The Jallikattu boys are back – this time as politicians.
And what a better start to this toddler of a political party at just 20 days in age, than to plunge headlong into a battle for the prestigious constituency of RK Nagar that was represented by late chief minister J Jayalalithaa. It has now become a venue for a big fight for Amma’s legacy by her family members and followers.
The youth brigade that powered the Marina Jallikattu uprising was convinced that Tamil Nadu was yearning for a change and riddance of the two dominant Dravidian parties that were seeped in corruption and cut off from the people they represent. The seeds of a new political party – where personality politics took a back seat and the party brand was in the forefront – were sown during the January Jallikattu protests at Marina beach.
The immense popularity of the strictly apolitical nature of the uprising, peopled largely by the youth and the student community cutting across caste and class barriers gave ideas to some to channelise this energy into a potent political force and thus was born 'En Desam En Urimai Katchi' (My Nation My Right party). It was registered on February 25 and in just 20 days it has began its first electoral contest, taking on the mighty TTV Dinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew and AIADMK deputy general secretary, AIADMK presidium chairman E Madhusudanan (since expelled and now with OPS camp), Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar and DMK candidate in M Ganesh, a local constituency level leader.
Ebenezer John, a 30-year-old furniture businessman from Chennai, said, “We are elated that the RK Nagar voters give us love and support as the Jallikattu boys. Everyone in Tami Nadu had entertained an impression that the boys and girls in Jallikattu movement were doing good. So, when we began holding small meetings in the constituency, we are getting tremendous support. People are fed up of the two big parties. Why, the recent happenings in AIADMK have triggered hatred for the party.”
Which is why, “we are rank outsiders, still fancy our chances,” he told Hindustan Times.
At present, MNMR is selecting a candidate for RK Nagar to take on the biggies. At least 75 people expressed their desire to contest the polls.
But it is not that simple to become the candidate of this party, that is somewhat inspired by the success of an Aam Aadmi Party that was also born out of an apolitical movement. “We will be absolutely transparent in everything we do,” Ebenezer John said.
For starters, the prospective candidates had to sit for a test and after that only 25 have been shortlisted for an oral inquisition by a board comprising at least 10 members – retired bureaucrats, lawyers, judges, police officials, civic society members, social activists and film stars. There will be 10 questions asked of each candidate and they can get a maximum of 10 marks each for each answer.
This entire selection process will be held out in the open, where voters of the constituency are invited to participate as viewers and can even pose questions. “It will be the people who will decide the candidate,” he said.
First to be eligible to become a candidate for the MNMR party, one has to be in the age group of 25 to 55 and no one above this age will be eligible to contest on the party ticket for any election. The MNMR has a firm policy of retirement age of 60 for politicians. After they attain the age of 60, the same people can join a board that would mentor the juniors, John said.
Each prospective candidate must sign an undated resignation letter that can be accepted in case he or she violated any of the promises made or is found guilty of corruption or any wrong doing. The prospective candidate also has to give an undertaking that he or she would spend every weekend meeting the voters and solving their problems, said John said. He is among the six state coordinators already in place. Each prospective candidate must get 100 voters in the constituency to endorse his or her application – they must get 100 signed letters from the voters giving a good conduct certificate for a person to be considered for candidacy to stand in elections. The prospective candidates must also submit a police verification certificate saying that they have no criminal cases against them.
Then there will be a thorough background check too.
“In our party, there will be Supreme Council that will take final decisions,” he said adding below the council will be eight state coordinators and each district will have a coordinator. The Supreme Council will be recast every three years.
Besides, there will be 234 legislative assembly coordinators, whose responsibility is the constituency as far as the party matters are concerned.
“We are absolutely against use of money in politics and which is why we have mounted a campaign in RK Nagar and are putting up stickers ‘my vote is not for sale’ on houses in the colony. People are openly talking that political parties are offering up to Rs 10,000 per vote. But our answer to the voters is that once you take money, you will lose all chances of seeing the candidate again for the next five years and no work will be done. Instead, if you choose us, we will be available 24X7 for you people,” John said.
The party is looking for talented and articulate people, but they must fulfil two conditions – they must be honest and committed, said John.
Already the party has created a lot of buzz and the proof is in the number of threat calls the prime movers are getting. “I am getting threatening calls and some from even Dubai,” John said adding that “we are taking this to mean that we are doing something right.” Even the local political parties are trying to ascertain from us our real intentions, he said.
After RK Nagar, we will contest the local body polls. It is here that this youth power which will be more in evidence.