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Tamil Nadu - free, fair and free-for-all

Our surfer insists that the state remains in shambles despite being ruled by the two best brains.

india Updated: May 17, 2006 17:00 IST
TR Jawahar

It was a free-for-all in a very literal sense. With both the prime protagonists of the recently concluded electoral battle in Tamil Nadu having very little to offer in terms of ideology or programmes, the polls witnessed a frantic bid to buy, or bribe, the voter at any cost.

From bags full of cereals to serials on colour TVs, the freebies flowed faster than their five-decade-old familiar rhetoric that Tamil people are so sick of. To the extent, if you asked a novice voter who won, he might say, "the one who promised the colour TV".

With more voters still in cypher land than cyber land, free computers obviously lost out. The distinctions between the two were on such counts only!

But having said that, it rebounds to the credit of both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, who personify their respective fronts, and for whose personal fortunes and futures their parties exist, for fighting tooth and nail in this no-holds-barred life or death contest.

But such negative provocations or survival considerations apart, you have to hand it out to both of them for their high levels of motivation to seize the top position, their willingness to spare no effort in that endeavour, their uncanny intelligence in implementing their self-serving schemes, their intensive knowledge of not just the nooks and crannies of the state but also the inner most recesses of the voters psyche and, most of all, their immense staying power.

Neither can be written off, one always waiting to outsmart the other at every turn of the political roulette and bounce back, Sasikalas and Marans notwithwstanding.

Indeed, it is an enduring tragedy of TN that the state remains in shambles despite being ruled alternately by two of the best brains. For, if intent is misplaced, of what use are geniuses?

The towering presence of these two powerful personalities and their vice-like grip over virtually every aspect of life in the state, from street corner teashops to satellite TV, have always been intimidating and discouraging enough for any adventurer to test the political waters.

Moopanar's TMC made some noises, but eventually fell in line. The Congress, with its legendary factional fights, has no steam for a solo show and would remain content being in the pillion.

In this land of countless temples and boundless piety, the BJP is invisible. Rajnikanth turned out to be a non-starter, after much hype and hope. In such a context, the current elections are a watershed in that a beginning has been made towards alternatives.

The wafer-thin margins of victory of several contestants in both fronts are testimony to the fact that the results would have gone either way even with very minor changes in voting percentages.

This is a measure of the disillusionment of the voters in general with the Dravidian parties and their personality politics, in utter disregard of the state's interests.

The good showing by the just-born D-MDK of actor Vijayakanth all over TN and even the fledgling Lok Paritran in Mylapore are indications of the yearning of the people and their willingness to experiment with alternatives to the two Dravidian parties and their ever-rotating partners. So far, anti-J and anti-K votes have gone to the other, for lack of choice.

That may not be so in future elections.

It is still early days for Vijayakanth's party. And too early for people to entertain high hopes of a 'viable' choice. Add to that the overwhelming scepticism and fatigue about the continuing domination of cinema in politics, a phenomenon that has made the state seem like one big theatre. Indeed, it is quite disillusioning that if at all anybody can take on the current titans, it has to be one from tinsel town only.

Yet, despite all this, it must be said that Vijayakanth has done well, meriting some serious attention. His party has come third in most constituencies, even in urban areas consisting of the so called educated or the elite.

D-MDK candidates have played both the roles, as catalyst for a winner or spoilsport for a loser, but their vote share has been decisive. And Vijayakanth has gained credibility from the fact that he has stuck to his promise of distancing himself from both the DMK and the AIADMK, despite strong overtures. Indeed, if the 'Captain' sticks to his non-alignment policy, he may go places.

But despite there being no love lost for the prime politicos with the people and hardly any major issue, if the state has still registered such unprecedented voter turnout, it clearly indicates the increasing confidence in the electoral process.

The electoral system has always been touted as the breeding ground of political corruption, and this situation has not changed, with money and media power still getting paraded unabashed and unchecked.

But the conduct, as such, of the polls themselves, was free, fair and above board; reason why there is nary a grumble about the result. While the strict -- sometimes unreasonable, no doubt -- implementation of the model code put the fear of God into otherwise reckless politicos, the peaceful polling on the appointed day clearly put many dadas and anti-social elements who usually make a killing on such occasions out of business.

Voter ID cards, EVM technology and the high prospect of their vote remaining intact till they cast it, have made this democratic exercise more credible and truly participatory from the people's point of view.

With two months of scorching electoral heat coming to an end, the summer heat seems suddenly upon us in all its intensity. How we wish it was free ACs instead of those TVs or computers! That would have certainly helped the voters keep their cool and cool off as the politicos recoup and gear up for their next assault!

TR Jawahar is our regular surfer and can be contacted attrjawahar@vsnl.net.

Disclaimer: All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the surfer and do not necessarily represent those of HindustanTimes.com.

First Published: May 17, 2006 17:00 IST