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A trademark shawl and fiery rhetoric

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MDMK general secretary Vaiko addressing a meeting in Chennai.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko addressing a meeting in Chennai.

S. Dorairaj

Chennai

Gripping the ends of the red-bordered black shawl, Vaiko launches into his election speech: his target is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and he wades into the attack in his trademark style. It's a scene that is by now familiar to crowds across Tamil Nadu.

The general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) is the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance's one-man demolition squad for the coming elections.

Given the task of taking the DMK head on, Mr. Vaiko (aka as "puratchi puyal" or revolutionary storm) has come out with all guns blazing against the AIADMK's traditional rival. His fiery rhetoric is directed against what he calls DMK president M. Karunanidhi's "dynastic politics and business interest."

He is the iron fist in the velvet glove of AIADMK general secretary and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who has confined her speeches to highlighting her Government's achievements.

Innuendo, impromptu digs and an informal dialect combine to produce a volatile cocktail to woo the voters in his campaign speeches across the State.

After his release from the Vellore Jail, where he was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Mr. Vaiko was the Democratic Progressive Alliance's poster boy against the "draconian law" in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

The erstwhile ally of the DMK is today it's most vocal opponent, emerging as the AIADMK camp's biggest crowd-puller, next only to Ms. Jayalalithaa. He is in many ways the star campaigner for the alliance, particularly after the sudden illness of AIADMK chairman K. Kalimuthu. His explosive campaigning drew the ultimate compliment from Ms. Jayalalithaa herself. "My younger brother Vaiko has launched a scintillating campaign," she told reporters recently.

Warm references

Ms. Jayalalithaa followed the warm references to Mr. Vaiko with a visit to his village home in Kalingapatti, where she called on his mother Mariammal. Observers saw the move as primarily aimed at dispelling the impression that the MDMK leader's mother did not relish ties between the two parties for the Assembly polls.

But it's not all smooth going. His political adversaries say Mr. Vaiko is an "opportunist" who has joined the AIADMK-led alliance for reasons that are not political. They point to the fact that it was the Jayalalithaa Government, which detained him under POTA for 19 months.

He has had other embarrassing moments too: Ms. Jayalalithaa came out with the promise of 10 kg of free rice, when he was arguing powerfully that the DMK's promise of supplying 20 kg rice at Rs. 2 per kg was not feasible.

Mr. Vaiko has also been virulently attacking the 13 UPA Ministers from Tamil Nadu for not helping the State get adequate funds for relief in areas hit by the tsunami and floods.

The "stormy petrel" of Tamil Nadu politics, Mr. Vaiko has had to place his pet themes such as the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils and the Sethusamudram ship channel project on the backburner because of the MDMK's association with the AIADMK.


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