Crank’s News brings you a round-up from ground zero (zero being our understanding of what is happening around)
Chennai, May 9: Tamil Nadu is in the final lap of what has been a no-holds-barred election campaign, and with just a week to go for the polls, the situation is, in the classic words of political commentators, ‘too close to call’, which in real terms mean, ‘we have no earthly clue as to who is gonna win’.
We at Crank’s News, who have been tracking the events from — tiresome journalese alert — ‘Ground Zero‘, bring you a comprehensive round-up of the campaign and prospects of the main political combinations in the fray.
This TN Assembly election stands out for the lack of any particular overpowering issue, except perhaps Prohibition that all parties have promised in some form or the other, which is remarkable because a majority of the voting public has not asked for it. This confirms what many non-psephologists have been suspecting for long: Politics and governance in this country are totally cut off from reality.
To be sure, there were protests on liquor, but they were over government itself running wine shops and bars. And in response, all politicos proving that when it comes to hypocrisy they are impossible to tell apart, are promising Prohibition. In Tamil Nadu, as things stand today, if there is a demand for action against pornography, politicos will work themselves into a consensus for banning all films in toto. But that may not be a bad thing because that will at least prevent films like Puli or Lingaa from making it to the theatres.
A major discussion point of TN elections has been the role of money power, and the EC has already seized over Rs. 85 crores in cash, probably making it the first- ever election in the history of India, in which the Election Commission may not only break even but also turn in a cool profit. (Already, some VC may be getting ready to invest in EC).
Anyway, we will now see how different parties have carried out their campaigns:
Be it flood relief or political meetings, Jayalalithaa has approached the two with the same equanimity — she has travelled to both only by helicopter. And the State would not be surprised if it emerges that the pilot of the chopper has no seat to sit but has to stand and handle the machine in respectful deference to the presence of Jayalalithaa inside it.
Though she is widely criticised in the media for being standoffish, Jayalalithaa’s campaign style seems to have caught the fancy of what is by now should be the single biggest and most powerful group in Tamil Nadu: The meme-makers. Social media platforms are awash with memes and spoof videos on Jaya and her bunch of automated bots who for election purposes have to be called candidates. But the parodied-silliness of memes don’t even come close to matching that of what the AIADMK men actually pulled off: Ministers and top party functionaries bent down in worshipful respect at the tyres of a mighty SUV. Reason? Jayalalithaa was seated inside the SUV.
But to be fair, Jaya has run a tight campaign, often keeping her opponents guessing and her partymen even more, as she kept changing the candidates till the last moment. The expectation is she will keep changing them even after they are elected as MLAs.
Another talking point has been the AIADMK’s manifesto that promises a plethora of stuff either free or at subsidised rates. Improvidently populist or practical welfare politics? Well, the opinion among economists is divided, but the opinion among people is more or less undivided, which is economists are the most boring people in the world.
With the elections expected to be decided by a good chunk of fresh crop of young voters who are barely out of their teens, the DMK in a move befitting a party with a reputation for political smarts, named as its Chief Ministerial candidate the 91-year-old M Karunanidhi, who, for the record, was out of his teens when the Britishers were still in charge of this great country.
But it is M K Stalin, Karunanidhi’s son, who has been the prime mover for the party, and he too has manfully risen to the occasion in this campaign and brought to fore things that we never suspected him to possess: A wide array of colourful shirts and trousers.
If Stalin indeed manages to get to the coveted chair, he may be the first Chief Minister of this State in the last five decades or so who would look totally normal in a simple pant and shirt. And he would be the first full-fledged Chief Minister without the need for a cooling glass or a cape. This State, no wonder, is special.
Stalin has travelled the length and breadth of the State and has sincerely reached out to the masses, but people may still find it difficult to take his party seriously because, well, it has aligned with the Congress, which in TN is less a political party more a Vaudeville act.
DMK has kept out controversial and tainted former Minister Dayanidhi Maran from active campaign. But it has not managed to keep him out of campaign photos. Whichever angle one may shoot Karunanidhi’s picture, Dayanidhi Maran’s mug will miraculously be right there at its centre, wearing that now-famous stupid smile of his. How this happens? Popular guess is Dayanidhi Maran is a human Photoshop suite.
Verily, the third front of this election, the five-party alliance, comprising the MDMK, the VCK, the CPI-M, the CPI and the DMDK, is actually a six-party formation as it also includes G K Vasan’s TMC. Talk of getting electoral arithmetics right. Getting simple mathematics okay in this group would be tough.
Still, the PWF would seem to have the capacity to upset the apple cart of both the AIADMK and the DMK, provided the two parties were selling apples at Koyambedu. In the political market though, the People’s Welfare Front may find it difficult to match its more fancied rivals.
Much before the campaign gained momentum, the dramatic withdrawal from the electoral race at the last moment by the mercurial Vaiko was a major talking point for about an hour or so. After that people went back to making jokes on his new headgear.
The major player in this alliance formation is the DMDK, and shouldering all the responsibility, its charismatic leader Vijayakanth, it should be said, has actually managed to complete a sentence once or twice during the campaign.
The ruling party at the Centre has been firm right from the start. It has been tough with its alliance partners. Its principal ally, the alphabetically aligned IJK (India Jananayaka Katchi), demanded around 20 seats. But dealing in typical no-nonsense style that both Modi and Amit Shah are now famous for, the BJP talked tough and convinced the difficult ally to accept 42 seats. This was a major victory for the BJP — it straightaway had 42 less seats to lose in the election.
The BJP, which is just about taking roots in the State, thoughtfully flew in star campaigners from Modi to Shah to Venkaiah Naidu to Muralidhara Rao who all strove manfully to appeal to the rural voters in Tamil Nadu by speaking in chaste Hindi.
The BJP, smartly deducing that film factor works in TN always, had the Malayalam actor Suresh Gopi campaign in Chennai a few days ago. In the heat of Chennai — cringe cliche alert — he would have almost become Gopi-65. The party’s campaign has been worse than this joke.