No one refers to him in these parts as “2G Raja”. The man who made much bad news for UPA 2 is “Rasa” to his constituents. Minus the ‘J’ that went with ‘G’, the rhyme is gone, and with it the tainted prefix. Nothing works in Tamil discourse without sound effects.
This 50-year-old four-time MP in fact marks the DMK’s 2G: the generational shift from Karunanidhi’s rhyme and reason to cold reason. On a wayside chat as he starts the day, pat comes his structured, measured soundbite. Lawyer by training, he gives no scope for cross-examination, and falls for no bait.
Yours must be one sure seat for DMK, particularly after the nomination papers of BJP’s Gurumurthy got rejected? “You know the big picture. Here people know my work — well enough to vote me back.”
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Will you realign with Congress? “Allies or no national allies, our basic strength is the ‘federal fibre’.”
The fibre, federal or otherwise, doesn’t even yield to an innocuous attempt to lighten the mood. Asked about the picture of Marx in his camp office alongside his leader Stalin’s, he acts humour-challenged, and reels off a verbal affidavit affirming faith in the Dravidian pantheon spanning Dr Ambedkar to Karl Marx.
Raja seldom employs emotional connect in the campaign, beyond a cursory recall of his agony under the CBI. Hardly ever harps on his Dalit identity which in any case is a given in this reserved constituency. No need, says a loyalist, the man runs a well-oiled machinery. He has a permanent camp office in Mettuppalayam which he regularly visited during his ministerial stint, and which he is now working out of.
And it is as transparent as it can get. CAG or CEC can value the operation. No sign of splurge. In the backyard, heaps of white shirts hand-washed on an old-world washing stone. In the porch, chai is served in thimble-sized paper cups to visitors not encouraged to stay on for charcha.
At Kattabettu bus station, Raja is equally economical with words, leaving much unsaid.
“Let me nurse Nilgiris even better.” (Remember the freebies and good work.)
“Please endorse ‘the rising sun’ symbol.” (District is 86 per cent literate, yet its is safer to bet on visual literacy.)
“Special thanks to Muslim League and smaller allies.” (Every extra vote counts.)
The campaign jeep’s multiple flagpoles don’t fly a single flag. DMK has no big friends; only family, which isn’t saying very much. Mercifully, no Alagiri effect in this hill station. In the complex familial network that runs the party, Raja is reportedly on the right side. Which in this election means Stalin. Even outside his turf, “Rasa” is valued as the hotline to the first family. Hordes of partymen from neighbouring Pollachi are seen at his door for the morning darshan.
All of these should add up to a walkover? “Don’t be too sure,” chips in a self-confessed “Rasa” voter. “AIADMK’s Dr Gopalakrishnan does count. Moreover, Nilgiris is dear to Amma. It’s her summer capital, when state moves to estate.” He is referring to the nearby Kodanadu estate, Jayalalithaa’s retreat from the scorching Chennai of May and June.
Even the loyal voter seems keen on a good fight, at any rate more than the BJP man who goofed up.