Her shrill cry of “will you” attracts an equally high pitched “we will” as AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa engages the audience in her efforts to stop DMK from gaining significant number of seats in the April 24 Lok Sabha polls.
A key contender whose party she hopes to play a significant role in a post-poll scenario at the national level, the 66-year-old charismatic leader lists out the ‘betrayal’ of Congress and DMK and flogs the two at the smallest opportunity on matters ranging from national security to the vexed Sri lankan Tamils and fishermen issues.
A starlet and a protege of actor-politician M G Ramachandran who later went on to lead the party founded by him, Jayalalithaa has virtually placed herself as a messiah of the masses, making her 33-month governance initiatives the poll plank under the slogan ‘Peace, Prosperity and Progress.”
Speaking from a dais designed on the model of Parliament building echoing her aspirations of a national role–her supporters put it as ‘Jaya for PM’, the leader is at pains to describe in detail her government’s pro-populist measures whose promise in the 2011 elections handed her a decisive mandate, reducing opposition parties, including DMK, to small numbers.
Jayalalithaa builds up her election addresses on the flagship schemes of free mixer-grinder, free milch cow and goats scheme, gold for thali (mangalsutra) and other initiatives that strike a chord with women, who incidentally happen to be a large part of her audience who brave the scorching March sun to have a glimpse of their ‘Amma’.
The Chief Minister is also banking on her price-controlling measures such as providing subsidised rice besides the free rice scheme, while listing out the industrialisation and power generation efforts, blaming the DMK for the state’s power shortage.
Every time she takes a dig at DMK, she asks the crowd if it will vote out the DMK that had ‘betrayed’ Tamil Nadu on various issues and receives an emphatic “we will.”
Incidentally, the AIADMK manifesto had already promised steps to expand certain freebie schemes to the national level if it had a firm say in the next government.
Deriding the Congress-led UPA for its ‘failures’ in various sectors, including the Defence, Economy and national security, in the process questioning DMK’s role in bringing welfare measures to Tamil Nadu, the Chief Minister has however spared BJP or its Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.
The two leaders are said to enjoy cordial ties and Modi had attended the swearing-in ceremony of Jayalalithaa in 2011 and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister repaid the favour by participating in the former’s swearing-in in 2012.
This is seen as an indication of Jayalalithaa warming up to a possible BJP-led NDA government after the 2014 polls even as her party had dumped former allies–CPI and CPI (M) in its race to net maximum seats, 40 to be precise in Jayalalithaa’s own words.
Jayalalithaa has announced candidates for all 39 seats in the state besides the lone Puducherry segment.