On April 17, Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit landed in a fresh controversy after patting the cheek of a woman journalist at the end of a press meet, which he had called in an attempt to clear the air about his alleged involvement in the "sex for degree" scandal.
The journalists present at the press meet apparently posed a series of tough questions about the case that has rocked the state. The governor's name was dragged in the case following an audio clip that went viral on social media. In that clip, an assistant professor was heard bragging about her proximity to Purohit while asking her students to extend sexual favours to university officials in exchange of academic degrees.
During the press meet, Purohit in his defence, denied knowing the professor. “I don't know the lady and I have never met her. What else you want? There is no need for a CBI probe. When it is needed, I would be the first to order," he said. At the end of the press meet, Purohit when posed with another question patted the journalist, an act which he later described in his apology as a gesture of appreciation.
While the media fraternity in the state is up against Purohit, politicians too have condemned the governor for his disgusting behaviour. DMK’s working president MK Stalin condemned the incident even as various political parties staged protest against the governor.
Joining the chorus, DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi said, “Even if the intention is above suspicion, a person who holds a public office has to understand that there is a decorum to it and violating a woman journalist’s personal space does not reflect the dignity or the respect which should be shown to any human being.”
Kanimozhi’s remarks sparked another controversy as BJP national secretary H Raja in his show of support to Purohit called Kanimozhi an illegitimate child of Karunanidhi.
While H Raja was flayed for his remark, the next in line was BJP state leader S Ve Shekher, who shared a Facebook post claiming that women can’t become reporters and anchors unless they sleep with top bosses. This again led to a massive outcry by journalists and severe comdemnation by political parties.
However, amid all this, what surprised many was the silence of the two superstars of Tamil Nadu who have recently joined politics - Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan.
After announcing their decision of joining politics, both Haasan and Rajinikanth have voiced their opinions on a range of issues.
Although Rajinikanth, known for sharing cordial relations with PM Modi, hasn’t said anything on the contentious delay in setting up the Cauvery Management Board, Haasan has been at the forefront of attacks against the ruling AIADMK party over the issue. He has also criticised the Modi government at the Centre for dragging its feet on setting up the board.
But to everybody’s surprise, Haasan has remained silent so far on the sexual exploitation of women students at the Tamil Nadu college.
This is surely not what the fans of the two superstars were expecting when they joined politics. That the two chose to stay mum about crimes against women and such blatant misogyny also exposes their understanding of the ground situation.
The newbie politicians would do well to remember that politics is not just about exploiting one's star status, it's also about understanding and empathising with the common people's problems, especially at a time when crimes against women have seen an astonishing rise.
They would also do well to do some ground work in politics, especially when aspiring to capture the imagination of a state where a woman chief minister ruled the people's heart for years.