Are our MPs extra sensitive to jokes?

Humourless politics

Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan’s recent outburst against radio jockeys in Parliament has again brought to the fore the uneasy relationship that politicians share with humour on them.

The glorious tradition of scholarly political cartoons in newspapers and political satire on news channels notwithstanding, some politicians continue to take offence to them.At a time when the social media has, in fact, taken criticism of politicians to an altogether different level with a cascade of uncensored memes and spoofs flooding netizens, Metrolife decided to find out if such objections hold any water at all, or, if they actually find resonance.

Radio jockey Akash, who works with web portal NitiCentral, says, “Having worked in a public FM channel too, I know that jokes on politicians are an absolute no-no in such set-ups. We were told that such things shouldn’t even cross our mind.”

“But having said that, I sympathise with my fellow RJs in private channels who crack jokes on politicians because, frankly, often, they expose themselves to such treatment with their utterances inside and outside of Parliament. When a certain leader says that ‘You can get a full meal in Delhi for just Rs 5’ or that ‘Poverty is a state of mind’, what else do you do if not ridicule them?”

On the other hand, he reminds us, radio jockeys and even shows on TV make fun of politicians in Western countries all the time without politicians taking offence to them. “Look at Jon Stewart of The Daily Show in America,” he points out, “he lampoons all politicos including Barack Obama, but he is so popular there that political leaders actually want to be featured on that programme.”

Veteran cartoonist Neeraj Gupta goes as far as to say that this is a consequence of the “falling standards of democratically-elected leaders and even the quality of our democracy.” 

“There was a time when nobody minded such cartoons or humour. I remember Shankar was loved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. They used to take him along on tours and ask him to draw whatever caught his fancy. Pt Nehru told him that I want to see the world through your eyes.”

“Nowadays, everyone from a Jaya to a Mamata Banerjee takes a dislike to a cartoon or a spoof. This is saddening.”

Another well-known cartoonist Sudhir Tailang adds, “I would have understood if this comment of banning jokes on politicians and politics on radio had come from an Azam Khan or a Mulayam Singh Yadav. But this, coming from Jaya Bachchan who is herself an artiste and has done so many light-hearted films is disappointing. Whatever happened to freedom of speech and expression.”

An assistant programming head with a top private FM channel, who preferred anonymity to “avoid troubles with the I&B ministry,” said, “I am surprised why the MP (Jaya Bachchan) said that private radio channels have started giving out news of parliamentary proceedings. That’s absolutely not true.”

“There are strict regulations that we can’t give out news and all of us adhere to that. I hope she cools down in the days to come and sifts her exaggerations from the facts.” 

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