In God we trust......
It is no secret that Dravidian partymen who profess rationalism of the Periyar brand, practice quite the opposite in real life. Like film stars and cricketers, politicians are as superstitious as they come. Only DMK chief Karunanidhi practices rationalism, although many questions are brought up about why he wraps a yellow shawl around him, and is, in fact, inseparable from it just like Linus who carries his security blanket around with him in the cartoon Charlie Brown. But Karunanidhi pays his obeisance by proxy it would seem because his wife, Dayaluammal, was seen visiting a temple before Kalaingar got into election mode. AIADMK Jayalalitha wears her rituals on her sleeve -- you’ll never find her doing anything during rahu kalam -- and does not hide her superstitions -- four limes dutifully get crushed under the wheels of her car before she sets out anywhere. Jaya’s mentor, MGR, may have come out of the DMK in 1972 to start the AIADMK but left rationalism behind. In fact he openly admitted piety was his middle name and that he had great faith in God. The man who is trying to snatch Jaya’s political legacy, Vijayakant too has no qualms admitting that he is a great believer in God. He is often seen visiting temples and even recently visited Tirumala and placed his party flag at the feet of Lord Balaji for his blessings.
...and in astrologers we believe
Over the last few weeks, the tiny temple town in Nagapattinam district called Vaithiswaran Koil, named after its famous Shiva temple, has been the hub of many politicians’ visits irrespective of their different hues. The reason? Because this tiny village is the home of nadi astrologers -- these are the astrologers who can read palm leaves written in the ancient Tamil script. What the astrologers do is to find a match in their palm leaves corresponding to the lines of the thumb of the client stretching out his palm.
"Many politicians come and visit us the year round, but there has been an increase in the last few months since elections were called," says A Sivamayam, a nadi astrologer. There are over 50 nadi astrologers in Vaithiswaran Koil who charge between Rs 300 to 800 for the reading of a palm leaf. Their clientele runs the gamut of top industrialist to small businessman, stars in the tinsel world to lowly actors and technicians and from top politicians to small-time ones who are yet to debut in politics.
Says an AIADMK partyman who practices law in Manapparai in Tiruchi district: "I wanted a ticket for the Karur constituency, but the nadi jothidar said I was not going to win and therefore I decided not to lobby for the ticket." Jayalaitha has much to thank the nadi astrologers for, considering she had 3,000 others jam her office last week seeking 23 tickets. Interestingly many, particularly from the DMK, come incognito and stretch out their palms to the astrologers in the dark rooms of their traditional houses. But technology has caught up with these astrologers -- sometimes they record their predictions and despatch it to clients. And just like doctors who are supposed to keep professional secrets, these astrologers zip their lip about the identity of their clients and what their palm leaves say.
The importance of being Vaiko
For those wondering whether Vaiko is a spent force and has a one point agenda -- as demonstrated by him recently while making a fiery speech in support of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran (which would make him a liability to AIADMK chief Jayalalitha) writer Gnani has an answer. And that is that you can’t beat Vaiko as an orator. Other than Jayalalitha, there is no speaker worth the mike in her formation barring perhaps the CPI’s Pandian and the CPM’s Varadarajan. Doctor Ayya, as PMK founder Ramadoss is better known for his hit and run tactics, particularly at CM Karunanidhi, but oratory is not his thing. On the other hand, Vaiko can electrify audiences with his fire and brimstone.
But as a political commentator said, Vaiko has not done himself or his party, MDMK a favour, by just being an orator. Many decades ago, Karunanidhi was just such a speaker. Prof A R Venkatachalapathy of the MIDS remembers, "He would thunder and be so forceful that he would collapse on the stage exhausted. And partymen would rush to him with two raw eggs to revive him." But Karunanidhi evolved into an astute politician, a litterateur and a man with sharp governance skills whereas Vaiko has remained just an excellent orator with no matching political skills. Say Vaiko in Tamil Nadu and everyone conjures up a man who crossed to meet the LTTE in Jaffna, a man who went to jail for sedition, but not a man who fights for the Tamil on the street in the state.
Fight another day
But Vaiko may not have missed the bus totally if poll pundits’ predictions that Jayalalitha’s "unbeatable combination" will emerges triumphant comes true. Vaiko recently was all set to put on display his argumentative skills but had to hold back. Clad in a black coat, Vaiko went to court to argue MDMK’s propaganda secretary Nanjil Sampath's case. Sampath has been detained under NSA. But Justice C T Selvam, part of the Division Bench which was to hear the case, recused himself. And, Vaiko had to postpone to fight another day.
E Sarath Babu (29), CEO, Food King catering services, Independent from South Chennai constituency, on how he’ll come up with funds for the election: "We are allowed to spend Rs 25 lakh. I am already in the process of collecting donations. My promise is that not even one rupee for this election will come from my company and not one rupee from the campaign funds will go to my company."