In an unexpected move on Tuesday, the BJP's Tamil Nadu State President Tamilisai Soundararajan announced that spokespersons of the party would not be attending debates on Tamil news channels. In a press release, the party leader alleged that spokespersons of the national ruling party were not being given equal opportunity to represent the views of the party.
"Political debates on television are really useful to convey the stance of parties and opinions to the people. However, since there is no equality and equal opportunity in political debates of late, it has been decided that no representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party will take part as of now." read the statement from Tamil Nadu BJP.
According to party sources, a core committee meeting took place earlier on Tuesday where senior leaders had narrated their 'bitter' debate experiences in the recent past. Tamil television channels often feature a spokesperson of the national party in their prime time debates alongside spokespersons of DMK or its allies, political analysts and senior journalists. However, party sources claim that BJP State General Secretary Vanathi Srinivasan and the party's state media chief Narayanan Thirupathy had particularly bad experiences trying to convey their views on recently-held news debates.
"Every debate that we go to, we are grossly outnumbered and the channels are not neutral,â€ť says Narayanan. â€śTamil channels are clearly biased against the BJP and I have brought this up even on air several times. When there is an accusation of any sorts, the anchor and other panelists are allowed to ask as many questions as they want. But we are given nearly no time to answer or constantly interrupted,â€ť he adds.
Often, the national English media, Hindi media and regional media in many states have been accused of being biased in favour of the BJP. In Tamil Nadu however, the national party's spokespersons have cited Tamil media as one of the reasons for their electoral drubbing in the state.
The latest development appears to be the tipping point for the national party in the aftermath of its poll debacle in the state. While the BJP swept back to power in a historic mandate in the Lok Sabha polls held in May, it lost even the single MP seat it held in the state. The DMK-Congress combine won 37 of 38 seats in Tamil Nadu. Soon after the results, BJP leaders from the state accused Tamil television channels of bias.