Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to spring surprises. On Wednesday, when Cho Ramaswamy, a close friend of PM Modi and late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, passed away, he did not just pay a routine tribute to the deceased genius and his “dear friend”. Rather, he shared a video of ‘the Readers Conference’ in which Ramaswamy introduces PM Modi as a ‘Merchant of Death’. ‘This was a jibe invented by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to describe then Gujarat CM Modi in 2007.
Ramaswamy, who was an eminent political satirist and editor-in-chief of Tamil weekly news magazine ‘Thuglak’, also introduced PM Modi in his own satirical style: “I now invite to address you the ‘Merchant of Death.”
The introduction stunned the audience only for a fraction of second as Ramaswamy qualified his introduction with more details: “…the merchant of death to terrorism, the merchant of death to corruption, the merchant of death to nepotism, the merchant of death to official inefficiency, the merchant of death to bureaucratic negligence, merchant of death to poverty and ignorance, the merchant of death to darkness and despair will now address you.”
Sharing the video on Twitter, PM Modi said, “The feisty Cho Ramaswamy introduces me as the ‘Merchant of Death.’ Do watch this memorable interaction.” He also shared how he “returned the favour” to Ramaswamy but couldn’t match “Cho’s eloquence”.
Addressing the readers, PM Modi said, “It requires courage for self-criticism and only a true democrat can do this. And I always feel Mr Cho is a true democrat. In Tamil Nadu, one of my friends used to say, ‘For us Cho is a Rajguru’.”
“If BJP is doing anything wrong, he publicly dares to criticise the BJP. It requires conviction. There are so many friends in BJP, who are very close to Cho. But the friendship doesn’t come in between his conviction. I am here to salute Mr Cho,” he added.
PM Modi told the audience that he was a “fan” of Ramaswamy who had stood for democracy during Emergency and fought for the democracy. “I was underground at that time. Then the information I was getting that he (Cho) was writing the ‘two donkey story’ during the Emergency period. Few of my friends were trying to tell me what was written and a few things which I also translated and sent to different countries, to boost the morale of the Indian community. I always admire him,” the PM said.
Watch Cho Ramaswamy introduces Narendra Modi as ‘Merchant of death’ and how the PM responds
Ramaswamy, 82, passed away early this morning due to prolonged illness at the Apollo hospital, Chennai. He was also a close friend of Jayalalithaa. Ramaswamy’s body was taken to his residence at MRC Nagar where his friends, family and fans will pay their homage to him.
Ramaswamy was a legend and one of the most trusted friends of Jayalalithaa. The Tamil Nadu CM is known to have sought Ramaswamy’s advice on key political issues on many occasions. Ramaswamy is survived by his wife, son and daughter. He also acted in many films and featured with top actors like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.
Paying homage to the legend, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted, “Editor of ‘Thuqlak’, its annual lecture- a calendar event, felt his RS tenure wasn’t so productive. Will be missed. Cho-Writer, dramatist, journalist, political analyst/critic, humorist, theatre & film artist – versatile,uncompromising…”
Earlier, in a series of tweets, PM Modi also paid homage to Ramaswamy. “Cho Ramaswamy was a multidimensional personality, towering intellectual, great nationalist & fearless voice who was respected and admired.Above all, Cho Ramaswamy was a dear friend. I have been to his annual readers meeting which were an unprecedented editor reader interface.Cho Ramaswamy was insightful, frank & brilliant. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family & countless readers of Thuglak, the PM said.