Missing in Action
DMDK chief Vijaykanth has been missing in action for a long time, even at a time when other parties are ratcheting up their pitch for the local body elections to be held next month. Going AWOL appears to be his signature tune. Even in the run-up to the elections he played hooky at a meeting in Coimbatore where all allies shared the stage with AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha. Even when Jayalalitha marked the 100th day milestone as CM, Vijaykanth, who is the opposition leader in the assembly, did not show up. Joining the long line of legislators who lavish praise on Amma is not his style. When she threw an iftar party last week, again he was conspicuous by his absence. She returned the compliment by not coming to his iftar party later in the week while he crowed and preened and tucked into the repast.
There is suspense over whether the AIADMK and DMDK will be in alliance at the local body poll. But Vijayakant has not blotted his copybook by functioning as an opposition even if his silence – he barely attended the assembly for more than an hour every day during the budget session and made no waves for someone who used to spew fire and brimstone at the DMK before the assembly poll – makes one wonder whether he is still her ally. The buzz is that he is going to demand three of the 10 mayoral posts (the state government will be reverting to direct election to the posts of mayor and chairman of municipalities and town panchayats) and around 30 per cent of the seats. And after the mandate she got in the assembly election, Jayalalitha is hardly likely to be accommodating!
A taste of her intention to play hardball was evident in the assembly this week when she snapped at two of the rookie MLAs of the DMDK. Their attempts to speak in the assembly might help them score high points but when it comes to doing homework on issues they wanted to bring up, their preparation was sketchy. And Jayalalitha ticked them off about making sweeping statement. She told DMDK MLA K Pandia Rajan, the head honcho at MaFoi consultancy, that he needs to learn about the state before speaking in the assembly. It’s possibly not to get rapped on the knuckles like this that Vijayakanth is keeping a lower profile!
A Tamilian Speaks Up
Actor Vijay is using his reel life to shine the spotlight on his political future. Recently newspapers splashed his photographs showing him donating cows. Last week, he went to Madurai for the audio launch of his film Vellayudham and used the platform to donate 40 computers to students. While actor Aamir Khan cornered all the glory for being on the platform with Anna Hazare recently, people in Tamil Nadu know that Vijay made a day’s trip to Delhi to lend support to Annna Hazare’s cause. All this will be leveraged at the local body elections now that he’s decided to test the political waters.
And unlike Vijayakanth, who ignores Amma and the AIADMK, he very clearly has decided to piggy back on the ruling party to make political gains. His father, S A Chandrasekhar, said, “We have a cordial relationship with the AIADMK. So I have told Vijay Makkal Iyakkam fans to co-ordinate with local AIADMK leaders and stand as candidates.” The Iyakkam had supported the AIADMK during the assembly elections and now it is time for the latter to return the favour.
But Vijay ruffled the feathers of the Hindu Makkal Katchi when posters put up during his Madurai trip for Velayudham depicted him as Lord Shiva – rudraksha mala, cobra coiled around his neck et al. The Katchi was also incensed at these words on the poster: God created human beings, but Vijay created God! What added more fuel to the fire is that Vijay is a Christian.
The poster was removed immediately and it was left for Vijay to apologise. But accusing his detractors of trying to turn the issue “toxic”, Vijay said, “I have told my fans clearly: Do not depict or compare me with gods.” He also warned his fans of “severe action if they are found indulging in such activities.”
Claiming that he was sponsoring the education of 1,000 students all over the state, Vijay said “I am someone who looks beyond factors such as caste, creed and religion and value human beings for what they are.” And this comment of his should fetch votes: " I have scores of fans and over 50 people who work for me. I don’t know their caste religion or community. All I know is the Tamilian community.”
Politicians are all about tokenism, symbolism and name changing. And CM Jayalalitha, for all the praise she has garnered particularly over fixing former DMK biggies on the land grab issue, is all about overturning DMK policies, schemes and other cosmetic changes like changing names. It’s not Singara Chennai anymore. CM Jayalalitha last week corrected her housing minister R Vaithilingam who did a bit of grandstanding and said “Under the dynamic leadership of amma” Chennai would be beautified under the “Singara Chennai” scheme. Jayalalitha sharply rebutted him, “Singara Chennai is DMK’s slogan, our motto is Ezhil miku Chennai (More Elegant Chennai).” But said a resident bitterly after seeing various roads overflowing with sewage every time it rains, “They should call it Sakaddai (sewage/garbage) Chennai.”
Another One Bites the Dust?
How Chennai is going to turn elegant when the stinky Cooum is getting dirtier than sewage and spreads its noxious fumes in all parts where it criss-crosses the metropolis beats me. All expectation is the Jayalalitha government is going to scrap the Rs 1200 crore Cooum river (and Adyar river) clean-up scheme, a dream project of former deputy chief minister MK Stalin. Public works minister KV Ramalingam was quoted as saying, “The DMK government had done nothing on the ground. They just visited Singapore and held discussions with the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise. Our government has decided to scrap the project in its present form. The CM has instructed us to work out a viable alternative. Amma will announce it soon.”
The Chennai River Restoration Trust, was set up for the cleaning. The DMK government had signed an MOU with the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), an agency of the Singapore government, and was expected to present its master plan in February 2012. It was brought in because it had worked a miracle on Singapore and Kallang rivers, once as filthy and stinky as the Cooum. But now the buzz is that SCE will be shown the door and an Indian consultant will be brought in instead.
Incidentally, CRRT was given a World Bank funding of Rs 22.41 crore in March this year towards development of its irrigation potential. Improving the irrigation efficiency of Cooum upstream was one of the main objectives of the project. The upper region of the Cooum, mainly Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts, were to benefit from the funding. The then nodal officer of CRRT, Gandhimathi Nathan, had said the approved amount would be used for the rehabilitation of 60 irrigation tanks in Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur. “Some of these tanks have depleted because of urbanisation. We are trying to restore most of these water bodies in the upper stream of the Cooum,” he said. Restoration will have to wait now.