Traffic moves at snail’s pace both ways on Broadway, a misnomer for a narrow road in one of the city’s oldest parts. Fluttering in the air, along with AIADMK flags, are the red and yellow flags of the Akila India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK).
Unmindful of the noisy activity around him, an AIADMK worker comes close to a two-wheeler and peers into its mirror. He suddenly pierces one of his ears with a safety pin and fastens a paper badge displaying Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s picture. The party worker quickly removes it and attaches another badge to the pin and again pierces his ear. To onlookers startled by his bleeding ear, he merely winks and moves on.
The party loyalist was only readying himself for the arrival of the AISMK leader and popular actor, R. Sarathkumar, who campaigned for the AIADMK’s Chennai Central candidate at Broadway on Saturday.
Waiting among hundreds of partymen and members of the public on either side of the road is M.A. Xavier, North Chennai AISMK secretary. He dials a number to check whether his leader had left. “He is on his way,” conveys Xavier, a native of Idayankudi in Tirunelveli, but settled in Chennai. The loudspeakers then instantly blare, namma naattaamai paadham pattaa, a song from Sarathkumar-starrer Naattaamai.
Shortly later, Mr. Sarathkumar arrives in a campaign vehicle, amid slogans hailing him as ‘unga veetu pillai, ‘puratchi thilagam’ and ‘supreme star’.
“This election to the Lok Sabha is unique, as it will decide the future of the next generation. There are many alliances in the State, and I am here to explain why I am campaigning for the AIADMK,” he says.
“The Congress ruled the country for the last 10 years and the DMK was also part of the government for nine years. The country witnessed the unprecedented 2G spectrum scam,” thundered the actor.
He mentions the name of DMDK leader Vijayakant and pauses for a second. As the crowd burst into laughter, he says: “It is not an occasion to laugh but think aloud.”
Mr. Sarathkumar contends that though the DMDK and the PMK are mutually antagonistic parties, they have come together to form an opportunistic alliance.
Reacting to DMK treasurer M.K. Stalin’s poser to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa whether she was ready for a debate, Mr. Sarathkumar says Mr. Stalin, who has always found one reason or the other to walk out of the Assembly, has no right to challenge the Chief Minister. “Is he ready for a debate with me?” he asks.
As Mr. Sarathkumar winds up his speech, a few partymen present him with shawls. He tosses them in the wind, and the crowd vies with one another to collect the fabrics.