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In Tuticorin, with Parliament as backdrop, Jaya goes national in outlook

March 15, 2014 22:06 IST

In Tuticorin, with Parliament as backdrop, Jaya goes national in outlook

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A Ganesh Nadar in Tuticorin

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa left no one in doubt about having an eye on New Delhi, at her election meeting in Tuticorin on Saturday, reports A Ganesh Nadar.

If confirmation was needed that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa harbours national ambition and is eyeing the forthcoming Lok Sabha election as a stepping stone to Delhi, Saturday’s rally in Tuticorin provided that in ample measure.

As is normal for Tamil Nadu, the maidan was surrounded by huge banners, cutouts, posters of the chief minister known as Amma, against the backdrop of Parliament.

And she was in full flow addressing the one lakh strong crowd gathered despite the blazing afternoon sun, with her ministers for a change seated behind her, with local candidate, Jaysingh Theyagarj Nattarji, standing with folded hands, his eyes firmly fixed on the crowd.

Jayalalitha targeted both the United Progressive Alliance government, and her regional rival, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which was part of the UPA till last year.

‘Will you vote to get rid of this central government?’ she asked, and ‘yes’ roared the crowd back. She repeated the question, only to get a bigger ‘yes’ from the crowd.

Jayalalithaa told the crowds that this election will get rid of corruption, and get rid of a government that thrived on anti-people policies. It was an election that would give them freedom from their oppressors, she said. 

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Image: A banner of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at her election rally in Tuticorin on Friday, with Parliament as the backdrop.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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A Ganesh Nadar in Tuticorin

She also adroitly mixed international affairs, the poor state of the economy and regional concerns, when she spoke of how in the last 10 years “we have seen prices rising, exports falling and imports rising. The dollar has risen and the Lankan navy continues to attack our fishermen. The Himalayan case of corruption which you know as the 2G scam has humiliated our nation abroad.”

“In 2011 you got rid of family rule in Tamil Nadu (in the assembly elections). The DMK functions like a family-owned private company. Today you will see its members joining our party as there is no hope in that party for non family members,” she crowed, and asked the crowd again: “Will you teach Karunanidhi a lesson?” ‘Yes,” came the resounding reply.

This continued throughout her speech. After every paragraph she asked the crowd if it agreed with her, they said ‘yes’, and she would repeat the question for emphasis.

“In my manifesto I have said that I will raise tax exemption to Rs 5 lakhs and they say they will raise it to Rs 6 lakhs. But why did they not do so in the last 17 years they were in power at the Centre?

“The DMK’s manifesto was a list of things they had not done in the last 10 years. Everyone knows that the prime minister listens to Karunanidhi, and yet he never once told him to do anything for Tamil Nadu. But he got an election ticket for his daughter.

“Will you teach Karunanidhi a lesson?” ‘Yes,’ responded the crowd. 

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Image: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa addressing an election rally in Tuticorin on Saturday.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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A Ganesh Nadar in Tuticorin

Continuing in similar vein, she picked holes in the DMK’s claim to remove tax on pension (“this is a lie, there is no tax levied on pension”), FDI in retail (“DMK flip-flopped on it, but I will never allow it”), attacks on Tamil fishermen by the Lankan navy (“DMK as part of the central government did nothing for them”), helping minorities (“we gave 3.5 per cent reservations to minorities, subsidised pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mecca, and also Hindu pilgrimages”).

Against the Congress and DMK’s poor performance, Jayalalithaa highlighted her own: 20 kg free rice, palmolein oil for Rs 25 a kg, tur dal for Rs 30, udad dal for Rs 30 and sugar at Rs 13.50 a kg. Apart from this, she also gave the people free mixies, grinders, fans, cows and goats. She sold idlis for one rupee and lunch for Rs 5. She also provided free education to kids, and free bus passes and cycles. And, her latest offering: free Mediclaim in the best hospitals.

After this self-praise she was back in attacking mode. The state government cannot solve all problems, the central government should help but the UPA did not. “They never gave us electric power. They reduced our kerosene and coal supply,” she charged.

“The Congress is our enemy and the DMK is its ally. They did nothing to help Tamil Nadu. Will you vote for us and get rid of them?” ‘Yes,’ came the echo. 

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Image: A section of the crowd at the AIADMK's Tuticorin election rally.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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A Ganesh Nadar in Tuticorin

And she promised, if the AIADMK is voted to power, “We will change the future of India. We will rescue the country from the clutches of Western powers. Don’t waste your vote on smaller parties (a reference to the parties with the BJP in Tamil Nadu), they cannot win. Vote for us and we will make this country a superpower and Tamil Nadu the best state in the country.”

Finally, she introduced her candidate for Tuticorin and promptly left the venue, for the next.

AIADMK leaders say that in this election Jayalalithaa will campaign in all the 39 constituencies in the state, a sign of her resolve to play a national role post-elections. The state votes on April 24.

While other parties have announced a few candidates and are still holding talks on seat-sharing, the AIADMK was the first of the block. It quickly announced its candidates for all the 39 seats, most of them new faces. Among them are graduates, doctors and lawyers, with none of them having a mass base.

Jayalalithaa has also hit the campaign trail early, starting from the south, Kanyakumari. She also decided to go it alone this time, not too surprising given that opinion polls are in her favour. 


Image: The crowds kept roaring 'yes' everytime they were asked if they will throw the UPA and DMK out.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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