BY C JAYANTHI

Everyone’s large than life these days, especially on the walls and billboards. No surprise there as it’s election season. Here in Chennai, it’s Amma everywhere; she’s hijacked the public space meant for other uses. But her followers are blind to everything else; their only concern is that people should notice her, humbly bowing to the voter. The other day, walking in the park, I heard a couple of men, morning walkers like me, joking about joining the Aam Aadmi Party.

They said, “Anyone can join the party in Tamil Nadu. I’m planning to offer my candidature. Of course, you have to pay for everything. The party can’t provide monetary support. But will I save my deposit?”

The pitch is high. I even saw Rajiv Gandhi’s portraits on a busy street, the Congress party no doubt hoping to cash in on his martyrdom, given that Amma wants to free his assassins. It’s open season in every sense of the word as politicians gear up to beg the citizen for the all-important vote.

I saw M. K. Stalin’s picture with his wife, garlands around their necks, as though they were just married. Party campaigners park their cars wherever they please, even in the middle of the road, never mind if it causes a traffic jam. After all, they’re flying the Indian flag and engaged on work of national importance. As the fever rises, so does the decibel level, with loudspeakers blaring out the leaders’ message, begging for the voter’s attention. Invisible for most of the last four years, the politician is suddenly everywhere, a high voltage, high visibility figure, glad-handing everyone in sight. As for the city’s walls, soon we won’t notice them for the political graffiti scrawled on them.

There’s supposed to be a code of ethics enforced by the Election Commission, but no one seems to be taking any notice in the shameless clamour to be noticed. The Election Commissioner, poor man, has his work cut out to impose any discipline on such an undisciplined bunch. Just recently, Arvind Kejriwal, former Delhi Chief Minister, found it easier to sit on the streets rather rule the state, so he quit. Now, he is back in action for the parliamentary elections. I assume that invisibility didn’t really suit him.

Unfortunately, unlike the US, there seems to be no look-good factor as, for example, in the case of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Not only are our people intolerable, they’re not even easy on the eye. But no one can help that, not even the Election Commission. Maybe, in future, we could ask for a silent campaign in keeping with our spiritual tradition.

(C Jayanthi worked in The Times of India, New Delhi, and other English dailies in India and abroad for two decades. She is adjunct professor at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.)

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