Voters may snub Amma
Jayalalitha is faced with the most potent electoral challenge in the form of a united opposition and a crippling drought and water scarcity. Though she constantly reminds voters that the contest is for the PM's job in Delhi, it is her performance as CM that is coming under closer scrutiny.
The election schedule puts her at a further disadvantage: By May 10, the mercury would have soared and water levels dipped further, adding fuel to the people's anger. When Rajnikanth told voters that the BJP government was best placed to solve the country's water crisis by linking rivers, Jayalalitha should have snatched the opportunity and made it an effective election issue.
Faced with a formidable front of seven parties, any politician would have gladly accepted Rajnikanth's support to the BJP-AIADMK alliance. But Jayalalitha cold-shouldered the offer, forcing Rajnikanth's fans to retract from the campaign in most places.
Combined with the simmering discontent, she could not have pushed herself into a deeper hole. "Only wolves hunt in packs. I am a lioness who can take on the enemy all alone," Jaya roared at a meeting in Tenkasi, trying to make the best out of a worst condition.
On the other side, Karunanidhi has been enthused by the huge turnout at his meetings and the spontaneity of the response. "I am reminded of 1996," he said, recalling the wave of support that presaged Jayalalitha's rout.
Unlike the DMK Front that has a crop of talented campaigners in Karunanidhi, Vaiko, Chidambaram and Ramadoss, the AIADMK is dependent solely on Jayalalitha. Even the likes of Union minister Thirunvakuarasar of the BJP has been constrained to campaign only in the BJP seats after the AIADMK spurned him. Even when she addressed a large election meeting at Karaikudi, there was no place for the local BJP MLA H. Raja on the dais.
Faced with a near rout, the BJP's top leadership is flying in Vajpayee and Advani and will probably rope in Rajnikanth to campaign at least for the BJP candidates. With just 10 days left for campaigning, only a late and forceful charge can save AIADMK the blushes.