Chennai: People, particularly the simple types not quite exposed to the university texts and the lecturing from media experts, love a fighter. They fell in love with the sword-swinging, duet-singing MGR when he was ejected from the DMK after being accused of treachery by party chief M. Karunanidhi and he fought back launching his own ADMK; they loved Jayalalithaa when she was pushed off MGR's cortege by his widow's army and she clawed her way back onto the centrestage defying all rules of the male-dominated Dravidian politics.
The electorate in RK Nagar is, mostly, the not-so-educated and the not-so-rich kind. Almost 70 per cent of the 2.28 lakh voters are factory workers or fishermen. These simpletons have now fallen in love with a suave politico who hides beneath his warm smile his coldblooded gladiator skills.
"Look at the way he is standing up to all the threats and intimidation from the Edappadi government on the one side and Modi's taxmen raids and ED cases on the other side. He is a one-man army taking on both the BJP regime at the Centre and the EPS-OPS government here. He is not just the underdog fighting Goliath; TTV appears a romantic mix of super-strategist Machiavelli and the ever-winning swordsman MGR", said a long-time trader in RK Nagar, who insists he began as a TTV hater but now he's "not so sure".
Like this trader and his teacher-wife, there are many in the constituency and elsewhere in the state who admit they are awestruck over the manner TTV has been battling the terrible odds thrown up by the post-Jaya jolts, such as the Supreme Court conviction and jailing of aunt Sasikala, his own arrest in the case alleging attempt to bribe Election Commission for securing the AIADMK symbol, the Enforcement Directorate sword over his head, the loss of the symbol, and so on.
He had no problem facing the bypoll in April (since cancelled) wearing a thoppi (cap) and now he faced no problem with his pressure cooker. Any other independent would have lost his deposit. And TTV did not appear boastful saying the Two-Leaves symbol ceased to matter since it fell in the wrong hands. "You can be sure that soon he will gain control of the party", said a former AIADMK minister.
Even a rustic fisherwoman has a robust interpretation of TTV's hold on the RK Nagar electorate. "Money is not the real reason for his good show here as his rival camp too distributed bit money. We see ourselves as a CM's constituency and have confidence in TTV becoming a CM someday soon. You cannot say that of poor Madhusudanan, right?"
There are other solid reasons behind the RK Nagar verdict and the growing TTV clout in TN politics. "People really believe TTV will deliver on his threat to pull down this government in less than three months", said a state bureaucrat, who had closely monitored the RK Nagar proceedings and "was convinced fairly early in the campaign that the battle is only to determine the second place between the ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK". For obvious reasons, the officer did not want to be named.
The nonchalant manner in which he had lashed out at the police - he had even named the state intelligence chief in accusing him of functioning as the ruling party's handmaiden in the bypoll - besides attacking the top leaders in the government, and picking massive holes in the media's pre-poll predictions that had virtually written him off, will only win him more fans among the people across the state. "We should not be surprised if in the months to come, the political battleground in our state will have only two main contestants, Stalin and TTV", said
TTV has drawn first blood in the December 21 bypoll and he has promised there would be more scalps up his hungry dagger than just this poor old Madhusudanan in the days to come. The threat should rob the sleep for many in the government, particularly considering that the challenger has been insisting he has 'sleeper cells' he could activate anytime within the ruling camp....