September 19, 2020
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Ever heard of a ruling party planning to organise state-wide agitations against an opposition leader? And what is it about the current leading from the South not being able to compete in Bollywood?

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Chennai Corner

Playing Opposition
It's a joke, says Jaya. She must be right because it’s probably the first time that a ruling party is planning to organise state-wide agitations against an opposition leader (AIADMK chief Jayalalitha) on August 4. As she says, its “laughable” because usually opposition parties, powerless to do anything else against the ruling party, resort to bands/protests/agitation. But why would the DMK, seen here as invincible as the state hurtles towards an assembly election, instead of taking Jaya on politically choose to go the agitation route? And it is not too difficult to take her on considering desertions from her party, her long absences over the last few years because she escaped to the hills in Kodanadu, her imperiousness with her allies, not to mention her very black and white perspective in an arena where grey rules...

Deputy CM Stalin’s justification is that Jaya is trying to project herself as clean and non-corrupt despite a rash of statements exposing her by CM Karunanidhi. She has stalled the courts for 13 years in the disproportionate wealth case, her latest ploy being to blame "incorrect translation" and she therefore sought – and even got – an adjournment. “Her only aim is to escape punishment by dragging the case,” says Stalin. Duh, no justifications here, but that’s what politicians do. Has his father not dug his heels in, refusing to drop Union Minister Raja, although he has been accused of scamming the country of Rs 29,000 crore?

Stalin says the DMK wants to focus the spotlight on Jaya for the court’s benefit (incidentally, it must be in Stalin’s genes to mess with the court because his father also tried to defy the Apex Court on the Sethusamudram issue three years ago). Really, or has Amma’s Coimbatore rally, which surprised everyone ready to write her political obituary, has the DMK running scared? Because while she may appear friendless (she is not even sure of the Congress being on her side at the moment), Jayalalitha already has the left and MDMK on her side and if she and Vijayakant sink their egos and align then there should be cause for worry for the DMK.

About A Shrine 
A national newspaper carried a picture of CM praying before a photograph of his mother, Anjugam Ammal, during his visit to " his native Thiruvarur" (near Tiruchi) this week – where he inaugurated the state’s 17th medical college built at a cost of Rs 110 crore – which carried the caption: “CM at the shrine of his mother.” Shrine? The dictionary defines a shrine as a “holy or sacred place”. Even if the CM considers the place where his mother’s photograph is kept as a shrine, should the rest of us?


Jayalalitha certainly does not think so. In fact she has threatened an agitation if the state government does not remove the statues of the CM’s father Muthuvelar and mother Anjugam Ammal, by October 2, from Radhapuram bus stand in Tirunelveli district. The local DMK MLA M Appavu had borne the expenses for the statues installed nine months ago. There was a buzz that the CM wanted to name the Radhapuram bus stand (Appava made it happen at a cost of Rs 77 lakh) there after his mother, but two Congressman went on a fast at Satyamurthi Bhavan (Congress headquarters) demanding the Radhapuram bus stand be named after Kamaraj, the last Congress CM this state has seen more than 40 years ago. And the Congress is still basking in that glory (while its leaders bicker) and hoping that Rahul Gandhi will do the trick again after consigning the two Dravidian parties (DMK and AIADMK) to history. Maybe a situation like that will see the two Dravidian parties joining forces. 

( Nah, not in Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha’s lifetime. But, if that does happen, the Congress will for sure ensure that there will be shrine to Rahul Gandhi)

All that Gas 
The mysterious gas leak that sent 200 employees of Foxconn (which makes cellphone components) last Friday at Sunguvarchatiram near Sriperambudur is cause for alarm. It should not be an opportunity for trade unions – led by the DMK and another by the left – to butt heads so they can gain control. They should recall recent history when 11 workers at Foxconn’s plant in China committed suicide because of the working conditions.

For the moment, however, Foxconn’s management explanation is that the factory had been shut for a while and it had got pest control done before opening it. And the pesticide might have got into the AC ducts causing toxic gas to be carried to those who were working there. While the Sriperumbdur plant was closed on Saturday after workers complained of nausea, in Sunguvarchatiram employees fell ill and had to be rushed to hospital the previous day. While the Sriperumbur plant restarted operations after three days, the facility at Sunguvarchatiuram is still being checked by authorities where about half the employees had been affected by the “routine pesticide spraying” and 28 of them were kept back in hospital for observation.

It would be instructive to look at the track-record of Foxconn elsewhere. In China, according to an article put out by Bloomberg, one employee at the Shenzhen plant said, “Life is meaningless. Everyday, I repeat the same thing I did yesterday. We get yelled at all the time. It’s very tough around here.” Ten workers committed suicide t here and one elsewhere in China. A few weeks ago, the company increased salaries of workers by as much as 70 per cent.

The IT giant, Foxconn’s parent company, Hon Hoi, is a major supplier to Apple, Hewlett Packard and other electronic biggies. Apple’s Steve Jobs had said that it had investigated and found accusations of bad employee practices erroneous. However, after the suicides, he is quoted as having said, “We are all over it.” Here, however, there has been no mention of Foxconn’s track record. Just trade unions, which have slowly marched into other units at Sriperumbudur, now fighting over who gets to control Foxconn.

The circle of life
Nothing Asin does these days goes right. She left her comfortable perch in Kollywood to go and try her luck in Bollywood. Even had a dream debut with Ghajini. And after that, with London Dreams turning a nightmare, producers are not exactly lining up to offer her roles. While Bollywood has always welcomed leading ladies from the South in the past – Vijayantimala, Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi – Asin/Trisha seem to be no match for the Kareenas and Katrinas of Bollywood.

Asin’s problem is that she is not even welcome here anymore. After she went to Sri Lanka to shoot a Bollywood film with Salman Khan, she has earned the wrath of Tamils even if she was careful to not show up at the IIFA awards. The latest is that the Federation of Tamil Sanghams of North America (an umbrella group of over 30 Tamil sanghams across the US) have decided to boycott her films for defying the ban declared by the Tamil film industry. She’s in trouble here too with the South Indian Artistes Association (SIAA) taking a dim view of her Sri Lanka sojourn. Asin is quite upset at the boycott saying, “I stayed away from IIFA because of SIAA’s directive and did not flout any diktat.” But with the SIAA referring the issue to the Joint Consultative Committee, the jury is still out.

Back in 2008 too when the film fraternity sat on a day-long fast on the Hoganekkal issue, she did not show up. Even megastars like Rajnikanth were there in full force. Naturally she found herself singled out for the fraternity’s ire. She claims she was not told of the protest and hence missed out. “Tamil films have put me on a pedestal, so there’s no question of missing it if I had known,” Asin offered in explanation to SIAA president Sharath Kumar and was off the hook. This time the issue is refusing to go away. The fact that she was on top of the game in 2008 and not so anymore may explain her current predicament.


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