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Politicians and Their Speeches:MEANINGLESS WORDS, SANS CONTENT, by Deepak Thimaya,28 July 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 28 July 2010                                        

Politicians and Their Speeches



By Deepak Thimaya


Listening to political speeches these days, one gets a feeling that today’s politicians still live in the sixties. Most speeches by our netagan are grating on the aam aadmi’s ears with scant regard for the audience’s interest and attention span. While most speeches are delivered in shrill voices and a monotonous style, the politicians’ gumption that their speeches are interesting and well-appreciated is indeed laudable.


Sadly, politicians don’t know how boring they are as speakers. Some shamelessly fail to read the audience reaction. Why do they continue to repeat themselves ad nauseum knowing that their words are neither funny nor revolution-making? What to speak of political speeches belted out at lunch-time to listeners already reeling under the blazing sun, who would be happier gorging free food.


At a recent BJP event a senior leader who was screaming lost his voice mid-way, desperately looking for a glass of water to ease his vocal chords!  He spoke like he was revealing secrets, no matter that his audience were uninterested in his revelations. Asking the spectators to voice their support to his demands, pin-drop silence greeted him. By the third time he was actually pleading with them, beginning to realize that something was amiss.


Indeed, something was wrong. His audience were certainly not BJP supporters. In the present day rent-a-crowd milieu, most speakers fail to realise that the attendees have come either out of curiosity or to satisfy someone or else simply for the money paid. Certainly not to listen to speeches. Worse, all political speeches sound similar. Not only are they long, repetitive but each leader parrot’s another’s sermon. Sometimes even reiterate their opponent’s lines!


Questionably, when are our politicians going to learn that in an age of TV and ‘breaking news’, their age-old rhetoric has lost value? One Chief Minister who gave a big speech recently, failed to fathom that the only thing that made news was his copious shedding of tears.


Arguably, it seems the time has come for frustrated leaders to tear their hair and rip clothes to get some attention and reaction. However, even this might not work. Politicians know they cannot influence the voters anymore. Most audiences are not impressed by a political speech.


Sometime back, a Union Minister asked the spectators to forthwith apply for a loan to buy cattle. Nobody did. Everybody knew only to well that getting a loan is not as easy as the Minister’s promises.


Not only that. Most speeches are in fact directed at the Opposition or rivals and are bereft of purpose. In fact, most politicians know that their monologues do not work.  In a world where each line is interpreted and every speech analysed (if it is worthy and spoken by someone who matters) a politician wasting his energy, making a spectacle of himself and mockery of public influence is difficult to understand.


Invariably, leaders use speeches to provoke, explain, plead, threaten or announce their plans and schemes. But none of these stir the audience anymore as they have lost faith in the power of the spoken word to change things. Once an influential State Minister ordered the city authorities to put a speed-breaker on a busy road immediately as requested by an agitating group. But nothing happened even after two years. Nothing works and nothing moves as nobody believes a Minister’s words.


There is no gainsaying, that political speeches are emotional dramas that have stopped making any impact. Old-timers nostalgically recall former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s speeches. Though her voice was nasal and high pitched, her utterances worked magic. People believed her and there was no opposition to contend with.


Another former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s speeches were akin to the Chinese story, the Emperor’s new clothes. Everybody said that his speeches were good and one concurred, notwithstanding that one did not comprehend his chaste Hindi!


Who can forget the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi’s speeches? He neither had a great voice nor made any grand gestures, yet people loved what he said. Citizens walked long distances, any opportunity to see and listen to him.


Rajiv Gandhi inherited his mother’s nasal twang and spoke loudly but what he said was widely appreciated. He was feted not for his speaking skills but because his speeches were different from the run-of-the-mill. There were replete with fresh ideas, newsworthy and some things he promised transformed into reality.


But when it comes to Hindi speeches delivered in South India the less said the better. Most of which are translated by a ‘leader of stature’ who is conversant in the local language. Many times taking advantage  of the speaker’s ignorance of the local language and the audience’s unfamiliarity with Hindi, the translator adds his own gyaan and spice to the translation without the speaker being any wiser.


The classic example was when Rajiv Gandhi delivered a Hindi speech to a large gathering in Mysore. The then Karnataka Congress Chief Minister Bangarappa doubled up as translator and added his own ideas and opinions. Rajiv figured out that the translation was longer than his speech and openly asked Bangarappa to stick to a formal translation.


Sadly, nowadays speeches are devoid of honesty, a quality that people look for in a leader. They are just meaningless words, some downright silly, not a few pure rhetoric and others full of malice and hatred. Words which make no sense for the speaker too. Be it Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Lalu, Mulayam, Mayawati, Gadkari etc. Words, words and more words sans content. Leaving one wondering whether are politicians exchange notes on who should say what and how much.  


Funny that a politician who claims to be working 24/7 for the people has not found the time to know what people think and what exactly amuses them. It is time for our netagan to watch TV more regularly! ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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