The Heat Is On
At about 40 degrees Celsius and 80 per cent humidity just past noon, there isn’t a single spot of shade in the entire rally ground in the town of Namakkal. People are passing out. In stark contrast, the leaders we are tracking, in this case, Tamil Nadu CM J. Jayalalitha, barely feel the temperature: alighting from helicopters, they are driven up to the stage, where two massive pillar airconditioners keep the heat at bay. One has to wonder if the Election Commission, which comes up with enough reasons—from school exams to harvest season—to insist that general elections be held over a two-month period in April and May, has any idea what the gruelling schedule means for the electorate and its representatives. I wonder why the EC doesn’t legislate rally timings better. Instead of allowing rallies in the peak hours of the sun and ordering loudspeakers shut off at 10 pm when it is relatively cooler, shouldn’t they do it the other way around? Or maybe the politicians should let people watch their speeches on the free TVs and laptops every government in Tamil Nadu has handed out instead of herding them into rally grounds. That may even prove to be an incentive to provide electricity to them! Thankfully, the organisers have at least been kind to animals. At each rally, Jayalalitha is welcomed by two elephants that shake their heads and trumpet her arrival. It takes me a couple of minutes to realise they are mechanical elephants that are taken from rally to rally, not real ones.
To The Ramparts
Is Jayalalitha making a pitch for prime minister this time? Speculation was sparked off when she chose to contest the elections alone—a first for the AIADMK. Fuelling the speculation was the party’s slogan of ‘Tamil prathamar aagavendum (We want a Tamil PM)’, and the songs that entertain the crowds waiting for Amma—all speaking of her as PM. Even the giant cutouts at the rally drive home the message of ‘Chalo Dilli’: the Red Fort, India Gate and Parliament House are all recreated here. But Jayalalitha makes no mention of such ambitions in her speeches. Most analysts reckon the PM mentions are simply a ploy to energise the AIADMK cadres in an election with few other issues. Others point to the fact that the Thalaivi would be uncomfortable even living in Delhi. She seldom leaves the state and, when she must, almost always flies back the same day. Her last trip abroad was in the late ’80s. This time around, she’s also cut herself off from the media, the same that endlessly waits at her Poes Garden residence or follows her rallies seeking an answer to that prime question.
Money For Nothing, Mixies For Free
As we head down the Southern Grand Trunk Road, I remark to my colleague how I had seen more hoardings and buntings in Kandahar in February (two months before the Afghan election) than I had seen in Tamil Nadu—and it was just weeks to polling day! The EC is the common villain for this in every leader’s speeches. While Jayalalitha rails against the EC’s clubbing of campaign expenses, the DMK and others protest the election commissioner’s reported statement that door-to-door campaigning could continue till midnight, saying it would encourage bribing of voters on the eve of elections. No one, however, wants to ban the most blatant bribery—the promises of freebies made at every speech: from laptops, cycles and mixer-grinders to cows, gold and free grain.
Food, The Great Leveller
The EC is also unable to counter the impact of one of Jayalalitha’s most visible welfare schemes—the eponymously named ‘Amma Unavagam’ or Amma canteens. This is an impressive project that offers subsidised, good quality food—Rs 1 idlis, Rs 3 for sambhar-rice cooked by women’s cooperatives and served through the canteens that dot cities like Chennai and Coimbatore. Inflation has impacted all, and I am surprised to meet well-heeled professionals eating at tables alongside the labourers and security guards. The most popular speciality: north Indian chapatis and dal, for Rs 5 a plate. All photographs of the CM have been covered over now that the model code of conduct is in place, but of course, her name is everywhere—in Tamil Nadu, there is one and only one ‘Amma’.
First Degree Coffee!
Practically the only other constant brand on the well-maintained state highways is that of ‘Only coffee’ or ‘Kumbakonam Degree filter coffee’ chains. You practically need a degree in coffee-making to get the coffee this perfect, but that’s not why it is called ‘degree coffee’. Some insist it refers to the temperature of the milk, others hazard that it signifies the angle at which the coffee is poured. Most likely it means coffee in the “first degree” of purity: referring to the cumbersome process of filtering the beans with coffee and chicory blended (80%-20%) in a double filter, mixed with boiling fresh milk, and then served in the traditional ‘Kumbakonam’ brass tumbler-dawara. During election time, while journalists in other places try to ‘read the tea leaves’, in Tamil Nadu one must ‘wake up and smell the coffee’.
Delhi-based Suhasini Haidar is foreign affairs editor at CNN-IBN
Apropos Suhasini Haidar’s Bring Out the Coffee Dawaras (Apr 28), a return to single-party rule at the Centre is wishful thinking. Jayalalitha has matured enough to understand the compulsions of coalition politics and will play her best cards after the Lok Sabha elections are over and the bargaining begins.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
It will be a long time before one party reaches 272 on its own, so a coalition will have to be crafted around a core. Efforts to make a jumble of regional parties that centre, with a national party propping up the house of cards from outside have not worked in the past. Neither a full term in office, nor worthwhile governance. To become PM, a politician will have to belong to either of the two national parties.
If the NDA gets less than 200 seats, they will need ADMK, BSP, TMC and Naidu to make the numbers add u[. And Modi will likely have to make at least two of the three ladies - Jayalalithaa, Mayawati and Mamata - his Dy. PMs as a price for their support. Mamata-di will likely not give up the gaddi in WB to go to Delhi, while Amma will have no problem finding a suitable yes-man (O. Panneerselvam has done this once before) to run TN by remote from Delhi.
It will be quite a bit of fun - though perhaps not for the country - to watch how Modi ("The Bachelor") manages the three spinsters, who will inevitably be known as Amma, Behen-ji and Maasi (mother, sister and aunt). It may even set a positive example for the women of India.
"It will be quite a bit of fun - though perhaps not for the country - to watch how Modi ("The Bachelor") manages the three spinsters, who will inevitably be known as Amma, Behen-ji and Maasi (mother, sister and aunt)."
Who can be the chairperson of NAC managing the 'teen deviyaan'? Miss Oginy interested ?
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT