There is always an attempt to express a contrary truth in all humor and that’s why comedians invite the ire of politicians. These expressions pass on under an unspoken excuse of not being taken seriously. Taking the opportunity, a major newspaper daily, Deccan Chronicle, chose to be a comedian instead of being a journalist on 1st April 2021. People in the Telugu speaking states were stunned at a story on the front page titled “TDP merges with BJP, Naidu Finalizes Deal,” portraying a picture of Chandrababu Naidu presenting a bouquet to Narendra Modi.
Getting into the details of the story, Sriram Karri, the Resident Editor of Deccan Chronicle, shared the article on Twitter calling it a major development in the politics of the Telugu states and that TDP chief Nara Chandra Babu Naidu will be merging TDP with BJP. Adding more fodder to the story, a reference was made to the tale of how the film star turned politician Chiranjeevi merged his party with Congress for a mere cabinet rank position. The story even mentioned that unidentifiable sources had confirmed BJP was tough on Chandra Babu Naidu and was not keen on providing any key cabinet rank positions, but may receive any other cabinet position. Along with this, the BJP leadership wanted to use the leadership acumen of Chandrababu Naidu in improving the prospects for the party in Telugu states. Concluding the article in the following page, the story mentioned that the readers should not forget the importance of the day as April fools day.
This attempt to fool the people of Andhra Pradesh could be read as a continuation of the suggestions of Sriram Karri in an opinion piece in Deccan Chronicle in Feb 2020 titled, “Naidu options: To merge TDP with BJP, or perish.” Mr. Karri showered his political wisdom on Naidu to merge TDP with BJP as if TDP had no standing and future in AP politics. While the opinion presented itself in a serious analytical tone on the position of TDP, the argument also took a remote refuge in the unpredictability of politics, before anyone wished to debate its political immaturity.
Today’s story is a satirical version of the opinion published a year ago. However, by choosing to be a comedian instead of being a journalist, the contrary truth the Deccan Chronicle attempted to present is more about the credibility of its own editorial values than about the political misfortunes of TDP it wished for.
The article has created ripples in Telugu states as the phones in the offices of all the political parties went abuzz, till a clarification from the TDP warned about the harm in stooping to such lows could cause Journalism. The backlash also threw light on the woes of the employees of the Deccan chronicle group and advised them to write stories about the woes of employees of Andhra Bhumi who were removed from their jobs. Money laundering cases on the Deccan Chronicle group investigated by the Enforcement Directorate were also highlighted. The official account of the Telugu Desam Party tweeted
Only a fool uses news to celebrate April Fools. Taking advantage of the day to peddle fake news, @oratorgreat sunk journalistic ethics to a new low & disappointed readers.(1/2)#ShameOnDC https://t.co/y4U2AVebDp
— Telugu Desam Party (TDP Official) (@JaiTDP) April 1, 2021
A TDP karyakarta expressed his displeasure stating that TDP is 4 decades old and three generations of Telugu people were closely associated with it. Just because of electoral setbacks, comments like these cannot be made. The satire was on the people of Telugu states and Telugu pride. We may live, we may die, but the party exists and continues to take on the culture and pride of Telugu people ahead.
A top-level TRS leader who shifted to TRS after 2014 on the assurance of being anonymous stated that TDP has been a party that has given the base for many great leaders like Errannaidu, Balayogi, and even KCR was a product of TDP and added that TDP was the reason for Devegowda to become the Prime Minister of the country and Chandrababu Naidu as the convener of NDA was the reason for the successful contest of APJ Abdul Kalam as the President of the country. A YCP leader commented that the politics of the Andhra Pradesh sustain only with YCP and TDP and can’t imagine another party in the place and that Telugu pride came above politics and articles like these are a result of lack of values, and they come up when people writing gossip columns are allowed to cover political news.
A senior journalist stated that such articles downgrade the respect for journalism, and there is an innate responsibility on the part of news agencies to keep facts in front of the people and not put their credibility at stake, by publishing pieces just to attract attention.
By choosing to be a journalist under the garb of a comedian, Deccan Chronicle has put its credibility as a journalist to question. It begs us to doubt that Deccan Chronicle has always been a comedian, like the opinion piece of Mr. Sriram Karri a year ago. Was the magazine always playing a comedian in the name of a journalist?