Comparing superheroes with mortals like us is fraught with danger. It is simply outlandish, I must confess. It’s just that I couldn’t help doing so. The last movie that I watched was The Avengers: Infinity War, some two to three weeks after it was released. What struck me then was the Tamil Nadu government documentary that was played just before the movie. It was a few days after that controversial sami (god) feature on the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
Though the clip was deleted by then, Edappadi K Palaniswami was credited for all efforts and schemes the government has rolled out. He is there, omnipresent in everything good the government has done for the common man, particularly farmers. What was remarkable was that unlike last year, he was seen alone most times, not in the company of his deputy. Somehow, Marvel characters are easy to relate to. Unlike their DC counterparts, they are a bunch of flawed geniuses who stumble and stutter their way to success. Each has his or her own intrinsically-complex personal story weaved into supernatural abilities; apart from the innumerable exigencies that are forced upon them. Most discover their power through struggle or by accident.
They are not always politically correct. And they die too, or so it seemed in Infinity War. But, let’s not digress. Of late, there’s something about how the CM has been portraying himself in public. When he started, responsibility was thrust upon him. He was termed as another also-ran by political experts and mandarins. They gave him three to six months, at best. Some even said that he would be gobbled up by the legacy left behind by late CM J Jayalalithaa, if not by the party itself. Yet he survived.
In cricketing parlance, he initially played defensively, and he is now like a set batsman, playing aggressive shots. His handling of the recent Thoothukudi firing incident (where 13 protesters were killed), the Green Corridor project and the Cauvery issue was supposed to raise a roar of protests in the Assembly. But the sessions passed off relatively silently. Of course, a lacklustre opposition made his task easier. There were occasional walkouts and abstentions, but the sessions were more or less without interruption. The CM took questions and defended the government.
There was no magic wand. Perhaps, he is being guided by some astute minds. Ostensibly so, he seemed to have grown in confidence. He is becoming aggressive, and some of his decisions mirror his mentor in terms of a single-minded approach. Whether sound or not, only time will tell. The Thoothukudi incident was perhaps one of the toughest tests in the Assembly. He defended the actions amidst vociferous opposition.
There was action on the ground too. A one-man commission was set up and a government order passed for the closure of the Sterlite factory. Before that, however, much to the chagrin of the common people, the government rounded up many, and cases were slapped against the “perpetrators”. Also, preemptive arrests happened to contain the Green Corridor protests. There were allegations that police personnel were stationed in the areas where surveys were on: Salem, Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai and Krishnagiri districts. There were arrests under various Acts, sometimes outrageous. Activists were forbidden from raising their voice.
Almost everyone who spoke against the project has been booked. The CM, however, maintained that it was a very small section of farmers who were affected, and that they would be looked after well. He also said “outside elements” were instigating these farmers. Now, all seems quiet on the Western front. It’s no secret that this is the CM’s pet project.
It connects to his constituency and his bastion, western Tamil Nadu. The Green Corridor project, despite being ecologically and environmentally sensitive, and despite annexing farmlands in Salem and Thiruvannamalai districts, has the potential to turn his constituency into a collection of vibrant, industrial townships. That, and fortifying his base is perhaps what he is aiming for. So that no matter what happens in the next elections, he will retain his turf. Yes, he may not be the quintessential Marvel hero. But he does have one trait: a strong survival instinct.
Resident Editor, Tamil Nadu