And so it is time for the voters of RK Nagar — as the old journalism cliche would have it — to speak loud and clear, and then just shut up because frankly we are getting tired.
You can’t blame us, as this is the third election in three years at the RK Nagar constituency, when there are African banana republics that haven’t seen these many elections in their entire history. It has got to the stage where people who joined journalism two years ago are today, thanks to covering RK Nagar beat, certified poll veterans.
You’d think that a constituency going to polls for three consecutive years would have made both the people and political parties totally blase. No. On the contrary, the run up to the by-election has been enormously vicious, making Gujarat election campaign seem tame like a Rotary club meeting.
Actor Vishal was dramatically not allowed to contest because he is above 6-feet, whereas Election Commission rules allow only persons below 6-feet to contest.
Okay, not really. But the fact his candidature was thrown out for a reason sillier than this one.
However, Deepa (niece of Jayalalithaa) has not been allowed to contest for a valid reason: She is Deepa. I mean why do we need Deepa, when there are already enough comedians in the fray. (When the history of Tamil Nadu is written, Deepa deserves a special chapter all for herself just for the kind of comic relief she is single-handedly providing during what has been decidedly traumatic times for TN politics).
Anyway, if the pre-poll buzz in the RK Nagar constituency is to be believed then the winner is going to be — our sources also confirm this — known on December 24 when the votes will be counted. Otherwise, as ever, no one, is really sure. But as journalists we are ready with all our post facto analysis.
To get a first-hand feel of the mood in the constituency, a colleague and I visited RK Nagar, situated smack dab in the heart of North Chennai, located, for all practical purposes, in another continent for most people living in South Chennai.
But first, some RK Nagar number-crunching:
Voters’ population: Around 2.7 lakh.
Current population: 10 lakh (that is including what appears to the entire military command of India doing duty here).
Amount spent by parties: Equivalent to the annual GDP of some South American country.
Parties in the fray: AIADMK (seen as BJP’s B team), TTV Dhinakaran (who sees himself as the AIADMK’s A team), Naam Tamilar (whose campaign has seen many speeches in Telugu), the BJP (seen as BJP’s C team as it is unlikely retain even its deposit), DMK (more worried about the verdict in 2G case).
Even before colleague and I arrive in the constituency, two SUVs with Vijayakanth’s DMDK party flag could been seen zipping across the congested roads that lead to Washermanpet (a part of the RK Nagar constituency).
“The DMDK seems to have set the early pace. They are very active,” I tell the colleague.
“DMDK is not even contesting this by-election. It has announced a boycott,” the colleague reminds me.
We both wonder whether the party has actually conveyed the decision to boycott to its workers. We will not be surprised if it turns out that Vijayakanth has not.
When we reach RK Nagar, the roads are quiet with afternoon languor, and we head — as mandated by the rules of Press Council of India for journalists covering elections — to the local tea shop to understand the political pulse of the area.
After the colleague orders tea, I casually buttonhole the tea-shop guy into some political talk. “Looks like a tough election battle, ain’t?” I begin conversationally (in Tamil), and add “who do you think has the edge?”
The tea-shop guy without looking up from his work, but with the earthy wisdom that people like him unfailingly possess, says, “yaan Malayali-aanu. Tamil arilla“.
My lesson in psephology derails then and there itself. Unperturbed, colleague and I trudge through the narrow lanes and arrive in front of the election office located inside the local Corporation office, whose facade looks like that of a — why not? — software company.
Plenty of people, from different parties, are seen doing what they always do — hang around aimlessly in front of the election office. We try to overhear them in the hope of gathering some info that may well come handy later for our use. And how right we are. They are indeed discussing where the best briyani is available in the area. We will reveal it to the public once the EC’s model code of electoral conduct ends.
Later, we amble through the inside streets, where we run into several political campaigns, each looking impressive and loud enough to wake up the dead in the local cemetery. But the people didn’t seem to mind the noise, probably because they are quite used to it. You can’t blame them. Their reality is their yearly calendar comes printed with the election date.
As it quickly becomes dark, we decide to end our tour. Despite our research and enquiry in the constituency, we aren’t sure of who will be the winner. But we are sure about another thing. The biggest issue of RK Nagar polls is: Repeated polls in RK Nagar.