It is a fun time for the people of the state as the DMK’s advertisement triggered a political war of memes on social media
Even before the battle the Fort St George (the seat of power) began, the two Dravidian political rivals namely Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have entered into fierce war of words. This continues to dominate the media including social networks unknowingly washing their dirty linen in public. It is a fun time for the people of the state as the tamasha continues to unfold day after day.
On February 23, the DMK fired the first salvo by releasing a front page advertisement across newspapers questioning Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram’s inability to meet the people. It has kicked up an avalanche of activity on the social media. The cadres of both parties are countering each other’s memes on social media.
It was the DMK which first kick started poster war by releasing costly advertisement titled “Mudiyattum! Vidiyattum!” (Let it be over! Let It be dawn) alleging that Jayalalithaa could only be seen on televisions, banners and stickers in all the five years in office. The tag line “Ennamma Ipadi panreenglemma” translated roughly as “Why are you doing this Amma?” This tag line was first used in a television programme by actor and director Lakshmi Ramakrishnan which subsequently became more popular among the masses. Even a song in a film became the opening line. Taking a cue from this tagline the DMK started releasing costly newspaper advertisements and television spots in its own Kalaignar TV and Karunanidhi’s nephew controlled Sun TV Group channels.
The second day full-page advertisement spoke that the companies like Nokia, Foxconn have shut down operations leaving over 75,000 unemployed. To hit back efficiently, the rival AIADMK and PMK have resorted to low-cost social media like Whatsapp. On the first day it was advantageous for the AIADMK while the DMK had the plus points of first mover and surprise element. The AIADMK cadres soon gathered their arsenals and fired back at DMK using the social media. Even though the AIADMK has not responded officially to the campaign by the DMK, its supporters have been at it. They said Karunanidhi deliberately chose not to attend the state assembly in all these five years. “You could see Karunanidhi in actors’ marriages, reality shows, cine entertainment programmes and even in Maanada Mayilaada programme on Kalaignar TV. Or at least have you ever seen him in his Tiruvarur assembly constituency? Have you ever seen him in State Assembly?” said an AIADMK poster.
Another poster said MK Stalin, the heir apparent, did not visit his Kolathur constituency. “Have you seen him riding bicycle or inviting others to his family marriage or remaining in the assembly for more than five minutes” said a poster titled “Mudiyattum DMK! Vidiyattum Tamizhagahukku” (Let DMK finished. It’s a dawn for Tamil Nadu). Even Karunanidhi’s wife and his daughter Kanimozhi were not spared.
The advertisement campaign in print media is a strategy of the DMK to make it clear that the poll war is only between the AIADMK and DMK. “The DMK has adopted a negative approach instead of positive approach and has backfired the social media,” said a political observer.
For the TN political parties it is a transformation from the days of wall-posters to the latest campaign media encompasses wall postings, multi-flex banners in bigger sizes and postings on the social media. “The DMK unseated the then Congress with its oratorical skills. They used to spell bound their audience with alliterative words that mesmerised the people. The DMK was the first one to introduce wearing border dhoties (the party’s red and black colour on the edge) floral crowns for their leaders, innovative and scientific means of corruption to loot the public money, kangaroo courts, interference in police administration, appointment of its cadres in almost all government jobs flouting norms to wind, using cycle chains to attack political rivals,” a BJP leader lists out the evils that engulfed the state after the DMK rose to power in the state. It is an undisputable fact that the DMK leaders were adept in the art of political satires, meaningless articulated arguments, political parodies and are skilled in point-to-point poetic debate- lavanai in Tamil in which the debates would be interesting with both parties engaged in it using poetic form of show-causing their language proficiency. Even the cinema medium had been turned as a political communication tool. The Dravidian parties exploited this medium to the optimum making it their political propaganda with punch dialogues and thematic songs. Both, DMK leader Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa have celluloid world background. The former is a veteran script- writer and the latter is versatile actress.
PMK chief minister aspirant Anbumani Ramadoss criticised the advertisement campaign by both Dravidian parties saying ‘They now dependent on the tag line of an actress and they do not have policies or achievements to claim credits. Instead, they are engaged in mud-slinging campaign. Anbumani described the campaign being in “poor taste” and a “sign of desperation” campaign has a similar catch phrase “maratum, muneetram” (change and progress). He said both DMK and AIADMK are responsible for the scams and unemployment situation in the state. He said, “PMK has long term vision to make TN prosperous and we are the only alternative to these two Dravidian parties”.
“If the DMK could spend crores of rupees for the campaign (a rough estimate says Rs 18 crore for front page advertisements in leading newspapers), shows it wants to grab power desperately” pointed out an activist. “The DMK which donated Rs 1crore after 2015 December Chennai deluge now spends crores of rupees to taste power” said an AIADMK poster.
Though the BJP has an “engaging” social media presence, it would refrain from targeting individuals through memes, which experts believe could be an interesting campaign tool, said BJP’s spokesperson TK Balaji. While the war of mocking advertisements from political parties has been hailed by the younger generation, the middle and older generation are not for it. Even a section of DMK supporters feels that the campaign had back fired on them after having spent crores of rupees.