Forgettable finale

Now that it’s all done and dusted at the hustings, the time is ripe for a threadbare analysis of the recent TN polls. There is something very important I wanted to comment on right at the outset, but well, I have forgotten what. I am sure I will remember during the course of my very discerning albeit disjointed observations that follow.

Just in case you find it difficult to recall now, the contest was five-cornered. Six, if you included Seemaan. Seven and even eight, if you counted some others who are even more difficult to recall; a confounding poll-scape on surface. But had you looked deep it was obviously a two-horse-race … no, make that a two-lame-horse-race, a straight fight. The rest were there to test the murky waters. And offer some diversion to our fatigued minds. That said, I am still struggling to recall the thing I forgot …

But the thing I remember very vividly is the searing summer that kept company to candidates right through their campaign. All smart scribes, me included, and primetime pundits, who sweated it out in cosy A/C cabins, predicting and projecting, can vouch for that. The heat wave made up for the absence of any political wave, for or against any one. The recurrent and rigorous May election is probably the only punishment meted out to our pompous politicos over the years. Some consolation. And yes, I remain clueless on what slipped my mind …

But as poll day dawned, tempers dipped as did the temperature. The summer that singed the sinning politicos relented for the sake of people. A humid morning slowly made way for a pleasant noon and soon, the skies opened up. While heavy downpours drenched much of TN, the rains in Chennai seemed like a sinister and symbolic signal. It was as if nature was getting a bit nostalgic and nudging Chennaiites about something. But then nature can only do this much. Memory, public and private, are short and slow on the take. If I can forget what I had thought of just the day-before-yesterday, wither December? In fact, about 40% of our neighbours could not remember there was a ballot battle underway or a booth barely a few blocks away!

In my view, the most important actor in this poll drama was Vaiko. His was a clinching cameo, a role that he played to perfection. Yes, his last minute pullout from the poll race was a comic interlude but I am not talking of that. Vaiko pulling out the Captain from the tightening clutches of the wily K was a coup of sorts. Let’s not ask if Vaiko was acting by his own self or for a sponsor. His was a classic, crafty, clinical inside job that finished the Captain decisively. Not that C needed any outside aid to implode, but he did possess a nuisance value that Vaiko blunted. By the way, I am as dazed as Captain, scratching my head over that punch point I had planned …

In this State’s poll tradition, freebies are deemed fair and fine. Foul money too. Still the EC made some formal and more than normal efforts to check them. For the first time, political parties are under scrutiny on whether their promises violate the model code and how they would fund or fulfil them. Again a total cash haul of Rs 100 cr plus is a historic high at the national level. Truly Numero Uno! In another shameful first, polls in two constituencies have been put off because of the ‘pernicious effect of money power’, to quote the EC. In a telling comment that indicts the State’s political class squarely for distributing money and other corrupt practices, the EC bemoans that the ‘Election Commissioner has not to fold his hands and pray to God for divine inspiration to enable him to exercise his functions and to perform his duties or to look to any external authority for the grant of power to deal with the situation’. But then even God finds the Rs 570 crs secret elusive! As elusive as the critical issue that is eluding me …

Look at it this way. Considering the market money laundering cost or a transit loss of 10%, can we extrapolate the cash that ‘escaped’ EC and IT dept’s eyes at about Rs 7000 Crs? Logical, is it not to surrender some petty pennies voluntarily to save precious pounds? The seized Rs 675 odd crs seems loose change!

Change! Got it. That’s what I wanted to write on and forgot. And change is something the people forgot too. Can’t blame them; and so small wonder that the victors have been decided by non-voters and NOTA and the resultant arithmetic absurdities. And those who did vote for a party, pained by the pointless power exchange between identical twins, took the easy, lazy way out: why rock the boat!

Well, let’s hope it keeps us afloat!

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Jawahar T R