At 6.25 pm Monday, shortly after sunset, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa stepped out of her Poes Garden residence, her aide Sasikala by her side, and boarded a customised air-conditioned van with a dozen armed guards hanging on both sides. Amid watertight security, her cavalcade moved slowly through the city roads —driving down the Marina beach road, then turning towards the Radhakrishnan Nagar (RK Nagar) constituency in north Chennai — for her first election campaign post her acquittal in a disproportionate assets case. It is from RK Nagar that Jayalalithaa seeks a massive mandate in the June 27 bypoll to set the tone for next year’s assembly conquest.
When Jayalalithaa made her first, and probably the last, campaign visit to the constituency on Monday — just five days before polling — supporters thronged the campaign route to catch a glimpse of her.
Amid deafening chants of “Long Live Amma”, police keenly watched every inch of the 10-km route in north Chennai, bringing the area to a complete standstill.
As her cavalcade careened through the streets, gathering momentum after brief stop-overs, Jayalalithaa waved her hands to the cheering crowd, showing the AIADMK’s two-leaf election symbol. All through the ride, her aide Sasikala sat next to her; both dressed in green coloured sarees — Jayalalithaa’s ‘lucky’ colour.
Senior ministers and leaders greeted her convoy with folded hands during brief stop-overs at Kasimedu harbour and Tiruvotriyur High Road.
Without stepping out of the vehicle, the AIADMK chief made brief speeches at different spots, with Sasikala handing her a bundle of cue cards before every stem-winder.
“Thank you for all the prayers,” she told the crowd at Tiruvotriyur High Road.
“You elected Vetrivel (former AIADMK MLA) in the 2011 elections with a huge margin. This bypoll is something against your wishes. This is happening due to politically motivated cases against me,” she said.
Jayalalithaa then went on to highlight various welfare measures unveiled by the AIADMK government.
Reading through the cards and listing out various ‘Amma’ welfare schemes, she added: “In RK Nagar constituency, we have undertaken various welfare measures…new electricity connections have been given. Several road projects have been undertaken.”
Interestingly, Jayalalithaa’s campaign trail was also dictated by the condition of north Chennai roads, considered worse than other parts of the city. On Sunday, the Election Commission had directed the Chennai Corporation to suspend work on re-laying of roads in the constituency ahead of Jayalalithaa’s visit.
While major opposition parties, including DMK and PMK, have decided to skip the bypoll, complaints have been flooding to the Election Commission about major violations by the ruling party and the city corporation, for taking up road and water supply works even after the election was announced.
The Left parties are the only rival campaigners against Jayalalithaa at RK Nagar, with CPI fielding its senior leader C Mahendran against her.