CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit today apologised to a woman reporter whose cheek he publicly patted yesterday, a gesture that provoked outrage by her and the journalist fraternity and protests by opposition parties.
In a letter to Lakshmi Subramanian, the 78-year-old under-fire governor said she was like her “granddaughter” and that his gesture stemmed from “affection” and “appreciation” of her performance as a journalist.
Subramanian, who works for an English news magazine, responded to the governor’s letter with an e-mail where she accepted his apology “even though I am not convinced about your contention that you did it to appreciate a question I asked”.
Purohit had kicked up a huge row yesterday when he patted the journalist on her cheek “patronisingly”, apparently to diplomatically avoid replying to a question asked by her.
A livid Subramanian immediately took to Twitter to voice her anger, saying, “I asked TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit a question as his press conference was ending. He decided to patronisingly – and without consent – pat me on the cheek as a reply.”
Subramanian also wrote an e-mail to him, saying “Here is what I have to say his Excellency Governor Mr Banwarilal Purohit. So agitated. Mr Purohit, it might be an act of appreciation by you and grandfatherly attitude, but to me you are wrong.”
The journalist fraternity took umbrage against the governor’s conduct, with the Chennai Press Club and some 200 journalists remonstrating with Purohit for his conduct and demanding an apology.
The DMK, which had last night denounced the governor’s action, today staged a protest and demanded his recall.
In his letter to Subramanian, the governor said he thought a question she had asked was a “good one”, and as an act of appreciation for the query he gave her a pat.
“I gave a pat on your cheek considering you to be like my granddaughter. It was done with affection and to express my appreciation for your performance as a journalist,” he said and recalled he was also a journalist for about 40 years.
Referring to the mail Subramanian had sent to him, Purohit said, “I do understand from your mail that you are feeling hurt about the incident”.
Therefore, he said, he wished to “express my regret and my apologies to assuage your sentiments that have been hurt”.
After the patgate broke last night, the Chennai Press Club in a letter to Purohit said the governor’s conduct at the press meet was “neither exemplary nor condonable.”
Bharathithamizhan, Joint Secretary of the club, said there was an “imminent danger” of other politicians emulating the governor and trying to misbehave with women journalists.
“We request you to immediately issue an apology for your unbecoming conduct and avoid precipitating the matter further,” he said.