Hindustan Times reported that, on February 23, 2015, Shihan Hussaini, a 46-year-old karate champion and coach, nailed himself to a wooden cross in Chennai, demanding AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa’s return as chief minister while dozens of party workers watched. After Hussaini himself hammered the first nail with his right hand through his left palm, his associates hammered three more nails, one through his right palm and one through each foot. After Hussaini remained hanging for more than six minutes, the four nails were slowly pulled out, he was put in a waiting ambulance and taken to the ICU of a nearby hospital. Following several tests, doctors declared him fit and the Jayalalithaa supporter returned home.
Hussaini’s act of sycophancy is nothing new. In the past, supporters of popular politicians have even committed suicide to show their loyalty to their leaders. What was new was what followed. The Hindu reported that Ms. Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Hussaini stating that she was “deeply shocked and distressed” over his action. While thanking Hussaini for the concern shown in her interest, she said, “I consider that subjecting oneself to such an extreme act of self-inflicted pain should be avoided” and advised him to take good care of himself. In the past, almost all politicians would have gladly interpreted such incidents as expressions of anguish by ordinary citizens about the victimisation and political witch-hunt that their beloved leader is being subjected to! One only hopes that Ms. Jayalalithaa’s letter is genuinely meant and is not just a PR exercise!
NDTV.COM has reported that, after he learnt that people suffered inconvenience because of the VIP arrangements made for him for a function in Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis apologised on Twitter and stated, “My cabinet colleagues and I are against VIP culture and because of that ministers have not been given escort. Mumbai police is used to such culture. They will have to be sensitized, we want to change this. I have passed orders regarding this.” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Jayakumar confirmed to NDTV that they have received instructions from the chief minister and said that such an incident will not be repeated. Obviously, Devendra Fadnavis backed his words with action. This is not surprising since he is known to be a down to earth politician.
Can we ever get rid of sycophancy and VIP culture? I believe we can. However, it is the leaders who must demonstrate to people around them that they genuinely oppose sycophancy and VIP culture. For this, we need many more down to earth politicians.