‘If you can’t convince them, confuse them!’

All is fair in love and war and we may add politics too. At least, this is the inference one is compelled to draw when confronted by the goings on in the political arena. While even on normal days the political happenings around us borders on the absurd, come election time and the scene hots up and reaches a crescendo. Strange bedfellows and estranged leaders unashamedly parade their newfound friendships even as diehard loyalists change loyalties as they would their shirts. The election fever drives them into a delirium and their utterances betray consistency, credibility and even decency.

For the hapless voter, there is no escape no respite from this endless agony and to their credit they have learnt to endure and even enjoy. The political animal that man is, with the animal being more evident having bid farewell to his sixth sense once and for all, he, over a time becomes part of it. If you can’t change them, then join them is the watchword and there is no better time than poll time to join this game.

If such is the plight of the common man would it be possible for the more ‘enlightened’ press and political commentators to resist the temptation? After all, they breathe politics, hobnob with politicians and are in ‘thick of it’, sometimes even more than the politicians themselves. And so, with glee, they pitch in and take up roles, as self appointed brokers and mediators. Their ‘supreme’ knowledge of body politic and the ‘inside information’ on the people’s pulse for which they are the custodians-again self appointed – entitles them to voice their opinions loud, to be heard and acted upon. Being members of the Fourth Estate arms them with certain privileges and licences which qualify them as expert brokers.

So far so good. When one such member performs a coup by bringing together warring politicians, of course for ‘public good’ they achieve stardom if not superstardom. And the rub starts there. He is sought after by his own fraternity and rightfully quizzed on how he had done it all. He has to now go on record and bring to light secret parleys that culminated in the ‘grand alliance’. All of a sudden the ominous prospects of the printed word, which he himself had used to great effect and the commitments attached to it stares back at him.

He realises that the last few days of indulgence in politics has clouded his better judgement and the journalist in him suddenly awakens. The critic, who is accountable for once, has to now defend. And he does so, true to his known ways, by confusing!

The allusion above is no doubt to our redoubtable, irrepressible lawyer-turned-actor-turned-journalist-turned-mediator ‘Cho’ Ramaswamy. After successfully bringing together the ‘titans’ and invoking the blessings of ‘stars’, he should have either quit or continued with his conviction wholeheartedly. To beat a retreat and express apprehensions on his own actions even before the dust has settled down, reveals a confused mind. To launch above only to shoot it down is neither good journalism nor good politics. And what a statement! ‘Karunanidhi is over-confident’. Pray, who fed that overconfidence, who generated those illusions? We should not ask! For they fall in the realm of journalistic licence.

He justifies the DMK government’s dismissal in 1991 by saying that they would have given Tamilnadu on a platter to the LTTE. How does he now conclude that there will not be a repeat performance, that the leopard has really changed its spots? The platter is very much there and the ‘beneficiaries’ are still lurking on our horizons, awaiting patronage. Are all allegations of corruption, unproved at that so important as to compromise on national security? Of course, he knows it is not so. It is only that negative politics with the sole objective of preventing somebody from coming to power makes even reasonable men blind to the known shortcomings of the alternative.

Of course, the immediate provocation for the disillusionment is Karunanidh’s refusal to accommodate a few more seats for friends. His metamorphosis from a journalist to politician is indeed complete. And now comes his volte face.

Our friend must realise that the poll game is altogether a different ball game. In that game, rules are very much different from those of journalism. Convictions give way to compulsions. Ideologies are sacrificed at the altar of alliance politics and loyalties succumb to political expediencies. Politics has no place for reluctant players. You can’t swim in the Cooum and still expect to walk out with a fragrance.

 The Jekyll and Hyde syndrome evident in such eminent members of Fourth Estate does not augur well. And to substitute conviction with contusion on second thoughts as is being attempted now is neither a safe escape route.

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Jawahar T R