In the elections to the Representative Assembly in 1955, poet Bharathidasan rented an elephant for campaigning
It was the then Pondicherry’s elections to the Representative Assembly in 1955 that brought an elephant to the town. Poet Bharathidasan, who fought elections from the Kasikadai assembly constituency, was the one who took an elephant on rent from nearby Thirukoilur.
“The People’s Front, which was led by the Communists, fought the elections with the elephant symbol and since Puducherry didn’t have an elephant at that time and they wanted to show voters an elephant, which is why he brought it here. The sheer sight of the elephant walking on the streets was enough. People used to just walk along and watch the pachyderm making its way around,” recalled Tamil scholar and the poet’s son Mannarmannan.
The poet had to shell out a few thousands towards 15 days’ rent for the elephant but the Front won 20 seats in the Assembly that year. Unlike now when campaign vehicles just whiz by, old-timers recall that in the past campaigns in Puducherry have always been a time for leaders to meet families.
“Leaders, including ‘Papa’ Goubert, used to strike up casual conversations with voters as they were familiar with the families. They used to have the time to go to each and every house as the constituency sizes were quite small. They wouldn’t even ask for votes. They would sit on the thinnai and strike up a conversation and other residents too would join in,” recalled N. Nandivarman, political historian.
Mike sets and petromax lights used to be lugged on cycles and two-wheelers and set up in open spaces in villages. “Unlike the present when political parties pay cadres for attending party meetings, people used to voluntarily attend meetings. In the 1969 elections, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran came to Puducherry and when his motorcade entered the town, people were seen prostrating on M.G. Road. He was very fair and people thought he was a god,” Mr. Nandivarman said.
M. Govindan, who is now in his 50s, recalls how as a youngster he has run along with political parties carrying the party symbols.