CHENNAI: In August 2013, while addressing the people of Gujarat, the State’s then CM Narendra Modi made a scathing attack on then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s family. A day later, CPI (M) general secretary, D Raja condemned Modi saying that the latter should have avoided a speech meant for a ‘street corner meeting’.
What are these street corner meetings? The gatherings are often minimal, usually comprising local functionaries, their family members and loyal cadres. The stage is usually two or three large benches put together.
There is no camera crew thrusting microphones into politicians’ faces; nor are there scribes taking notes and waiting for those clichéd words from seasoned politicians.
There is no obsession over political correctness and the fear of being sued for defamation is not given much thought about. An archaic method of campaigning — therumonai kootam (street corner meeting) is still relevant, if not an important campaign-feature of major political parties.
But, how relevant is it? “Not much, especially since television’s obsession with political rallies and major political conferences. People used to wait outside their houses and listen to the therumonai kootams. Now, the public can sit at home and watch the leaders are saying,” Dravidian historian, D K Thirunavukkarasu (75) told City Express.
Thirunavukkarasu recalls the days when therumonai kootams along with political skits and plays would be an engaging affair during election season.
“Small-time speakers, usually from the local neighbourhood would be the go-to people. The speaker may be a councillor, party cadre or an enthusiast, but someone with whom the people could relate to as he is known in the locality,” Thirunavukkarasu recalls.
According to him, only the left parties and trade unions still hold on to therumonai kootams. “Among the Dravidian parties, the DMK at least seem to still believe in it. As far as AIADMK is concerned, it is as good as non-existent,” he said.
However, party functionaries on the ground seem to have a different viewpoint, with the AIADMK organising a street corner meet on Tuesday (May 3). Area functionaries of the AIADMK held a therumonai kootam at Ram Nagar (Madipakkam).
“It was mostly among us. The general public do not turn up for such meetings anymore, even to address their grievances,” said a functionary. The evening’s expenditure was a tad over `10,000.
This reporter managed to attend one of those rare therumonai kootams. On April 5, DMK functionaries of the Kolathur area organised a therumonai kootam at Raghavan Street in Sembium.
As the crowd settled in and the formal introductions were over, the first speaker spoke — “Avan (leader of a major party) oru loose-u, Avan kooda saerndha ellarum loose (He is an idiot and so are those who have allied with him), setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Political correctness, anyone?
At these meets, there is no obsession over political correctness and the fear of being sued for defamation is not given much thought. Ata DMK meeting last month, ‘Aasai aasai, Kalaignar meedhu aasai’, the eloquent voice of late Nagore Hanifa blared through the speakers. The first speaker said, “Avan (leader of a major party) oru loose-u, Avan kooda saerndha ellarum loose’, setting the tone for the rest of the evening