A tale of two sides of a road

Cathedral Road has been the scene of action at every election since 1991

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:04 am IST

Published - May 12, 2015 12:00 am IST - CHENNAI:

For years now, key political battles in Tamil Nadu have been fought on either side of this stretch – Cathedral Road. On either side live the heads of the two Dravidian parties that have, in recent political history, ruled Tamil Nadu nearly alternatively.

This road has been an omniscient presence, watching as joy erupted on one side, matched with sorrow on the other, for years as the political fortunes of two Chief Ministers were being written by the people of the State.

With Poes Garden — the home of AIADMK supremo and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa — on one side and Gopalapuram, the home of former Chief Minister and leader of the DMK M. Karunanidhi on the other side, Cathedral Road has been the scene of action during every election since 1991.

As fortune favoured one side, and let down the other side, party members and supporters of these leaders celebrated and mourned in turn, in addition to trading insults and sometimes, even blows. Some of them even crossed over, at times, switching allegiances, nearly as fickle as the wind that blows. After all, it was just across the road.

And it was on the road that the poster wars were fought too. Singularly sycophantic and reflecting the mood of the government in power, posters and hoardings often take the war of bad puns on either side of the Dravidian spectrum to the street.

In praise of their own leaders, and sometimes, with a tinge of lumpenism, comments in bad taste about the opposition, these posters have even gone viral on social media and generated a culture of memes, all by themselves.

At all times, on both sides of the road, is an army of policemen standing, in turns round the clock. Whether obtrusive or not depends on which side of the road is in power. Both leaders enjoy high security clearance, Z+, necessitating the presence of security forces.

On Monday, the stretch was yet again the scene of action after the verdict in the disproportionate assets case was delivered.

With Ms. Jayalalithaa being acquitted, Poes Garden burst out in celebration while a pall of gloom descended over Gopalapuram, quite the opposite of what happened in September 2014 when the trial court judge convicted her.

As they say, every story has two sides. In political Tamil Nadu, they are on either side of the same road.

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