You may call it poll fever or put it down to a much revered poetic line, “more things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of”.
Either way the DMK’s youth wing leader and party teasurer, MK Stalin, seemed to be politically correct, as he made two quick pilgrimages in the last three days before he picks up the mantle to lead his party’s campaign for the crucial parliamentary polls scheduled in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on May 13.
Stalin, who turned 57 a fortnight ago, first flew to Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantpur district to pay obeisance to the God-man Sri Sathya Sai Baba, though as the State’s local administration minister, the ostensible official reason was to discuss the Cooum river reclamation project with the spiritual teacher.
The DMK government has sought financial assistance of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust to clean up this highly polluted river that snakes through metropolitan Chennai. Stalin’s father and the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had recently stated that his government’s objective is making ‘Cooum’ river flow again with crystal, clear waters.
But that Stalin, who was accompanied by his wife, Durga Stalin, on Saturday also sought the Sai Baba’s blessings for the coming Lok Sabha polls, was not lost in political circles in Chennai, notwithstanding the DMK’s ideologically rationalist moorings.
Two years back, Sai Baba himself had visited Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence in Chennai at a time when the DMK Patriarch’s second wife and Stalin’s mother, Dayalu Ammal was not well. She recovered miraculously after Sai Baba’s tender feet touched their home. Sharing a dais with the Sai Baba, Karunanidhi himself had then said spiritualism as a form of profound humanism was welcome.
Stalin’s second pilgrimage last evening was another ‘Temple’ for any modern politician. Accompanied by his family members including his wife and the former Union Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, Stalin made a sentimental journey to the old Madras Central Jail, which is awaiting demolition after the prison was shifted outside of the city.
As Stalin waits to take on a key campaign role this time, the second nostalgic visit was suffused with political symbolism as he got his “political baptism” way back in 1976 when he was detained under ‘MISA’ during the emergency in this very jail, along with other front-ranking DMK leaders including the late Murasoli Maran.
Sources said that Stalin showed the cell in which he was kept and beaten up during that infamous detention, to his family members. One of his grandsons even took a picture of Stalin when the latter posed from inside that cell for a brief moment. He also took his family members around the other cells in which DMK leaders had been lodged. Then all the members of the family took pictures for their albums near the prison gate.
In fact amid tremendous public response to see the old jail since it has been thrown open to the people, it may still take a month or two for the demolition to begin “in the due course” till the elections are over, the DGP Prisons, R Nataraj told HT on Tuesday.
Asked if some more political VVIPs’ were expected to come for a ‘prison darshan’ – as both Karunanidhi and the AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa were also lodged in the same jail- and walk down memory lane with their family members, Nataraj smilingly said, “it is now an open place for anyone to come and see.”