The Big Story: Making light of it
Venkaiah Naidu, vice president, Rajya Sabha chairman, former Bharatiya Janata Party leader and quip maker for the nation, has been doing his best to prevent the promotion of commotion. During another noisy session of the Upper House, he told Congress member of Parliament and former Union minister Renuka Chowdhury to “reduce her weight, increase that of her party”. Chowdhury had just said that to be a politician you need to “throw your weight around”. She was delivering a farewell speech that also covered how underrepresented women were in Parliament.
Naidu’s considerable verbal prowess seems to have weakened. This was the politician who gave us “dynasty in democracy is nasty, but tasty to some people”, who invited investments to Jharkhand with a poem that began “State is beautiful/ People are dutiful/ Resources are plentiful”. This was the leader who sold demonetisation to the public with the sage advice that they had to “take temporary pain for long-term gain”. For this purveyor of verbal pyrotechnics to be reduced to such forced, heavy metaphors is a tragedy. The vice presidential mantle seems to be cramping his style. It was only this week that Naidu came up with his first acronym as vice president and all he could manage was a staid INDIA, or Integrated National Development Impacting All Indians.
But what’s that? Poor wordplay was not the only thing wrong with Naidu’s remarks in Parliament? Did someone say misogyny? But that would be naive. Only recently, Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for gender sensitive discourse in Parliament. Once again, Chowdhury provided the occasion for their wit. After the Congress leader laughed loudly during Modi’s speech in the Rajya Sabha, the chairman ticked her off and the prime minister compared her to Shurpanakha, sister of the demon king, Ravana. Naturally, they were being woke and comparing her to a feminist icon. And Chowdhury could have saved her breath in the Rajya Sabha speech. Naidu has already said that the BJP would pass the women’s reservation bill when it gained a majority in the Upper House. Not that gender equality is a problem in India. As Naidu says, look at Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi.
What’s that again? Misogyny and bad wit were not the only problems with Naidu’s remarks either? There is really no reason the chairman cannot put down a legislator who is a political rival of his former party. You can take the leader out of the BJP but you can’t take the BJP out of the leader. For instance, Naidu still shares his former party colleagues’ flair for pop history. Delivering a speech on the importance of legislatures this December, he said one need look no further than the Vedic sabhas to study democracy. In other speeches made as vice president, he has waxed eloquent on “New India”, the BJP’s favourite catchphrase. After decades as member of various BJP governments and years as party president, the vice president’s job must be sadly lacklustre. Who can blame Naidu for sometimes forgetting his political days are behind him? This insistence on the neutrality of the vice president and the Rajya Sabha chairman is just plain old fashioned.
The Big Scroll
Rohan Venkataramakrishnan delves into the oeuvre of the visionary with a dictionary.
- In the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta on the increasing alienation between the North and the South in political discourse.
- In the Hindu, Happymon Jacob says the resolution of the recent diplomatic spat between India and Pakistan should pave the way for normalisation of bilateral ties.
- In the New York Review of Books, Max Rodenbeck reviews two books the reflect on the Modi wind in India.
Geeta Seshu on what the Cobrapost expose reveals about Indian media:
Media houses peddle hate propaganda and sow the seeds of divisiveness, blithely aware that the self-regulatory mechanisms available for print media with the Press Council of India and for television with the National Broadcasting Standards Authority have all but broken down. In this situation, when media houses are hardly troubled by regulation or the law, what is to stop them from making big bucks, ethics and preservation of the nation be damned?