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MGR magic still holds people in thrall

Written by: Staff

Chennai, Apr 16: Almost two decades after his death, his charisma has not waned.

The very utterance of the name ''MGR'', AIADMK founder and former Tamil Nadu chief minister spells magic and he still remains the darling of the masses. The legendary politician is none other than M G Ramachandran.

The matinee idol-turned-politician strode like a colossus over both politics and films, and mesmerised the rural folk to the extent that for some die-hard MGR fans and the AIADMK workers alike, he is still alive.

With the political parties having intensified their campaign for the May eight assembly polls in the state, the hit songs of the late actor are being played and some AIADMK workers even show up in his traditional dress-- dhoti, full sleeve shirt, dark glasses and a fur cap -- to woo the voters.

The MGR magic was recreated in southern districts, where AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa has been vigorously campaigning, and also in other districts.

A few party workers are even sporting some costumes which MGR had worn in his mega hits like ''Adimai Penn'' and reenacting the song sequences.

Especially in MGR's home constituency of Andipatti, from where Ms Jayalalithaa is seeking re-election, the ''messiah of the poor'' is still alive. People feel that he was still living among them.

His popular hit film songs -- duets, ideological and inspirational songs -- reverbrate in every nook and corner of the countryside. Even small towns are no exception as speakers fitted in vehicles blare out songs and dialogues.

Another leader to be 'resurrected' this way, is the patriarch of the Dravidian movement and simplicity personified--C N Annadurai, to whose legacy both the ruling AIADMK and the DMK lay their claim. While the DMK draws on the charisma of Mr Annadurai, the AIADMK invokes his name and also that of MGR. The AIADMK's flag sports the picture of Mr Annadurai.

Several AIADMK posters, carry his picture, besides the picture of MGR and party Supremo Jayalalithaa, along with the candidate.

MGR ''descends'' on the scene in campaign meetings as look-alikes of the ''Puratchi Thalaivar'' (Revolutionary leader) mingle with the crowds, sporting the famous fur cap and dark glasses and clad in red and black bordered dhotis and cream coloured full sleeved shirt worn by the late leader.

The crowd turns ecstatic and the people vie with one another to shake hands with the look-alikes.

He might have been dead, but his name still triggers passion among the common people and the AIADMK workers. The party, no doubt, is banking on his ever-lasting charisma to woo the voters.

A unique phenomenon in Indian politics, actor MGR parlayed his popularity with the masses into a successful second career as a politician. The Kandy-born MGR, who was originally with the DMK, floated a new outfit AIADMK in 1972 after revolting against M Karunanidhi, making corruption the main issue.

His immense popularity with the people saw him ascend the throne of Chief Minister in 1977 Assembly elections when AIADMK tasted a resounding success over DMK.

Till his death in 1987, it was MGR all the way as he won the next two Assembly polls in 1980 and 1984, (a unique record as no party has won successive back to back elections) as the rural and urban poor idolised him for his pro-poor schemes. His legacy was assumed by Jayalalithaa, for whom MGR was her political-mentor.

MGR's most popular programme was the free mid-day meal scheme for poor children. The scheme, which was emulated by some other states also ensured hearty meal for hundreds of thousands of poor children.

Ever since his death, the political battles in Tamil Nadu have been fought primarily between Mr Karunanidhi and Ms Jayalalithaa, including the coming May eight elections.


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