Slugfest kills humour
The latest bout of bad-mouthing is a glaring contrast to the lively encounters between the ruling and the opposition parties in and outside the...
The latest bout of bad-mouthing is a glaring contrast to the lively encounters between the ruling and the opposition parties in and outside the Assembly in the past. As one who covered the Legislature for over 25 years, I was witness to many exchanges between the treasury and the opposition benches. Heated and emotional, yes, but rarely acrimonious or personal M Venkaiah Naidu,A a fine speaker with a passion for alliteration, complained that the Chief Minister (T Anjaiah) was not accessible to the members. 'Intlo kaluddaamante Indrasain untaadu, Janamlo kaluddaamante Janardhan untaadu�..' The Telugu press and the regional channels have devoted a good chunk of their space and time to the on-going war of words between the Telugu Desam and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti. The bitter rivalry featured juiciest epithets and invectives, bordering on the unprintable. Public debate has sunk to a new low. The players in the verbal slugfest have not even spared the physical features and other shortcomings of the rivals. The latest bout of bad-mouthing is a glaring contrast to the lively encounters between the ruling and the opposition parties in and outside the Assembly in the past. As one who covered the Legislature for over 25 years, I was witness to many exchanges between the treasury and the opposition benches. Heated and emotional, yes, but rarely acrimonious or personal. A well-meaning intervention or a sparkling wit by a senior member would ease frayed nerves. Sample some of the exchanges. Raja Sagi Suryanarayana Raju, Minister for Endowments in the Vengala Rao Cabinet, true to his royal background, sported ear studs, rings on almost all fingers and looked like a Raja. Nallapureddy Sreenivasul Reddi told the Minister 'Ayya. Racharikam poyindi. Prajale rajulu. Aiyna thamaru perulo rendu Rajulu tagilenchukunnaaru. Teesi veyyandi'. Raju garu shot back 'Meeru maatram takkuvaa? Rendu reddlu jodinchaleda?' The House was in splits over this episode of prefixes and suffixes. The House took up a question relating to Family Planning when with mock innocence, CVK Rao, Independent member from Kakinada and a bachelor, interjected to know 'what is Nirodh, sir'. 'Adi meeku ardham kaadu lendi. Koorchondi', someone in the treasury benches advised him. A senior journalist writing a radio report described a member as 'paanakamlo pudaka.' He came close to getting hauled up under Breach of Privilege provision. M Venkaiah Naidu, a fine speaker with a passion for alliteration, complained that the Chief Minister (T Anjaiah) was not accessible to the members. 'Intlo kaluddaamante Indrasain untaadu, Janamlo kaluddaamante Janardhan untaadu�..' He would fire broadsides at other parties that the Congress party had disintegrated into Congress (S), Cong (I), Cong (R), the Janata Party into Janata Dal, Lok Dal and 'Parlok Dal', and the communist parties into CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML),' naxalites, tubelights and torchlights'. He would taunt ministerial aspirants for hankering after 'phaanu, phonu, pyunu, kaaru'. A slip of the tongue triggered laughter even in the midst of a condolence motion in the 70s. A member confused and unprepared, plunged the House in laughter when he hoped that the soul of the Chief Minister would rest in peace and offered condolences to 'vaari kutumbam'. It was a mix-up between the deceased member and the Chief Minister, who moved the resolution. I remember seeing the Chief Minister laughing heartily at the gaffe. I thought it was unethical to mention names. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who bore the tag of a faction leader for many years, would spare no opportunity to show his disdain for the Chief Minister, NT Rama Rao and the Telugu Desam. He would walk nonchalantly into the House, twirling the moustache challengingly at the treasury benches. Feigning fear for his life, Nallapureddi Sreenivasul Reddi, Minister, would beg the Speaker to protect him from the moustache-twirling YSR and add plaintively, 'mallee meesaalu tipputunnaadu, adhyaksha'. Ibrahim Bin Masqati (Majlis), panel Speaker at the time, received a chit from a woman member. It did not contain routine request for permission to speak. He was amused. It simply said 'aaj ki sham, aap ke naam'. The woman member simpered coyly as Masqati looked enquiringly at her. (Note. This was not part of the proceedings, but a selective leak to the press). The emergence of the Telugu Desam and the bitter rivalry with the Congress in the early 80s changed all that. Innocuous humour was no longer in demand. K Bapi Raju resigned as Minister for Excise in the early 90s in the wake of a liquor scam unearthed by the Telugu Desam. He lost his cool and made an avoidable reference to the skin condition of N Chandrababu Naidu, who had spearheaded the campaign for his ouster. On another occasion, K Prathibha Bharati, then a Minister, made a shrill demand for apology from A Narendra (BJP) for commenting on her 'pattu cheera'. The TDP members would make subtle reference to K Rosaiah's bald head that his budget proposals were like presenting comb to a bald headed man. Sarcasm and anguish were also in evidence. Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, the Majlis leader, ridiculed the claims of poverty eradication. In bitter sarcasm, he said 'garibi hataana chodo. Hame purani garibi loutaiye. Wohi badi shukar' or something to the effect. Masala Eeranna, Dalit member from Alur in Kurnool, was once so upset at being sidelined that he tearfully prayed to the chair 'mamalni tirigi Bellary ki pampinchandi adhyaksha'. Bellary in Karnataka is on the other side of the border. Like the late Saalaar, we can only pray to the Speaker ' hame purani humour loutaiye'. Keep smiling. (The writer is former Chief of Bureau, The Hindu, Hyderabad) Email: [email protected], [email protected]
24 Jan 2020 9:36 PM GMT