Traffic in Tirunelveli is held up. Even as cops frantically sorts out the melee, a pilot jeep shrieks through, soon followed by an entourage of 36 cars that include an ambulance and two vans loaded with special strike force personnel. If you are wondering whether it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi being escorted, think again.
Travelling in the entourage is the state local administration minister. Known more as the chief minister's son, M K Stalin has come to this south Tamil Nadu district to oversee preparations for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's youth conference to be held on December 15-16.
Film stars surely know something about exposure, but it seems no one told Stalin about it. Tirunelveli is plastered with his mug shots. One cannot turn around without having a look at his all important face.
The venue for the conference is the Tirunelveli Medical College ground. The local DMK strongman, Karuppaswamy Pandian, is in charge and is being assisted by the Deputy Mayor Muthuramalingam.
One look at the setting reveals its importance. The venue entrance looks like a medieval castle. The pandal covers over 5 lakh square feet space. The organizers are expecting a turnout of nearly 10 lakh people from across the state. Appropriate, as there are rumours that the ailing 'King' will crown his heir at this meeting.
Senior leaders dismiss this as media-driven rumors, but most people suspect Stalin to be the source of these so-called rumors.
However, there are no plans to feed the cadre at the event. Muthuramalingam says, "We cannot feed 10 lakh people. They will have to look after themselves. There will be ten subsidized restaurants, 15 tea and juice shops at the venue."
The chief minister, state and central ministers, parliamentarians and legislators are expected to attend the grand event. District Collector G Prakash told rediff.com:
The Police Commissioner says he is yet to formulate plans. For electricity, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board has been paid a deposit of Rs 3 lakh following which the organizers have been provided three lines with three phase power. They also have stand-by generators in case the power fails.
There are about 75 boards visible around the venue. They all show Stalin; maybe because the 54 years old is the president of the DMK's youth wing. Smaller size images of Karunanidhi and his daughter Kanimozhi make an appearance in some banners.
The DMK cadre has been undergoing march-past training since a week. The march past will begin at 1400 hours on the first day of the event and is expected to go on for at least 10 hours. The chief minister will observe the march-past from a vantage point midway. The march past begins from the VOC ground in Palayamcottai to the venue -- a distance of 4 km.
Meanwhile, Muthuramalingam is marshalling his troops. "I am sending two vans for you. You have to be at the railway station at 0700 hours. Our leader is arriving by train. I want a grand welcome. Each of you must bring at least 50 volunteers," he tells them.
On the morning of December 15, the party flag will be hoisted by a senior minister who will declare the conference open. The next day programs are more elaborate.
There is a special play, which will showcase 84 years of the chief minister's life. The play will be followed by speeches by K Muthuramalingam and Stalin. Karunanidhi will make the final speech before the conclusion of the two-day event. His speech will be noted with interest -- on whether he will announce his successor and step down.