Thirty-four years after she became a member of the AIADMK on June 4, 1982, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has faced this election confident of a win. Despite several poll surveys predicting a verdict against her party, she seems to have no doubt about her victory, even if it is not a sweeping win like the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
While most criticism has come her way over her inaccessibility during the Chennai floods, her political career shows she was never a leader who banked on being easily accessible to the public. But Jayalalithaa was still the leader who attracted the maximum crowds this poll season. All her rallies saw a turnout of 40,000 to 1 lakh, even as her rivals called her speeches the “queen’s monologues”.
Nanjil Sampath, one of the seniormost leaders of the AIADMK, said there were several reasons that made Jayalalithaa confident of her victory.
“We ridiculed all these opinion polls predicting our defeat because the question before the people in this election is about who should not be elected,” he said, pointing to some 61,000 land-grabbing cases that were registered against senior DMK leaders after their defeat in 2011.
He said that people were afraid of DMK leaders, adding that majority of the women in the state were still backing Jayalalithaa.
“She distributed four goats and a cow to each BPL family. She distributed mixer-grinders and fans to people who couldn’t afford to buy them. There were free uniforms (3 sets), shoes, bags, notebooks, geometry boxes and pencils for all children in government schools. They got cycles when they entered Class 11 and laptops in 12th…Some 6 lakh women had four grams gold and Rs 50,000 as marriage assistance…she also gave 20 kg free rice monthly,” said Sampath.
Sampath also argued that the DMK had never won an election without a strong alliance. “They don’t have a strong alliance this time. Moreover, hardly two years ago, we had a sweeping victory, winning 37 of the 39 constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
Several AIADMK leaders claimed that the party estimates an impressive victory even if they lose the flood-affected northern districts, including Chennai and Cuddalore, besides Kanyakumari, a traditional stronghold of the Congress with a sizeable BJP vote, too.
At all her 32 major rallies across the state and a dozen road shows in Chennai, Jayalalithaa declared: “Makkalaal Naan, Makkalukaakave Naan (I am made of the people, I am for the people).”
“You (people) are everything to me. My life itself is for you. I am working hard for you, my aim is your prosperity,” she would add in all her rallies. While she introduced herself as a “beloved sister” in Chennai, where she contests the R K Nagar seat, she called herself “mother of the people who understands their needs” while addressing rallies in the rural districts.
Her 32 major rallies across the state and dozen road shows in Chennai were all occasions for her to detail achievements and figures of growth in various sectors. While her rallies in flood-affected Chennai, Kancheepuram and Virudhachalam in Cuddalore district focused on relief works and compensation, she had a huge list of achievements to mention in the central and southern districts, targeting a vote base of farmers and labourers in small-scale industries.
After she joined the party in 1982, Jayalalithaa’s first public meeting was in Cuddalore town square where she said, “I am asking you; you tell me, aren’t you all on the side of Puratchi Thalaivar MGR?” and a resounding “Yes” followed from the audience.
Three decades later, a senior AIADMK leader from the MGR era said: “She will repeat the history of MGR, who held the office of chief minister… People have no strong reason to vote against her this time.”