Elections to the Tamilnadu State Assembly had been announced. Vidya flew down to Chennai in the last week of March, 2011 to cover the campaign trail of senior politicians.
However TN politicians were a different lot compared to the Delhi ones- members of opposing parties do not see eye to eye; participating in TV debates is simply not done.
Every party in Tamilnadu had its own TV channel which showered undiluted praise on its leaders. When their own channels could reach the people in rural areas in Tamil with positive news about them, why would they want a journalist from a national TV sitting on their neck throughout the day and asking uncomfortable questions? Also most of the leaders were not comfortable with English. So her request to cover their campaign was turned down by virtually all parties and all leaders.
India Times’ Chennai reporter tried through all his contacts, but could not manage to get permission for Vidya to accompany any politician worth the name in his campaign trip. Her other contacts in Chennai’s journalistic circles were also not of much use.
She had always stunned the media with unbelievable interviews. When other reporters were satisfied with Musharraf and Zardari, she surprised the Indian media with an interview with General Kayani. She was the first reporter from India to interview the late Colonel Gaddafi. She had interviewed Prabhakaran a few days prior to his death! And here in TN, she is unable to get any politician.
“Egoistic idiots!” Vidya was pouring out her frustration to Uma, her childhood friend.
Vidya and Uma studied together in Mumbai. After graduation when Vidya went to US to pursue journalism, Uma married Dr. Anand and settled in Chennai. Anand was the head of nephrology department in Apollo Hospital.
They were sitting in the balcony of Uma’s R.A. Puram flat facing Greenways Road and having their evening tea. Across the road were the bungalows of Ministers of the ruling TDK-Tamizh Desiya Kazhagam (Tamil National Party). Elections on April 13 would decide whether they would continue to occupy those government quarters or they would have to vacate.
Anand was sipping his tea and listening to Vidya’s grouse for the past half an hour. She was planning to return to Mumbai the next day as her trip had flopped. Her first and major failure in the past 5 years and she could not stand that!
“Vidya…wait…wait…I think I can help. One of my patients is a personal assistant to Durai Rathinam. He has been with Durai for the past 15 years and is really close to him…I can try through him…” Anand volunteered, though tentatively.
Her face lit up. Durai was the youth wing leader of the UTK- Uyarum Tamizhar Kazhagam (Rising Tamils’ Party) - the main opposition party. His father Rathinam was the President. Durai was being viewed as the future face of UTK. With a management degree from Harvard and engineering degree from IIT, people of Tamilnadu felt that he would be the best to lead the State in future.
UTK had brought all the opposition parties together and forged a strong electoral alliance. Durai was credited with forging that strong alliance. Most of the pre-election surveys had predicted that the UTK led alliance would sweep the polls, capturing 170-180 seats out of the total 234.
There were serious allegations of corruption and land grabbing against the ruling TDK’s leader and Chief Minister Ponnusamy, his family members and cabinet colleagues and the popular perception was that the party would face a rout.
It was not that UTK was a clean party. They faced corruption allegations five years back and lost the 2006 elections. In Tamilnadu politics recent corruption is more unpardonable than old corruption!
“Wow…that would be great…” Vidya was ecstatic.
She made Anand call his patient immediately. After some persuasion, the guy said he would talk to Durai and let them know the result the next day.
A night of restless wait...