The MDMK is having its conclave at Island Grounds today.

Politics in Tamil Nadu, over the past half a century, has had two distinct schools: fan clubs and political oratory. Yes, the odd protest movement has evened out the periodic person or party; largely though, the Tamil Nation has been a binary solution space.

Dravidian orator politicians are a vanishing tribe today. They speak Tamil with a diction that makes little practical sense and with sentence constructs far removed from how regular people speak the language in their everyday lives. It’s a tradition that has had a long and often elegant history. Born as a means to tackle the upper caste hegemony on politics that depended on speeches made in English with a British accent, it certainly was one of the pillars on which Tamil Nadu carved a distinct identity for itself. That cliché can only be understood in its entirety when one considers how different the state is – both in terms of its politics and the attitude of its peoples to the Indian state.

V Gopalsamy, or Vaiko[1] as he now calls himself, is possibly the last student of that class – one that speaks with rhetorical flourish in quasi classical Tamil. The speeches are always punctuated by pauses but are unlike Vajpayee’s. They almost always evoke history and make several detours into political philosophy. The current chief minister of the state used to be one of the great exponents of the art — before age and compulsions of coalition politics caught up with him. By the very nature of the current political structure in this country, the second tier of leaders in both kazhagams is not flamboyant. Speaking wise or otherwise.

The AIADMK, by its very nature, has been more a fan club than a political party. MGR wasn’t a great orator and Jaya isn’t either – and they don’t need to be as leaders of the other school. The Congress probably has the best speaker of Tamil, if in a non-Dravidian style — P Chidambaram. However, neither the Congress nor the finance minister can win anything by themselves in the state anyway. I haven’t heard Ramadoss speak three sentences in reasonable succession and Vijayakanth needs a camera.

Great oratory, by itself, has rarely won elections. It needs an emotive issue that fools voters, requires great orators who appear committed to a cause and a very low penetration of mass media. Since we now live in post Sun TV Tamil Nadu, the skill has been reduced to a niche. That is exactly where Vaiko comes in and where I hope to make my case.

My theory is: with the ageing of Karunanidhi and the lack of a suitable replacement for him within the DMK in terms of his training in Dravidian oratory and method, the DMK will be/ is already being forced to play the AIADMK’s game. MK Stalin speaks alright – but is no match for his father. The rest of the DMK has lost out partly because their patriarch is 85 and is still running the show. In such a scenario, if Jaya gets together a coalition that has her traditional fan base and the PMK’s 5% transferable vote – Vaiko will be the GUI on top that sprinkles Dravidian aura over everything.

I wanted to buy farm land. Naturally, I wasn’t given a home loan. Though, I must admit, it wasn’t all that natural until I was told, home loans are for homes.

……part II – to be continued.

[1] – In one of his trademark quips, M Karunanidhi, replying to a reporter’s question in 1996 about Vaiko having changed his name, said ‘avarathu katchiyayi polave, peyarum surungi vittathu’.

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