Heavy rains over the last few days followed by unprecedented floods have left much of Chennai paralysed, marooning tens of thousands and bringing normal life to a standstill. But one thing that the deluge has failed to stop in its tracks is petty politicking.
Crucial assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Tamil Nadu in early 2016 and local television channels reportedly patronised by rival political parties have seized upon the calamity and the resultant misery to score political points.
The setting is the same -- with large swathes of the city under sheets of water and boats plying on roads where cars remained submerged. But the script is different, depending upon which channel one tunes into.
On Kalaignar Seithigal, the channel with links to the family of DMK patriarch K Karunanidhi, the situation is grim and near apocalyptic. Visuals depict hungry faces of stranded people airing a litany of woes, ranging from a non-existent government to lack of aid.
Jaya TV with links to the ruling AIADMK, however, has a distinctly different narrative. The neighbourhood of RK Nagar is under water, but its residents are far from drowning in misery. Government ministers have fanned out far and beyond to reach out to all those affected and the administration was working overtime to deliver relief to those who need. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa featured prominently in its coverage as she visited the locality.
None from the two channels were available to comment on their contradictory narratives, but viewers were unanimous that they added to the confusion. “It has been a tradition for party organs and now television channels to play up their respective parties and leadership. Looking at them, there is no way to know the real situation,” said C Murali, a political commentator.
But not everyone is apologetic about the seemingly biased coverage. “What is wrong in Jaya TV showing things with a positive spin? It is run to highlight the government’s achievements,” says Sri Ganesh, an AIADMK worker. K.Kesavan, a DMK activist, also defends Kalaignar in the same vein, insisting the opposition’s task is to unmask the government. As for the truth, it lies somewhere in between the contradictory television tales.