news Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - 05:30
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been accused recently of ignoring and barring access to journalists. Kejriwal is just dabbing in an art form that Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu had mastered over the years. The irony is that as Delhi closes its doors on media, Tamil Nadu is opening it wide, after years of ignoring the media. Gone are the days when it used to be a herculean task to reach an AIADMK party spokesperson. In the past, reporters approaching the AIADMK office would always be redirected to Poes Garden (Jayalalithaa’s home and personal office), and more often than not, permission would be denied. If the AIADMK was conspicuous by its absence, the DMK would pick and choose who and what they would react to, even if they were more approachable than the ADMK. The onslaught of TV channels both in English and in Tamil has forced both the Dravidian parties to take the media bull by its horns. The DMK recently created a panel of 13 spokespersons who will make regular appearances on TV news debates to present the party’s point of view on various issues. This comes a couple of months after the ruling AIADMK appointed a nine member panel to take part in similar debates. “Dravidian parties have realized the power of television medium and that it cannot be ignored anymore. This is why most parties have designated spokespersons,” says M Gunasekaran, senior editor of Puthiya Thalamurai TV. Though there are more than half a dozen news channels in Tamil Nadu and most have news segments, till about three months ago, most debates and news reports had no representative from the AIADMK. "Party enthusiasts" and columnists like Avadi Kumar, Kasinatha Bharathi and Gowrishankar used to talk broadly on the party’s views, but they were never official representatives. “The AIADMK supremo seems to have realized that these enthusiasts were not articulating the party’s position correctly and therefore came up with this list,” another senior journalist says. CR Saraswathi, one of AIADMK's newly appointed spokespersons acknowledges there was indeed a need to have the party’s voice in TV debates. “Few years ago media needed spokespersons only during elections, but now there are debates on a daily basis. It becomes important to counter the attempts to malign us,” she says. CR Saraswathi talking to ANI The AIADMK spokespersons are required to carefully to go through the party mouthpiece Namadhu MGR, Jaya TV and Jayalalithaa’s statements to be crystal clear about the party’s stand. They mostly stick to the script and still need clearance to represent the party on controversies on which Jayalalithaa has not yet taken a stand. The DMK’s committee comprises of former MP TKS Elangovan, senior leaders like K S Radhakrishnan, students' wing secretary Ila Pukazhendhi and former MLA M Appavu, in addition to nine advocates. Saravanan, an advocate who has recently been appointed as spokesperson explained the rationale behind having nine lawyers saying, “When you have a lawyer, it goes without saying that they have good debating skills and they are unafraid to speak their minds. When it comes to public speeches, lawyers have made a mark and have been actively participating in party activities. In fact, a large chunk of lawyers constitute the MPs, MLAs and office bearers. So lawyers are as equipped as party workers to handle these debates,” With AIADMK in power in the state and BJP in power at the centre, the party believes it has gotten the short end of the stick. Its stand on serious issues such as the disproportionate assets case against former ministers has brought upon the DMK adverse publicity. The DMK hopes that the team will help deflect criticism and argue aggressively to defend the party. “The battlefields are changing. Before it used to be only public meetings and party rallies that would attract crowds. Media is becoming a way of subtly influencing people’s opinions. Now with the issuing of free TV sets by the government, the people are hooked to debate shows and that makes the difference. Public opinion is made before TV sets. We have always known the power of media. What we’re doing right now is calibrating our techniques,” Saravanan says. Inputs- Aishwarya Ramesh

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