The best known southern political face betrays no more emotion than it wants to. On his 13th contest to the assembly, Kalaignar Karunanidhi delivers a speech measured even in its excess with enough elements to evoke. Only, for the listeners it is a familiar replay, more so here in his hometown Thiruvarur where he is seeking re-election. Even the cops know in advance that as the last to speak he will begin 45 minutes before the election commission’s 10 pm deadline and he does almost to the minute.
Into the set script, the leader does pack some surprise for the home crowd. Right after the pleasantries, comes the hush-hush: “There are secrets I must share with you even at the cost of being sent to jail by the ruling party. sorry, it is no party, just a one-person self-seeking outfit.” Through the next several minutes you wait for the guarded secrets even as repeated references are being made to the rival’s money power.
Halfway through the address, the champion orator is still talking about the atmosphere of fear and the tyranny that has spread from the secretariat to panchayats. Gets no more revelatory than the newspaper reports of cold cash seized in the vicinity by the police from poll vehicles. The speech lapses once more into high rhetoric, “I am here not to do a stunt or a hunt for votes but to mount a mission to restore genuine democracy.” The operative part of it all is a demand for a CBI probe into the goings on here. By the “Centre”. The “Modi” word, please note, isn’t uttered. That is reserved for ally and state congress Chief E V K S Elangovan who appealed to save “nation from Modi and state from the lady”.
The Dravidian strategist on his part knows he can do without more enemies. In fact, Kalaignar could use more friends. He has with him only the Congress and a section of Muslim voters. He tried and failed to strike a pact with “Captain” Vijayakanth and in the bargain lost both Left parties and a significant Dalit leader, Thirumavalavan. This could prove costly. Earlier in Thanjavur, one of Captain’s foot-soldiers explained that their third front wouldn’t spoil all that neutrally but split more of the DMK’s votes.
Too early to say, add longtime watchers of Dravidian politics. The campaign is yet to play out. Nominations are just being filed and parties however Dravidian aren’t taking any chances with planetary power. Amma and Kalaignar ironically filed their papers on the same lucky day and have left it to their candidates to follow their own customized forecasts. Vijayakanth’s coalition partners, leftists included, are planning to find a common day to auspiciously sign up.
Even as the Kalaignar event is winding up on South Street adjacent to Thiruvarur Tyagaraja Temple, men and many more women in thousands are walking barefoot, some as far as a hundred kilometres, to Vaitheeswaran Temple in Mayavaram for the annual festival. This temple town is known for nadi jyotsyam, a branch of astrology that reads out your future from palm leaf manuscripts of prerecorded destiny. Wait until May 19 for political destinies to be read out loud and clear.