On Wednesday, A. Navaneethakrishnan of the AIADMK displayed his singing skills in the Rajya Sabha with a rendition of a popular number from an MGR film, “Kashmir beautiful Kashmir”. His fellow MPs were no doubt amused, but reciting a poem or a popular film song is nothing unusual in the Tamil Nadu assembly. All to keep the chief minister in good humour.
On Thursday, actor-politician Karunas, the leader of Mukulathor Pulipadai in the Tamil Nadu assembly, upstaged Navaneethakrishnan. A few minutes after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram made a few announcements in the assembly, Speaker P. Dhanapal called for Karunas to speak. Instead of speaking, the actor rendered the old “Theivamey, Theivamey, nanri solven theivame” (God, thank you God) from the movie Deiva Magal, holding aloft a photograph of Jayalalithaa. Ministers and other members of the ruling party tapped their desks in appreciation.
Not satisfied with one song, Karunas belted out another one, “Neenga nalla irukkonum naadu munnera” (You should be hale and hearty for the country to develop). This popular MGR song is played at the start of every AIADMK meeting, and the assembly witnessed a high decibel music concert.
While this was in good humour, there were heated protests on the floor when small-scale industries minister K.T. Rajenthra Balaji, in a sing-song voice, read out from a leaflet: “The opposition’s favourite word is walkout; its least favourite word is people’s welfare.” The opposition DMK was on its feet criticising the minister’s remarks. A week before, when AIADMK legislator S. Muthaiah had referred to the DMK legislators as ‘89 vayakaatu bommaigal’ (89 scarecrows), the DMK had staged a sit-in protest.
“Any healthy debate in the assembly is curtailed by the treasury benches,” says T.R.B. Raja, MLA. Raja’s statements in the assembly during a debate on the industries department led to heated argument, and Jayalalithaa herself rose to counter him. “My only question is, why are they not able to face criticism? When there is criticism, they immediately want to throw us out,” says Raja.
But Raja is happy that Jayalalithaa participated in the debate. Addressing Raja as “My dear young man”, she replied in English, though proceedings in the Tamil Nadu assembly are always in Tamil. She asked him not to play with words. “It was a good day for me. She was democratic. But she did not want to answer me; instead she diverted the argument,” says Raja.