The legendary Abu Abraham ran a pocket cartoon in The Indian Express featuring two Congressmen in contrast - a roly-poly one and his thin companion. A Tamil variant could be easily modelled on Alagiri and Stalin. At 58, on a make or mar campaign, Stalin looks thin as ever. After all these years in politics he ha¿n’t gathered much weight, quips a sarcastic journo. His speech has no flab either, quite unusual for the Dravidian movement that virtually orated its way into power.
In fact the party seems to have run out of words. Before the lead¿r’s arrival, the two-hour buildup is entirely taken up by blaring recorded music extolling the party symbol¿ “the rising sun that can give you the mo¿n”, followed by shattering noise from a group of drummers. Gone are the preparatory speeches and alliterative slogans that once set the stage for the star sermon.
At the sundown stopover near the Ukkadam bus station, Stalin does an SMS of D¿K’s familiar poll plank¿ “Welfare aplenty. Lots of freebies. L¿t’s continue the good dee¿.” The only time he touches anything like an emotional chord is as he winds up with an appeal for a third term for his revered ageing father. The crowd dutifully applauds.
In the flag-waving audience mostly from the DMK and the Muslim League, the Congress tricolor is a nominal presence. Stalin on his part doe¿n’t even mention the big Delhi ally. A couple of DMK workers in the crowd make no secret of their displeasure with the UPA that sent their minister to jail. In a neighbouring constituency where a Congressman is contesting as DMK ally, the men in khadi return the compliment, with calculated indifference to Stal¿n’s campaign tour. In a milieu sensitive to film hoarding semiotics, Congress posters put Karunanidhi on par with Sonia but Stalin is equated to Chidambaram, not to Rahul Gandhi. Why blow up the thin man and offend the big brother? There is that extra uncertainty over the D¿K’s succession line.
If this is the kind of chemistry on the ground, how do you pool votes? DMK men are ready with the stock reply¿ “We are going to come back on our welfare schemes. No party has given so much to the peopl¿.”
Jayalalithaa has given away even more and will she rollback welfare? All you get is a dismissive gesture. Apart from being tongue-tied in the midst of a peaking campaign, everyone