the TN ruling party of all involvement) did not receive much mileage anywhere after a day or two. Is this because of the doubts that Mani Shankar Iyer used unparlimentary language to abuse the CM on stage and that the CM refused to repeat those words in public using her position as a woman of high moral standing as an excuse?
Whatever it is, TN politics is getting to be a joke. Everybody does the same thing and accuses everybody else of not doing what they said they would. But who is at a loss here? The common man of course and most don't even know it! The ghosts of the erstwhile movie star turned politician(s) are still up and about and it is about time that these ghosts are exorcised. Who do we turn to for this? Is a California style recall possible under the Indian constitution? If it is so, then TN is one main target for such a recall! But I am sure we don't want a Arnie here. That's just why we want a recall!