In an election where no medium was spared by political parties, which bombarded voters with political content, a host of things stood out in the mercurial poll campaign. Prominent among them are DMK youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin’s ‘AIIMS brick’ remarks, AIADMK Minister Mafoi K Pandiarajan’s morphed video of deceased medical aspirant Anitha of Ariyalur, faux pas of DMK deputy general secretary A Raja vis-à-vis Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s mother, BJP candidate Vanathi Srinivasan’s ‘lip service’ comment and Radha Ravi’s unquotable remarks about MNM leader Kamal Haasan.
Udhayanidhi stands out among the rest, as his critique made such waves among the voters that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to respond to it during his visit to Madurai for a campaign. The DMK youth wing secretary should owe his success also to the nondescript BJP member, who lodged a police complaint, accusing Stalin junior of stealing AIIMS hospital. The complaint gave a shot in the arm to Udhay that he was urged by the people to pull out the brick soon during the second leg of his campaign.
Unsurprisingly, A Raja’s controversial speech allegedly about the Chief Minister’s mother, for which he had tendered an apology and was also barred from campaigning for 48 hours, was another talking point of the campaign. While the DMK had successfully controlled the damage, if any, by tendering an apology and cautioning speakers, the ruling AIADMK-BJP combine took comfort in Raja’s faux pas owing to paucity of issues on the field. That the Prime Minister had raked it up in his campaign speech, which was not appreciated by critics, and the Chief Minister cared to mention it even in the concluding statement demonstrated the extent to which the issue was blown out. Any sympathy or interest kindled by Modi’s critique of Raja’s comment was diffused instantly by Radha Ravi’s unquotable and Vanathi’s ‘lip service’ comments, which internalised the fact that derogatory comments were common among all parties.
The entire campaign would be incomplete without at least a mention of the DMK led secular alliance candidates’ Twitter invitation to the PM to increase their vote margin. Sarcasm apart, the social media invite of the Opposition parties to the most popular rival leader summed up the political undercurrent of the campaign. In the same breath, the tension triggered by alleged saffron party members during BJP leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s visit to Coimbatore and vitriol of a battery of Sangh leaders, who visited the State in support of their BJP candidates, was another feature that one cannot avoid mentioning.
The relative silence of proponents of change like MNM’s Kamal Haasan, Naam Tamilar Katchi’s Seeman, AMMK-DMDK combines TTV Dinakaran and Premalatha Vijayakanth, who largely cocooned themselves in their respective constituencies resonated in the minds of voters, who are once again left with the political dichotomy of DMK and AIADMK. Also, the exhausting ad blitz of almost all political parties in conventional and new media in the last month and a half would signal a paradigm shift in the way campaigns are run in the Dravidian hinterland.