The stage was set; but the chairs, labelled with the names of the MLAs, remained empty even as hundreds of citizens and activists gathered at Valluvar Kottam.
Jayaram Venkatesan, Convener of Arappor Iyakkam, which facilitated this movement, said that all the 122 MLAs were invited through various means. “We were not really surprised that the MLAs didn’t show up to interact with the people who voted them into power,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by 99% of those who were present at the gathering. Prasad K, a 47-year-old freelance filmmaker, said, “I don’t think any of us expected the MLAs to show up. If they did, we would have been in a better situation. Every citizen wants to express his anger over the political situation in the state. This was a platform for us to express our frustration with the system.”
Alamu R, who is pursuing a PhD in political science said, “I was interested to see if the MLAs would show up, just to interact with the crowd. But that did not happen.”
The morning saw discussions on the political disarray, interspersed by cultural performances and skits. Renowned Carnatic vocalist T M Krishna, who sang about the importance of Porambokku land, said it was wonderful that young people are coming together and creating such a platform.
“Tamil Nadu has reached a tipping point, where we finally feel that politics is something we all have to engage in. Unfortunately, it has come to this for us to respond. This is a great idea and it is only the beginning. There is a long way to go,” said the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award.
(A group of women perform a skit at Valluvar Kottam)
Krishna also encouraged the audience to question their elected representatives. “We don’t believe we are equals. The question of power and position changes the equation with which we deal with these people. If they get the platform, we believe that they are superior and above us. And there is a palpable fear in the state. This fear is real and is a threat. We should realise that we can collectively fight it together, bring issues to the public eye. That energy should be there,” he stated.
Parthasarathy V M, an urban farmer, said the government’s lack of focus on people’s welfare was the reason behind his participation. “There are so many things – corruption, environmental issues, farmer suicides - among others. But there is a lack of apathy from the government. My friends and I wanted to voice our views, tell the government to stop doing nothing,” he said.
Hari, a 31-year-old businessman from Chepauk, said, “There is no confidence in the government. I came here to tell our elected representatives to focus on problems faced by the people.”
The event also saw the organisers calling up the MLAs in front of the crowd, to find out the reason behind their absence. While most of the calls went unanswered, some of the Personal Assistants’ who attended the call hung up when they found out the reason behind the call.
Later, youngsters wearing masks of MLAs took to the stage, to portray the political situation. A confidence motion regarding the current government was passed by the attendees.
“The people did a vote of no confidence, as the MLAs didn’t represent the people’s interests, neither at Koovathur nor here, to address the problems faced by the public. Around 730 votes against the government was registered at Valluvar Kottam. If we include the including online votes, the count will go up to 1,112. The votes for the government were only six in total. We will be sending this to the President of India, expressing our dissatisfaction with our current government,” concluded Jayaram.