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New Discourse of Decency

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MK Stalin is making a statement in Indian politics through upright conduct and winning the hearts of even the opponents. This needs replication in other parts of the country.


When the political space of the country is grappled with face-offs, abusing opponents, bickering and washing off legislative sessions in the Parliament or state assemblies, an example is being set in the southernmost state of the country – Tamil Nadu. Politics of ‘decency’ is coming to full scale and the protagonist of this change is none other than the head of the government– MK Stalin.

Recently, Stalin has set a huge example for the rest of the country as he ordered the state education department to retain the photos of former AIADMK CMs Jayalalithaa and Edappadi Palaniswami on 65 lakh school bags, not to discard the bags and reissue fresh ones. These bags were distributed for free to school children. This is enough to raise the eyebrow of many in Indian politics, especially in the North, where a new government in power would immediately cull down anything that has a picture or impression of other political ideologies or figures.

This new vogue is also being welcomed and appreciated by the Madras High Court. Thanking Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin for his decision not to waste the school bags and other stationery materials containing the photographs of former Chief Ministers, the late J Jayalalithaa and another, the High Court told the State not to take extreme care and caution to ensure that public funds are not expended for publicity purposes of political leaders, including in hoardings and other materials.

Even the key opposition party and the party led government that has issued the bags with photos of Amma, AIADMK, has also welcomed the decision of Stalin and added that the attitude of DMK towards its opposition has changed under Stalin’s leadership. Stalin refused to take a pause here and went ahead to even ask the officials not to remove Jayalalithaa and EPS photos from the Amma Canteens which provides food to the poor and needy either free of cost or at affordable price.

At first, the bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu gave direction while closing a public interest writ petition from Ranjan Oveyam praying for a direction to the authorities concerned to continue to use the unused stocks of text-books and other stationery materials like crayons, colour pencils and school bags, which carried the photos of former Chief Ministers, including that of K Palaniswami. But the question is was there actually a need for the court to issue the writ? Instead of placing orders for the new bags and kits, Stalin had already decided to distribute the unused bags and this in turn saved Rs 13 crore for the state’s exchequer. “Rs 13 crores are not big money for the state government and new bags could have been issued with new photos of the DMK leader and chief minister. But the big heart shown by our leader Stalin will always be remembered by people across the spectrum,” says a source in DMK who wishes not to be named. On the other hand, TN Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi was surprised by this decision of CM Stalin and he informed about the unhappiness among the DMK cadre.

The high court has given a notable suggestion not just to the state government but also the entire political class. "It is abhorring that school books or school bags meant for school-going children, who do not have a right to vote, would carry photographs of public functionaries, even if the functionary is the chief minister of the State. Public funds cannot be misused for printing photographs for the personal interests of any politician. The State should ensure that such practice is not continued in future," the bench held.

On this, Advocate-General R Shanmugasundaram informed the court that the government would not waste money already expended and the present dispensation will ensure that school bags, text books and stationery bearing the photographs or other signs of previous CMs will continue to be used till exhausted and that the Chief Minister Stalin does not desire his photographs to be published in such materials in the future.

Decency in Politics

Surprising to all, Stalin landed up at former CM Panneerselvam’s residence, whose wife passed away recently. Photographs showed him placing one hand on OPS’s shoulder and the other, clutching the former deputy CM’s folded hands, won hearts of millions across the country. It is seen that Stalin reaches out to all, whether a friend or adversary in politics, in the times of personal crisis. It has also been learnt that Stalin wants other leaders of the party to exhibit decent behavior. Many other leaders also joined Stalin in paying condolences to Panneerselvam for the irreparable loss.

In May, when Stalin had just formed the government and the state was reeling under the second wave of Covid, he convened an all-party meeting to tackle the rising number of cases in the state and appealed to MLAs to bury their political differences and collaborate to defeat the health crisis. Entire south of India was suffering badly from the second wave compared with other regions of the country. But Tamil Nadu was able to get out of it through a concerted effort; Kerala which is just on the side of Tamil Nadu failed to find any respite in Covid matters.  

Even in the multi-party Covid advisory panel, Stalin retained the former health minister from the AIADMK C. Vijayabaskar. And when AIADMK leader Madhusudan passed away last month, Stalin was among the first to attend the funeral.

New Hope

The opposites never looked eye to eye for past many decades in Tamil Nadu but two leaders in post Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa era, are now ushering a new culture of tolerance, compassion and engagement without sacrificing their political ideologies and goals – ex chief minister E Palaniswami and new chief minister Stalin. For months they have exhibited how to stay with each other in personal crises and exchange pleasantries in normal times.

The two were also quick to pay personal homage and respect in the event of the passing away of two czars of Tamil politics - Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa. One may hope that this culture is contagious enough to reach other states of India. 

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