Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 1, April 16-30, 2019

Short ‘N’ Snappy

Canvassing like Cheshire Cats

It is getting to be hotter than the hinges of Hades already but nothing deters the band of volunteers. The Man from Madras Musings alludes to the campaigners of the various parties as they go around the different areas of our city, palms pressed together in greeting, the face permanently split into a wide smile and the back bent in a posture of supplication. Long after they are gone, their smile remains. How they keep up this yogic posture and attitude for entire days and weeks may be a mystery to many. Not so to MMM, who has an explanation – all the torturing of the body is offset by the five years of rest that the elected representatives get. For that matter some of the defeated ones relax too – some of these people manifest themselves only during election time.

As in every election, MMM notices that there are the quixotic candidates, the ones who come from professional backgrounds and take to politics with the hope that they can make a difference – all in one election of course. These are easily identified from their entourage, which is a handful of people. They go from door to door, introducing themselves to the voters. The latter are polite, and smile back. They know that this is the least they can do for someone who is bound to lose his/her deposit. These independent hopefuls receive an inordinate amount of media coverage, in the space that is usually reserved for people who cycle across the land or walk from continent to continent. MMM can still remember the paper coverage given to a group of NRIs, who gave up their cushy jobs, came to Chennai a few decades back, formed a party and stood for elections. Not one made it to Parliament and they have not been heard of since. Perhaps they are back to their cushy NRI jobs. As for their promises to stay on and improve society, well well…

A couple of elections ago, an actress known for her sterling portrayals on screen contested a seat on the same clean image platform. She came a cropper and as far as MMM can see, she is back to acting, lending her voice, playing some roles in cinema and being the central character in a dreadful TV serial. The problem is, not one of these people have opted to stick on in politics. They just hoped to make it big within a few weeks. When that did not happen, they moved on.

You need to compare this with the ones that stay on. These are the kinds that nurture constituencies, irrespective of victory or defeat. Do your duty and bother not about the fruits of your actions said the voice of God and these people are true followers of that dictum. They stick around. They organise rallies and political meetings. They dig the local platforms to erect party banners and block streets to put up stages for their leader’s speech. On leaders’ birthday and (as it happened in the recent past) day of death, they are around, organising poor feeding on a big scale with some liquid refreshments thrown in. If the water supply fails they organise protests.

They are around when there are floods, riots, fire or famine. Once in a while they encroach public space to conduct a celebration or two, or put up a water-dispensing kiosk. They are dab hands at funerals knowing everything from flower arrangements, to drum beaters to dancers to the supply of the stuff that cheers.

Whom would you vote for? MMM would any day select this latter variety as compared to these airy-fairies who suddenly appear promising clean Government.

Election eccentricities

These elections have, like the previous ones, seen the Election Commission going on overdrive. The first indication of this is of course the police stopping you at various places in the city, to check if you are carrying cash. The Man from Madras Musings was checked a record four times and disappointed the law. MMM’s car, was like his bank account – it did not have any cash. But the modus operandi of the checks had MMM mighty amused.
Firstly, the police force lurks under trees and mind you, MMM is not blaming them, such being the heat. They jump out at you and one of them imperiously waves you to a stop. Another records the entire proceeding on video. Officers 3 and 4 check the boot, look under seats, pat the roof of your car and ask you to open any bags that may be there. Throughout the search one man is employed only to keep apologising to you.

All this is of course nothing when compared to the Election Commission’s statute on statues. All those of a political hue have been covered in plastic winding sheets. This of course does not include the Father of the Nation (MMM wonders if he is that unwanted) but the rest are all securely trussed up. MMM for one cannot see the logic behind this but he understands from higher ups that many statues are of leaders who are associated with one party or the other and so they may unduly influence the voters. The point however is that these statues have been around for decades and even if they are covered people will know who they are given that our leaders are portrayed in standard postures only. Thus the Law Giver is shown clutching a book, always in a blue suit and with one arm raised. The Older Brother when standing flashes a V and when seated reads a book. The Elder when seated is reading and when standing is leaning on a stick and making a point. Revolutionary Leader flashes the V like his Elder Brother and as for Mother, she too flashes the V. Old Uncle, now much vilified, is seen freeing a dove. These are so ingrained in our minds that shroud or not, we can recognise who they are. And so what has the EC achieved by getting them all up to look like some horror play involving Roman Senators?

And continuing on the same note, is it not then necessary for all streets bearing the names of Older Brother, Artist, Elder, Law Giver, Matinee Idol, Mother, etc to also have their signboards covered up? Or is that asking for too much? After all bus stations that carry the name of the MP whose funds enabled their construction have had all signage crossed out with pink paint. And so have walls with election graffiti. And how then did old Central Station suddenly in the midst of all this righteousness have its name changed to Revolutionary Leader Central Station? And during the next elections will it be referred to as Ahem Ahem Central Station? Just Asking.

Tailpiece

On renaming Central, The Man from Madras Musings feels the Government has done Revolutionary Leader’s memory a disservice. The correct name ought to have been Puratchi Thalaivar Makkal Thilakam Ponmana Chemmal Engal Thangam Vadyar Meenava Nanban Maduraiyai Meeta Sundarapandiyan Bharat Ratna Manbumigu Dr MG Ramachandran Central Station. Oh wait, Chennai is missing. We can add it somewhere or it may not be necessary.

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