For one who is completely at ease in both Tamil and English, it is somewhat curious that All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa relies on a prepared text during her election campaign.
Ms. Jayalalithaa had a head-start over her rivals as she was not entangled in the process of alliance talks. In fact, she began her campaign even before seat-sharing was finalised with the Left parties. When she decided to snap ties with the Communists, she made it subtly, asking the voters to elect AIADMK candidates in all the 40 constituencies in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry instead of her party candidates and alliance partners.
Known to be an indefatigable campaigner once she gets into barnstorming mode, she flies in helicopters from place to place. On the campaign trail, she travels in a state-of-the-art campaign vehicle, while her party candidates will be in a separate van with folded hands. In emotionally charged speeches, she would reel out statistics in support of her arguments against her political rivals even as she also touches upon issues pertaining to constituencies in which she is campaigning. She rarely goes extempore, and when she does, her rivals find themselves at the receiving end.
“The election campaign is not a platform to showcase your oratory skills. She uses a prepared text as she does not like to veer away. She is not interested in the typical empty rhetoric of Dravidian leaders,” said an AIADMK MP.
Ms. Jayalalithaa normally gets into a conversational mode with the voters at the end of her speech, asking them whether they would comply with her request vote for her party and defeat the opposition. Neengal seiveergala? (Will you do it?) The crowd will respond with a resounding yes.
Even though in the early days of the campaign, she confined herself to attacking the Congress-led UPA and the DMK, which was the part of the ruling coalition until last year, Ms. Jayalalithaa began vehemently attacking her friend and BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi after realising that her silence on the BJP was not going down well with minorities further. Mr. Modi’s Gujarat model also came under withering attack, as she sought to position Tamil Nadu as more advanced and better developed than the Western State.
Her campaign in the last few days is being closely watched, as observers looked for subtle messages about her post-poll plans. Projected by her admirers and party functionaries as a prime ministerial candidate herself long before the campaign began, she became a strong advocate of a third front at the national level, along with the Left parties in the run-up to polls. Later, she broke off with the Communist parties, but again reiterated that a non-Congress, non-BJP front may be in the running. This was possibly after she sensed that parties which are not part of the Congress and the BJP combine are gaining ground in some parts of the country.
Ms. Jayalalithaa has in the past begun her campaign with a visit to one of favourite temples, like the Vadivudaiamman temple in Tiruvottiyur, a suburb of Chennai and an ancient coastal settlement. This time, she visited the temple only on Sunday.