Pours scorn on the Congress, Dayanidhi

A live orchestra belts out songs from AIADMK founder and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran’s films of the 1970s. Temple priests wait with offerings. A small group of Muslims waits patiently.

The police struggle to control the crowd pouring in from all directions in mini-vans and auto-rickshaws. Assembled ministers, MPs and councillors give out instructions to party workers.

Occasionally the singers stop mid-way and invite people to crowd on to the flimsy stage at a three-road intersection in a bustling residential and commercial area of Chennai.

This was Chennai on Saturday as Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, travelling in a modified van, addressed a series of meetings in the city as TN gets ready to vote on April 24.

Security personnel position themselves around the van. The sun roof slides back and the CM appears to the cheering crowd as a mini lift with a well-lit stage set in the van lifts her up into view.

Jayalalithaa lists her party’s achievements in the State and assails the Opposition for its acts of omission and commission.

Short speeches

In speeches lasting 15-20 minutes, she lashes out at the Congress and the DMK. The AIADMK’s objective in the elections is to defeat the corrupt Congress government, she says.

The DMK should also be taught a lesson, she says, referring to the 2G scam and abuse of power by Dayanidhi Maran as a Union Minister.

The economy hit an unprecedented low during Congress rule with rising food prices and rampant corruption, Jayalalithaa points out.

The elections are not just about choosing a political party to head the government but about economic development and protecting people’s livelihood, she adds. The CM then lists her government’s initiatives — water supply and healthcare facilities, welfare measures like free rice distribution through PDS and setting up of subsidised canteens.

Freebies galore

Of the promises made by her party before the 2011 Assembly elections, her Government has fulfilled over 150 in the nearly three years in office, she says.

It has distributed free mixies, grinders and fans to 89 lakh households; free laptops to over 23 lakh students; and set up 100 canteens. She also canvasses for a party leader contesting in a by-election for an Assembly seat. You vote for him and help our government fulfil the other promises, she tells the voters.

Jayalalithaa then refers to an interview by Narendra Modi on inter-linking of rivers. “Why is the BJP hesitating to give a commitment on Cauvery?” she asks.

In the interview, Modi had also said the Tamil Nadu fishermen issue was not resolved due to a clash between Jayalalithaa and Sonia Gandhi.

So when Gujarat fishermen were attacked by Pakistan, “can we say it is because of clash between Sonia Gandhi and Modi?” Jayalalithaa wonders.

(This article was published on April 20, 2014)
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