By: E P Unny
Amma keeps you waiting, never guessing. The crowds that gather in batches to this cleared farmland squat through high noon for the venerable helicopter to appear. Meanwhile, they are greeted by the unmistakable signs of the prime ministerial role awaiting their leader. Red Fort has moved into these Dravidian palm groves. Sansad’s image is flying high printed bold into a big balloon. For the first time, a Tamil is bidding for the country’s top job.
The bidder lands by the second chopper by when a second parliamentary balloon is up. Rahul Gandhi found only one Modi balloon which he is sure would burst. Amma’s brigade takes no chances, puts a spare one in place. Everything in these parts seems to happen in pairs. As the campaign picks up, there are even two happy endings to choose between – queen or kingmaker. The second theme is on hold; the focus for now is prime ministerial.
This is no chancy Gowda, Gujral kind of post-poll prime ministership. Jayalalithaa’s is a structured national narrative on economy to foreign affairs – retrieving black money, holding petro-prices subject to annual revision, elevating the already classical Tamil language further, protecting Tamil interests in inter-state water, power disputes and finally prosecuting Sri Lanka for war crimes. Never mind the backroom that came up with this priceless agenda. Imagine the shape of the cabinet in store. Should be fairly faceless. A group of sloganeering software students in party T shirts and caps were clueless when asked to name the parliamentary candidate here. “We’ve come from elsewhere. Amma is all we know.”
On the air-cooled dais standing behind a huge lectern the supremo looks more regal and distant than any other regional leader. But the voice connects instantly with its characteristic tone barely modulated, punctuated by the periodic entreaty, “Will you do what I am asking you to?” followed of course by a resounding “Yes” from the gathering. This interactive spurt helps to keep the well-fed crowd awake. Food, professionally cooked and packed, has been generously distributed – a grand scale catering model the AIADMK is perfecting, thanks to ‘Amma Canteens’. These eateries already open in the state’s major towns have beaten the Congress to food security by supplying the proverbial square meal at incredibly low prices. Never mind the mounting subsidy borne by the municipal corporations. Where Amma makes that extra populist difference, says a loyalist, is in the delivery. What she wants gets done.
Jayalalithaa’s prime target is the Congress, no longer the DMK. Karunanidhi appears almost as an afterthought in the latter half of the speech, along with ‘2G Raja’, contesting in Nilgiris, a hill district not far from here. The DMK’s extended family itself receives no more than the mandatory barbs. The Congress is compared to the “pack of white rulers we sent packing 66 years ago. This is no ordinary election. It is a liberation struggle. Banish the dynastic, scamsters!”
No mention of the BJP whose rainbow alliance has a candidate here and he is no pushover – Easwaran of Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK). A couple of AIADMK workers, part of a forenoon group, gung-ho on Amma’s victory, broke ranks in the afternoon to confess that while they remain Amma-loyalists their vote is for Easwaran. What’s new? “He can win.” How? “Local clout plus .er.Modi alai (wave)”. Amma herself might not be entirely unaware of such vote shifts and hence the second parliamentary balloon, by no means Modi-averse.