M.K. Stalin was a tired man after trudging through the Cauvery delta for almost a week for what he said was a bid to retrieve the river. The 65-year-old DMK leader, who is considered to be among the fitter of the regional leaders of Tamil Nadu, kept ducking into the air-conditioned tempo traveller after walking a few hundred meters under an unkind sun.
The self-inflicted ordeal was part of a crafty political calculation DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi’s son had come up in the face of a criticism: that he’s not sufficiently savvy to exploit the troubles of the ruling AIADMK. “Stalin needed to send out his own political message to prove that he has come out of his father’s shadow and also enthuse DMK cadres with a road show that had an emotive appeal,” explains DMK spokesperson K.S. Radhakrishnan. “The Centre played into his hands by delaying the Cauvery Management Board—and Stalin lunged at it and proved his political mettle.” The Cauvery outreach eventually proved to be a bigger success than anticipated, with farmers lining up en route to greet Stalin.