Reading the DMK’s mouthpiece, Murasoli, first thing in the morning is a habit A. Ravikrishnan inherited from his father. “The other papers would come later, but Murasoli was always the first. It was the only way we learned about party meetings or protests in our locality. That is still the case – even if you have a mobile phone and WhatsApp,” says the 53-year-old real estate agent and treasurer of the Velachery unit of the DMK in Chennai.
Ravi (right in pic) started out as an ordinary worker and has risen through the ranks. His first nominated post was deputy secretary of his circle. He then became the additional secretary and was later elected the circle secretary thrice. Now he is in charge of one of the wards of Velachery assembly seat under the Chennai South Lok Sabha constituency.
It is the likes of Ravi who have traditionally formed the foot soldiers of the DMK. He and his team of volunteers paste posters and set up the dais, audio system and lights for rallies. They work their way up the ranks, wear promotions in the party hierarchy as a badge of honour and continue to strive even if denied the opportunity to contest for public office. Ravi, who has still not applied to contest as an MLA, hopes to in 2021. “Even if I don’t get a ticket,” he adds, “it will not matter as I can still do lot of public service using my position in the party. The residents of Arunachalapuram Colony and nearby areas knock on my door first if there is an issue with water supply, ration shops...”
On the other side of the political divide is T. Nandakumar, 51, who runs a bakery in Thiruvanmiyur. His childhood fascination for MGR’s movies metamorphosed into loyalty for the party launched by his matinee idol. “AIADMK is a party where hard work is recognised and even an ordinary worker can become an MLA, MP or minister,” he says. “Amma has created a culture of rewarding loyalty and sincerity. I am sure that will continue under the present leadership.”
Nandakumar heads the Velachery unit of the Amma Peravai, an associate outfit floated by Jayalalitha to meet the clamour for party posts. He says he uses his position to help the needy, especially recipients of welfare programmes. “If the officials refuse to cooperate, I take up the matter with the local MP and make sure he calls up the erring officials before me,” he declares. Does he look forward to becoming an MLA? “The party will reward me at the right time,” he says.
Interestingly, despite belonging to rival parties, Ravi and Nandakumar managed to keep their political differences aside and nurture a friendship for over three decades.