Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, remains one of the highly inspiring speeches in human history. Instead of cursing and cussing, the figurehead of the civil rights movement put it in simple words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Each word of the historic speech fulfils the very objectives of political communication: to share information, to express feelings, to build confidence, to create an impact and to persuade the listeners. Every sentence of the immortal speech represents the leader’s anguish against racial discrimination and exploitation.
Indian freedom fighters too came up with such thought-provoking speeches to inculcate patriotism among masses during the British Raj.
Our stalwart leaders did maintain discipline, dignity, decency and decorum, the 4Ds that are vital for vibrant democratic discussions, while partaking in legislative proceedings, addressing gatherings and dealing with media. Most of the new crop of leaders across the political hues, however, have thrown the 4Ds to the wind much to the chagrin of the sensible and civilised citizens. The foul language being used by the political leaders in both the Telugu-speaking States is third rate to say the least.
Instead of countering the opinions, ideas or decisions of opponents in a methodological way, the leaders are using unpublishable language to provoke their party activists and gullible public. ‘Arey, orey’ (calling names in the most disrespectful way), ‘nee bonda pedatam, nee gori kadatam (we will bury you), and ‘siggoo, saram undaa?’ (do you have shame?) are some of the expletives commonly used by our leaders.
Much before the announcement of dates for the Huzurabad byelection, the political cacophony in Telangana reached new heights by pushing the minimum decency expected from leaders to an all-time low. The frequent outbursts of Andhra Pradesh leaders are equally pathetic. People are accustomed to the collective qualities–telling lies, making false promises, levelling allegations, spreading rumours and casting aspersions– of the modern-day leaders but what pinches them is the unparliamentary and uncivilized words they use in public domain.
The Telangana Chief Minister KCR, an orator par excellence, set a new standard for political communication. A master rabble-rouser during the Telangana agitation, KCR used his gift of gab, linguistic skills, Telangana dialect and political acumen to sustain the high-voltage agitation. He successfully shared highly relevant anecdotes and cooked up stories from the tales of Ramayana to portray the than Andhra leaders as demons and devils.
The second-rung TRS leaders, especially balladeers, went a step further in using language as a weapon against the opponents. Currently, the anti-TRS forces are using the same tools to project KCR as the non-performing CM of Telangana. Some of the sidelined Telangana fighters are now and then blame KCR for teaching them the (foul) language. The present head of the TRS, KT Rama Rao, is not like his father. He snubs opposition leaders with some satirical comments but never crosses his limits in public.
Young leaders like Balka Suman should emulate KTR’s sober behaviour. Thankfully, Tummala Nageswara Rao is not in the limelight. I strongly feel that the BJP and Congress high commands considered the visuddha or throat chakra of Bandi Sanjay Kumar and Anumula Revanth Reddy before appointing them as the heads of the respective parties’ Telangana units. Sanjay gets a superb gullet support from the party MP D. Arvind.
Like his father, the firebrand MP makes his points very clear but the language he chooses to criticize KCR and his family is indeed very harsh. Dubbaka MLA Raghunandan Rao, an advocate, knows the value of words.
Similarly, Kishan Reddy, Union Minister, hits the bull’s-eye but refrains from lowering the value of the debate with verbal vitriol. BJP’s Dr K.Laxman, B.Dattatreya, Ch.Vidyasagar Rao don’t come in Sanjay- Arvind bracket. TRS party’s T.Harish Rao and P.Srinivas Reddy seem to be careful in public discourse but the former’s diatribes during the agitation is still in social media circulation.
The former Congress minister and the present TRS leaders can’t be beaten by any contemporary leader in delivering highly complex speeches. He is far better than the no-control-over-tongue type leaders of the day. The grand old party’s choice for the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee is a perfect match to the ruling party satraps.
Revanth’s Telugu is far from the pakka Telanga language but he carved a niche for himself as a daredevil fiery speaker. Revanth could generate the much-needed heat and dust that was missing during the regime of his soft-spoken, well-behaved predecessor, N Uttam Kumar Reddy, to rejuvenate his party. But, the MP’s choice of words sometimes is irksome.
AP leaders no less You may find fault with N Chandrababu Naidu, former Chief Minister, for his political skullduggery but he tries his best to behave well while delivering speeches. The present Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, whose English is far better than his Telugu, developed the art of mocking his opponents like his father.
The present CM’s comments against a TDP MLA K Atchannaidu’s physical appearance created ruckus at a point of time. The ruling party MP V Vijayasai Reddy takes to Twitter to fire naughty and mischievous salvoes against Chandrababu Naidu on an hourly basis. For me, Kodali Sri Venkateswara Rao alias Nani, a minister in the Andhra Pradesh government, is the gold medalist in hurling abuses. He is at his acerbic best in waging verbal attacks against N Chandrababu Naidu every now and then.
AP has Undavalli Arun Kumar, known for his logical arguments, to make an example for a perfect communicator. Sane voices like PV Narasimha Rao, NT Rama Rao, Narra Raghava Reddy, Dharma Bhiksham, Nomula Narasimhaiah, Konijeti Rosaiah, K Suresh Reddy, Geetha Reddy, Dharmana Prasada Rao and Gummadi Narsaiah are remembered for their almost full commitment to 4Ds in public speaking.
The Lok Satta founder Dr Jayaprakash Narayan stands tall among the modern-day politicians. The former civil servant makes sense of the every word he utters and his speeches have a definite structure for the sake of clarity. Dr JP, blessed with the knack of using data very well to drive his point home, is the one who accords due respect to his political rivals and maintains decency and decorum. The Jana Sena party supremo Pawan Kalyan is not on par with Dr JP but he confines himself to show heroism by unleashing heroic warnings.
The new entrants, Bahujan Democratic Party’s founder president MA Mujeeb, Sharmila and Dr RS Praveen Kumar, seemingly can’t stoop down to the level of other fiery leaders. All said and done, expecting sane language from the present-day leaders is a tall order because of obvious reasons.
Most of our leaders are aware that they are playing a cheap trick but it is a survival tactic for them. Badmouthing opponents is a way to win the heart of the boss. We need to consider the leaders’ health issues like blood pressure that invariably impact the thought process and usage of words. In this backdrop, we have a few practical solutions to control this venomous verbal diarrhoea.
Leaders should understand that a slip of tongue is replayed and overplayed on social media forever. That is why, they should discontinue the practice of making off-the-cuff remarks. Let every leader prepare a written statement before addressing any meeting.
Periodical training sessions on communication skills should be made mandatory for all politicians. Election Commission should push for such sessions taken by identified educational and training institutes across the country. This investment would enrich democracy.
Media should discourage impromptu statements of leaders at all levels. The number of live coverages and studio discussions should be minimized forthwith.
Social media shouldn’t be allowed to be used to spew venom on others. An impartial mechanism to rein in the bulls in China shop is very much essential.
Educated masses, especially intelligentsia, should condemn the ugly outbursts of leaders in all media forms.
A quick reaction from all sides against the indecent statements made by acidic tongues may bring in change in the perpetrators. Netizens should not hesitate to inform the leaders that they are not happy with their bad and insensitive language.
Think-tanks should come up with half-yearly and yearly ratings to politicians based on their quality of speeches and public behaviour. In the absence of a system to shame them, ill-mannered, dirty politicians are on the rise.