Voices Friday, July 17, 2015 - 05:30
  Ever since Jayalalithaa’s conviction by the Special Court in Bengaluru last year, there have been expectations of a vacuum being created in the state’s political landscape. More recently, fuelled further by rumours over the severity of her recent illness, and with just 10 months to go for the TN Assembly elections, many believe that there is space for a new breed to step in. If indeed Jayalalithaa will be rendered politically futile because of a development in the DA case is unknown, and if indeed she is physically unwell enough to weaken her politically in unclear, but there are several who think that the opportunity is ripe to set themselves on the path to Chief-Ministership. And the list includes some unusual suspects, from the absurd to the apathetic. The man who has been actively promoting himself as a Chief Ministerial candidate of late is former Union Minister Anbumani Ramdoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, a party born out of the political protectionism sought by the Vanniyar caste. Modelling his campaign on the lines of Obama’s ‘Hope’ campaign in 2008, Anbumani Ramdoss has launched a stylish new website, www.anbumani4cm.com, replete will social media presence and strategic positioning. On the homepage, Anbumani is a farmer, a doctor and the former Union Health Minster rubbing shoulders with Bill and Melinda Gates. He is presenting himself as the new age leader of national character, but rooted in his community.     Apart for the usual lip-service politicians pay for education, health and agriculture, Anbumani and the PMK have had a consistent stand against use of tobacco and alcohol. In spite of his experience, a fairly successful stint as the Union Minister and his repackaged look, his party remains what it has always been: a caste-based political party restricted to one core voter-base, the Vanniyars. Their vote-share in the 2011 elections was just above 5%. But that doesn’t bog him down. When asked if he really think he can become the CM at a recent press conference, he is to have compared his campaign to that of Arvind Kejriwal’s in Delhi, stating that he too could emerge victorious similarly. He is raring to have a go at his opponents, he says. If the most blatant CM candidate is Anbumani, then the most hilarious one is Seeman of the Naam Tamilar party.     A former film Director with several flops and an odd hit or two to his credit, Seeman is now a full time politician. While hailing LTTE Prabhakaran’s valour and sacrifice, he holds Lord Murugan’s spear in his hand, simultaneously playing up emotions of Tamil pride and Murugan-faith. He has also declared himself a Chief Minister candidate, representing his party which has never stood elections and only campaigned for the defeat of others so far. DMDK Chief ‘captain’ Vijaykanth too is said to have made it clear that he will be a CM-candidate in the upcoming polls. He had earlier conveyed the same to his ally the BJP.  The BJP however, not wanting to be left behind, has also pitched for a CM candidate. In fact, in his last visit to Tamil Nadu, BJP Chief Amit Shah had said that the party will also be announcing their own candidate, much to the enthusiasm of TN BJP leaders and chagrin of the DMDK. Vijaykanth is expected to go solo if the BJP does not support him as a CM candidate. The candidate closest to having a real chance of becoming the Chief Minister in this list is MK Stalin. Son of the DMK patriarch, he has been eyeing the post for years now. But thanks to the towering personality of M Karunanidhi and his reluctance to announce Stalin as his political heir or hand over the reign to his son, Stalin has still not been declared the CM candidate, although he is doing everything possible to project himself as one.     But for the DMK and ADMK, and only under the leadership of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa respectively, there is little chance of other parties pulling their weight. The reason why there is such a clamour for CM-candidacy, political observers say, is the perceived potential for newer leaders. With both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa in old-age, and Jayalalithaa facing severe legal hassles, the longevity of their political careers is under the question. “We cannot predict anything now, but it is clear that politicians are preparing themselves for the future,” says R. Mani, a senior journalist, adding that, “Anbumani Ramdoss wants to get the maximum vote-share in the upcoming elections to be able to bargain better in the future.” The thinking of others, from the BJP and DMDK to wannabe-politicians like Seeman, could be the same. Further, with the success of Kejriwal in Delhi and the PM Modi, personality-driven political campaigns have proven to be more effective. Political parties are picking up on the signs and want to project their leaders as larger than life heroes to gain more political mileage even if they don’t end up winning. In fact, AIADMK has always been a personality cult, but only now the realization is setting in that similar branding can be used to smaller leaders for their own goals too. However, Mani adds that a split opposition would be advantage Jayalalithaa, “If the parties don’t unite against AIADMK, then the chances of their victory will improve significantly.” Whatever said and done, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi remain the most important characters in TN politics, and it is more likely that Elections 2016 will still be about these two demagogues.   
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