Red and Black coloured flags fly high at the busiest Luz corner in the urban literate constituency in Chennai. A few tri-colour flag with hand symbol in the middle are also seen up high in the sky. The buzzing crowd and the flying party flags indicate an unusual visitor.
Blaring speakers give a skip to the usual Nagoor Haniffa numbers praising DMK leader M. Karunanidhi and the rising sun symbol. New lyrics, Mudiyattum, Vidiayattum, (let it end. Let it dawn) and namakku Naamey (we for ourselves) fill the air as a tempo traveller fitted with high beam lights and speakers dashes into the buzzing crowd.
A thin, frail man in his 60s emerges out of the top of the van to the whistles of the cheering crowd. Dressed in a blue shirt and his hair neatly dyed, DMK's prince-in-waiting, M.K. Stalin sounds more optimistic. He takes on Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK in a stinging 15 minute speech, listing out every 'fault' of hers.
Seeking votes for Karate R. Thiagarajan, congress candidate in Mylapore, the man who gave him a run under Jayalalithaa’s regime in 2001 as Chennai corporation’s deputy mayor, Stalin made a blistering attack on the AIADMK and set the tone for a change in government in Tamil Nadu.
Right from encouraging the candidate to stand beside him in the campaign van to holding his shoulders, the former deputy chief minister’s gestures are very clear. He does what Jayalalithaa does not do. The DMK leader tells the huge masses around his van, “Thamizhan yendru sollada. Thalai Nimirndhu nillada (Say you are a Tamil and stay with your heads above); candidates and party men are treated like slaves in AIADMK. It is not so here. We treat everyone equal.”
Unleashing a scathing attack on the five year regime of Jayalaithaa, who, he alleged, has made her ministers fall on her feet even inside the floor of the assembly, Stalin seeks mandate for leading the state into a developmental path. He also throws barbs on AIADMK’s IPS officer candidate R. Natraj. “He was a bureaucrat. You all know. But now it has come out in the open that he is an AIADMK man and supported Jayalalithaa even during his service. This ticket to contest is only to endorse his loyalty,” he says.
Stalin’s road shows have proved more successful this time, while his earlier four rounds of “Namakku Naamey” campaign was a morale booster for the rank and file of the DMK which has been down after the wash out in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
DMK’s Thalapathy or Commander has assiduously started turning the tide towards the DMK in this election. Though there were confusions because of the third front led by Vijayakant, Stalin’s image has definitely gone up.
“He is always our Thalapathy. He is accessible every time. The people of the state will witness development if DMK comes to power. He will lead the show this time,” says DMK party man R. Raja.
The change in his style, early last year, when he eschewed his stiffly ironed white political clothing to new colourful branded shirts, trouser and sneakers, seems to have gone well with the people, telling them he is not an arrogant politician like the leaders in the opposite camp. In fact he is all in smiles every time at every road corner when he emerges out of the van and when he addresses the people.
“We had built several bridges to ease the traffic snarls in the city. But you all know there was no infrastructure development in these five years. Rather the state has been pushed 50 years behind in development,” he points out. His change in style to reinforce an “I am one among you” and the DMK’s developmental manifesto listing 501 promises to the people of the state have really helped turn the tide in favour of the DMK.
Addressing eight rallies on a hot day as the sun soars in Chennai, he is the star campaigner for the DMK and a crowd puller more than his 93-year old father M. Karunanidhi. He takes a rose garland with a cheerful glee on his face as his van tries to slowly move out of the crowd. DMK’s rising son might have managed to capture the hearts of the people, but is still waiting with bated breath for a position of power in the party.