Poetics and Politics: The Tale of Vajpayee and Karunanidhi

“Poesy in all kind of speaking is the chief beginner and maintainer of eloquence, not only helping the ear with acquaintance the acquaintance of sweet words, but also raising the mind to more high and lofty conceit.”

~ Thomas Campion

Poetry is a type of writing whose objective is to instruct and delight. We ourselves are jubilant recipients of this artform. Thus, throughout history, poetry has changed the way mankind experiences life. It has brought mankind in direct confrontation with their own inner conflicts, thereby creating much needed awareness of themselves. It has also helped people realise how recondite they are about their lives and created a sense of nirvana within many who find pleasure in the eloquent lines and soul-touching relatable verses. This aspect of poetry makes it suitable for application in various other spheres of human life, especially in the case of language oration and its progression. Ever since ancient times, poetry was learnt or exercised by the most erudite scholars of any society, therefore commanding a certain degree of power in any community. Poetry has traversed throughout history to the modern world, where it is now employed as a tool in the field of politics.

In the history of modern India we are lucky enough to have witnessed the rise of two political stalwarts from mere oblivion. Both men, though separated by language,culture,caste and even geography were united by their skills of oration, love for their respective mother tongues and their poetic verses and iconic speech styles. Both the figures have changed India’s political landscape for the years to come. The former was from northern part of India and India’s former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whereas the latter was 5 time Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, M.K Karunanidhi. Both were stalwarts in their own political spheres, with Vajpayee seating a national prominence and Karunanidhi with more of a regional prominence. Karunanidhi and Vajpayee thus can be easily compared for their similar approaches in championing both nationalism and regionalism, and using their respective languages creatively to express the same. Karunanidhi’s rise to power came through the visual medium and also through his dialogues or lyrics whereas Vajpayee’s charismatic Hindi “shayaris” earned him a tiny yet permanent place in people’s hearts.

Vajpayee was once called as the “right man in the wrong party”, perhaps for his untowardly liberal approach despite being in the conservative BJP. However, the fact that Vajpayee enjoyed debates and constructive discussions and was open to criticism is a model to behold for the future horde of politicians, whether in the right or left end of the political spectrum. His words moved the nation during the time of Emergency, after he quit his 13 day stint at the Prime Minister’s Office. He also used his eloquent Hindi speeches for the growth of Hindi literature, to improve relations with Pakistan, to silence the opposition and also for staunch nationalism. He, in fact, was the first person to speak at the UN headquarters in Hindi, thereby promoting it as the national language of India. Vajpayee’s oratory skills impressed Nehru so much that he had predicted that Vajpayee would be a Prime Minister in the future. His shrewd political acumen and his background in poetry helped him carve a niche for himself in the Indian politics. He was successful in creating more friends than enemies with his demeanour. It was the combination of wit, sarcasm and humour in his poetry that not only elevated the prominence of poetic oration in national politics but also led him to become a revered figure for all Indians.

Karunanidhi’s trajectory also shared a similar path as that of Vajpayee’s, but perhaps more than in oration itself, Karunanidhi had used language as a medium through his scripts for various films, all featuring the Dravidian ideology, with speeches or movements brimming with Tamil awakening and empowerment. Karunanidhi and the DMK were closely associated with the film industry as they were aware of its mass potential and appeal to the audience. Thus apart from his own poetic and charismatic orations, Karunanidhi also applied much of his intended dialogues in many characters in films and plays and thus helped in creating more appeal towards the Dravidian ideology. These dialogues were usually uttered by famous actors and some of his poetic dialogues attained a cult status. He also solely promoted the Tamil language through various means, created the World Tamil Conference and hit out harshly against Hindi imposition in the south. Therefore, these activities earned him the title “Kalaignar”, a rightly apt term for a person of his stature.

Both Vajpayee and Kalaignar were great men, whose mark has been left on Indian politics. Their innovations and trysts with the Indian political system account them as role models for the modern generation of politicians to help them learn the importance of innovation in politics, and more importantly, secure a place in the people’s hearts.

Picture Credits : thenewindianexpress

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