‘Thalapathi’ leads from the front

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He has been the most visible face of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam campaign this Lok Sabha election. Even after having spent more than a month on a gruelling tour across Tamil Nadu, M.K. Stalin, party treasurer, remains unfazed by the scorching weather and the political heat that the DMK has faced in recent times.

‘Thalapathi’ (commander) to his partymen, 61-year-old Stalin has been spearheading the campaign as his father and party president M. Karunanidhi has to restrict himself to a few public meetings in view of his advancing age. But Mr. Stalin does not see himself as the spearhead. “You are exaggerating. I used to tour the State in every election. Perhaps, the media did not attach much importance to me then,” he says modestly, as we caught up with him on the campaign trail in the Perambalur constituency on Saturday.

Looking relaxed in his spotless dhoti and shirt, Mr.Stalin maintains that it is ‘Kalaignar’ who is leading the campaign and the party as always. He has already covered most parts of the State, including many southern districts, where his estranged brother M.K. Alagiri is supposed to hold sway. But he studiously avoids questions on Mr. Alagiri, whose expulsion from the party drew much attention, or any reference to the estrangement in his speeches.

On a typical day, Mr. Stalin addresses 10-12 meetings from his van before winding up the campaign with a rally. He takes an occasional break to have tea or tender coconut on the roadside and interact with people in villages and towns. “It helps in feeling the pulse of the people. It is clear that all sections are dissatisfied with AIADMK rule,” he claims.

The AIADMK government or rather the “lack of governance,” has been his election plank, apart from the need for a secular government.

Known in the past for monotonous speeches, Mr. Stalin now takes an interactive approach in colloquial language to connect with the audience. He starts off asking them, “How are you faring?” As the people respond positively, he probes further: “Do you get adequate drinking water supply? How about power supply?” As the crowd replies in the negative, he responds: “Then, how do you say you are doing fine?

He has done his homework to raise people’s issues and region-specific problems. He also highlights the projects implemented in those places during the DMK regime and those which have been put in “cold storage” now.

He also comes with quick rebuttals of allegations raised by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

Evidently, Mr. Stalin has been grown in stature within the party and in confidence. He is believed to have had a say on most matters within the party, right from decisions on alliance to choice of candidates and in directing the campaign. He also appears to have managed to bring his beleaguered party back in the reckoning now.

“When I started the campaign, I thought we will win 10 to 15 seats. Now I am sure we will win 30 to 35 seats,” he signs off.

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