“The rising sun is here, warming the hearts of people,” the loudspeakers blared. It was well past sunset, and the ‘sun’ being referred to was the election symbol of the DMK.
The campaign by M K Azhagiri, 59, DMK candidate from Madurai, 450 km south of Chennai, the second son of chief minister M Karunanidhi, 84, is loud and brazen. “I will fight with Appa to get you your due,” he promised the hordes of women who lined up with aarti and flowers to greet him.
“The colour TV will come,” he added, referring to the promise made before the 2006 assembly election that brought the DMK and its allies to power. It has still to be acted upon in some parts of the state. “Each person who has a ration card will get a TV.” The women cheered.
Azhagiri is the man to watch as the first family of Tamil Nadu politics prepares for what could be a bitter struggle for inheritance. For many years, the mantle of successor was expected to fall on Azhagiri’s younger brother M K Stalin, 56, agriculture minister in his father’s cabinet. But Azhagiri has now staked a strong claim.
Karunanidhi is trying to resolve the problem by sending Azhagiri away to Delhi as a Lok Sabha member, so as to leave the state to Stalin, but whether Azhagiri will be content with that is an open question.
Besides his campaign has already attracted the election commission’s attention. With CPM candidate P Mohan contesting against Azhagiri, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat himself wrote to the EC a week ago to stop the ‘blatant use of money power’ by the DMK in Madurai.
“This election has been reduced to a ‘buy-election’,” confirmed K Jayavel, a local AIADMK corporater. “Azhagiri is distributing money freely.” The EC finally appointed a special observer to Madurai to monitor expenses by candidates there after a deluge of complaints against Azhagiri.
However, Azhagiri is also thorough, giving his campaign an unique stamp. “For the past month we have been approaching every voter in Madurai almost daily,” said a DMK functionary. “There is a separate volunteer assigned for every 100 voters in the constituency, who keeps track of them, helping them solve their problems but also ensuring they will turn up to vote on voting day.”
However, the sitting MP is the CPM’s P Mohan, contesting for a third term. With its many industrial units and large working class population, Madurai has largely been a Marxist bastion, barring a two decade dalliance with the Congress from 1977 to 1998.