Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A fast between breakfast and lunch

A fast between breakfast and lunch
Syed Ali Mujtab

Chennai: It was a dramatic day here in Chennai on Monday April 27, 2009. I received a SMS on my mobile phone from my friend a chartered accountant Mr Raja. It was as follows:

“Sri Lankan President has ordered the army to use chemical weapons to destroy LTTE who were been surrounded in 10 sq kilometer. If army explodes chemical bombs than a massive human genocide would occur.”

The massage was truncated but knowing the gravity of the situation I could feel the chill in my spine as every thing is fair in love and war.

Before I could get over with this feeling, I learn that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has sat on indefinite hunger strike demanding the end of hostilities between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

The aging patriarch of the DMK party who has just been discharged from the hospital few weeks ago after undergoing spinal surgery chose to sit on hunger strike by the side of the DMK founder leader Anna Durai’s statue located on the Marina beach.

No one in the city knew about this fast and business was as usual, till the media started playing it on and making the world aware of this development. The news was that the ‘Kalinger’ meaning great leader wants to die for the Tamil cause.

First Kalinger sat on a wheel chair to observe the fast. Soon a Shamiyana was put to cover him from the sun. Fans and coolers came in to give him some comfort, short while later a cot was brought for the old man to stretch up. A team of doctors monitored his health. His wife and children joined him, later film stars and host of other celebrities started visiting the spot.

All this started at about 6 AM after the breakfast and a great deal of action took place in the next four five hours. All the DMK big wings who were electioneering in the different parts of the state for the May 13 Lok Sabha elections halted their campaign and rushed to the spot. Many government servants loyal to DMK rule left their offices to pay allegiance to the great leader.

The media turned out in large number to cover the main story and the sidelights. The OB vans of the TV channels lined up to telecast this reality show live. As the news started spreading people started coming in large numbers. There was security problem and the entire area was cordoned off.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi who was electioneering in West Bengal called the fasting Tamil Nadu leader. She reportedly requested him to call of the fast, but Kalinger did not heed to her advice. A stream of phone calls started coming but all were handled with due courtesy sans any commitment.

Finally it was the Union home minister P Chidambram’s phone call at about 10 AM that arrested the matter from further precipitation. The Home Minister gave an assurance to the fasting leader that the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa has given him assurance of ceasefire and this would be announced in few minutes.

Even before the news of ceasefire was made public in Sri Lanka, the great leader called off is fast in Chennai. This was done before 12 noon and every one had enough time to get ready for the lunch!

I too had planned to go to the scene of action but since the show was over I preferred to remain indoors. Later from the media reports I found that it was not a ceasefire offer. The Sri Lankan government only gave a commitment not to use heavy guns and artillery on those trapped in no fly zone. It has already been described the unilateral ceasefire announced by the bottled up LTTE a big joke.

Those who have been watching these developments very minutely, this stage play of a fast between breakfast and lunch by the DMK patriarch convince about the sagacity of the Indian politicians. What other could not achieve through various means a simple act of political posturing by the ageing leader did so without much of a trouble.

It remains to be seen in the coming hustings how much this episode of fast between breakfast and lunch would swing the electoral fortune of DMK party but every one is convinced that the political maverick of Tamil Nadu has scored some brownie points over his opponents who are playing the game of one-upmanship on the Sri Lankan issue.

So finally no matter what we may say about the Indian politician, sometime their act proves that they are capable of moving the earth even if it’s across the sea.

The adage that politicians are the best practitioners of the art of possible is reflected in this case. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has once again proved that he master in that craft.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can contacted at

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