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Friday, March 18, 2011

(Published in on 18th March, 2011, retrieved from

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The vernacular media had a field day on March 17, filling their pages with analysis, accusations and grievances against sundry parties in their reportage of Jayalalithaa’s move in denying her allies the constituencies they had demanded.

However, Dinamalar seemed less agitated by the AIADMK’s announcement than the Election Commission’s rules. Its lead story goes, “This time round, the Election Commission has announced a plethora of new rules, which have left parties, voters and even officials confused.”

The newspaper does have a point, though. Among the stranger regulations was this one – “All posters, hoardings and posts bearing part flags or the faces of members should be removed from public places, and the colours on them removed.”

But even more bewildering is the urban discrimination of the EC; it has reportedly said, “Only in rural areas, and with the permission of the owner, can political parties put up wall advertisements. But no posters, banners or photos can be put up.” What exactly the content of the wall advertisements can be remains unclear.

This injunction may seem a little weird, especially given the cost of liquor in TASMAC shops – “People cannot carry more than Rs. 1 lakh cash or more than three bottles of alcohol.” Clearly, there is a connection between these two entities, which none of us can fathom.

Not all newspapers were distracted by the rules, though.

‘Why did Jayalalithaa abandon Andipatti?’ screams website OneIndia. We’re not sure whether the writer of this piece has a bone to pick with Jayalalithaa, Brahmins, soothsayers or deserters of Andipatti as it declares, “after being warned that winning would be very, very difficult if she contested from any area near Madurai thanks to heavyweight Central minister Azhagiri, ADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa has decided to contest from Srirangam, which is largely populated by people of her Brahmin caste.”

However, the report contradicts itself, suggesting Jayalalithaa had considered contesting from several other constituences, including some in the northern part of Tamil Nadu, and arrived at Srirangam by elimination, as her earlier preferences were strongholds of the DMK and its allies. It goes on to mention the ‘plethora of corruption cases’ against Jayalalithaa, and reasons that the AIADMK chief won at Andipatti in 2002 thanks to former Tamil Nadu governor Fathima Beevi, whom it christens her fairy godmother.

It leaves the reader with this nugget of a conundrum - “Since the time of MGR, ADMK’s enormous vote bank of the Mukkulathor community was being safeguarded by Jayalalithaa with Sasikala’s help. So, she has been contesting bravely from Andipatti. But in the past few elections, though she won, it has become obvious that the people of Andipatti have cast her aside. So, having been forced into a corner, Jayalalithaa ruled out Andipatti and will contest from the place where her fellow-Brahmins dominate by numbers. At this juncture, it may be noted that she said her roots are in Srirangam!”

This insightful piece then informs its readers, “former Minister Pandurangan, despite having a big moustache, slaps himself – sorry, touches himself – on the cheeks when he sees Jayalalithaa.” This article evidently tries to convey that he wasn’t given a seat despite this intriguing quirk. It ends with a note that Jayalalithaa will begin her campaign in Madurai on March 18.

An earlier report from the same agency said the MDMK scheduled a high-level ‘emergency meeting’ for March 19, four days after Jayalalithaa said she was willing to give the party only 8 seats, though they had hoped for 16. It quoted anonymous party cadre as chorusing, “when so many people betrayed Jayalalithaa’s trust, we stood as firm as mountains; we never thought she would behave this way.”

The report also states that MDMK leader Vaiko had maintained a calm silence and shown extreme patience, realising these qualities were integral to the self-esteem of his party after a snub from their ally (though other newspapers hinted that he may head a Third Front in response to Jayalalithaa’s affront – umm, that was not intended to rhyme).

The agency then accuses Jayalalithaa of having an unjustifiable degree of pride after bringing DMDK leader Vijaykanth into her fold. The actor, whose honorific is ‘Captain’, is most famous for making a transformer burst with the electric impulses of his nerve endings when the movie villain tried to electrocute him; this feat was only topped by his performing a complicated surgery by the light of a mobile phone.

Sadly, the significance of this paled when Rajnikanth’s Robot performed a Caesarean without a brain, in the middle of a fight with its lady love, and assisted by a team of students. Some may argue that Aamir Khan and the other two Idiots had outdone both when they used car batteries and a mobile phone to deliver a baby.

However, we digress.

Dinathanthi manages to report Jayalalithaa’s announcement, without evident prejudice, while subtly including a report in its latter pages on the benevolence of Karunanidhi in bestowing 63 seats on the Congress.

DMK party mouthpiece Murasoli, which Karunanidhi claims is the first child he fathered (his sexagenarian children continue to be ‘young leaders’) and the one he is proudest of (his other offspring have shown more grey shades than the newsprint), cheerfully ignores developments on the AIADMK front on its website, while focusing on the grace with which the DMK patriarch gave the Congress the seats it wanted.

Dinamani’s headlines read, ‘ADMK’s list of candidates: Communists shocked!’ After saying the Marxist-Communist parties had “emphasised that AIADMK should withdraw its candidates from the areas in which the Left wishes to contest”, it quotes a complicated press release from the Left bloc. The gist of the press release, which speaks of several meetings between several committees of spokespersons, seems to be that this move from their ally has left them shocked, as the meetings ended only an hour before the announcement.

A user comment on the online version of the article had sage advice for the Left. It reads “Hi, dear communist. If you want, please join Karthik or TR. All the seats will go to you. Enjoy!”

While actor-director-cameraman-music director-editor-writer-universal brother T Rajendar, who is sometimes better known as Simbu’s father, has not made news recently, actor Karthik – who was last seen leaping from pillar to post in Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan – is reported to have broken ties with the ‘back-stabbing’ Jayalalithaa, lauded Karunanidhi’s magnanimity, and announced that his party will field candidates for 40 seats.

Unfortunately, an astute reporter points out that many of these seats don’t exist anymore. In a report titled ‘Karthik’s party, which contests even from nonexistent areas!’, the scribe says, “Actor Karthik, the chief of All India Naadaalum Makkal Katchi, announced that the party would contest from 40 constituencies, and released a list of candidates too. However, this contained constituencies that ceased to exist after delimitation, such as Cheranmahadevi, Saathaankulam, Kadalaadi, Ilaiyaankudi, Samayanallur and others. Thus, he has announced his intentions to contest from nonexistent places.”

The piece went on to quote him as telling reporters, complete with ellipsis, “We ha-ave writte-en a ADMK party General Secretary Jayalalithaa...madam. We did this in four sides, four pages. I don’t want to think again about why we came out.”

The reporter, having announced that he is running out of space to use ellipsis, quickly sums up the actor’s ode to Vaiko. The report finally chides Jayalalithaa for allowing Karthik into her fold despite his poor geographical skills, and cautions the actor to make sure the cars he uses for canvassing are provided with engines.

Nakkeeran chose to focus on Karunanidhi, who held a press conference late on Wednesday night. When asked about the ADMK planning to contest from Communist constituencies, he reportedly said, “I don’t peep into the next house or the opposite one.” The reply was greeted by titters, though the report did not say whether the source of mirth was perceived wit, or a mental image of the octogenarian negotiating his wheelchair over the fences that separate good neighbours.


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