Rats! Poll piper is here to play the tune of power

In his 1998 debut urban fantasy novel ‘King Rat’, British author China Mieville tells the story of Saul Garamond, falsely suspected to have killed his dad, getting transformed into a (half) rat after being ‘rescued’ by King Rat, who introduces himself as his uncle. The plot thickens with the arrival of Piper (the Pied Piper of Hamelin), the villain. Scurrying through London sewers and rooftops, Saul and King Rat make allies with spiders and birds in their battle against Piper, whose tunes cannot trap Saul because of his virtue of being a half-human.

The greatness of such works as George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ and Mieville’s King Rat is that the characters and plots can be related to politics, philosophies and cultures of different geographies at different times, each time revealing new meanings that fit so well into the situation. As Tamil Nadu prepares for an assembly election and the AIADMK devises strategies to retain power, I leave it to my readers to assign contemporary characters to those of Mieville. I hope the background – rooftops, sewers and clubs – helps as much as the characters – rats, half-rats, spiders and birds – do.
As you read this column, the AIADMK will be calling to order its executive council meeting on Monday, when the veneer of camaraderie and confidence may be lifted to reveal the underlying fears and fissures. While the dominant group may try to get Edappadi K Palaniswami named as the party’s chief ministerial candidate, O Panneerselvam and his few supporters may not go as far as to raise a banner of revolt, but would try to maintain the status quo. OPS may push for his long-standing demand for the constitution of a steering committee which he wants to head.

The best deal OPS could strike is taking the party leader post while conceding the chief ministerial candidate to EPS. But, given the precarious electoral prospects of the party, EPS wouldn’t be willing to let go of the bird in hand for the doubtful two in the bush. Open disagreements, even if they are within the executive council, will not be in the best interests of either of the parties. They also know the potential reconfigurations the release of V N Sasikala from the prison ahead of the election can trigger.

Amid rumours that all is not well between Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran, the latter recently made a quiet trip to Delhi, where he is understood to have met some BJP leaders. Whether it was to buy peace for himself and his aunt or sell the idea of a reunified AIADMK, TTV’s visit may be a precursor to several behind-the-scenes moves the AIADMK and its splinters are likely to make, choreographed as they may be by the BJP central leadership.
For now, AIADMK leaders have rejected the idea of letting Sasikala back into the party, leave alone giving her a leadership role. But what happens when she walks out of Parappana Agrahara is anybody’s guess. A resourceful Sasikala who is ineligible to hold a public office may find favour with some, if not many, in the AIADMK.
In Mieville’s novel, Saul realises – from his murdered dad’s old notes – that King Rat is his biological father who raped his mother. Saul, however, keeps King Rat’s company to fight Piper, along with the birds and the spiders. In the end, after eliminating Piper, Saul dethrones King Rat, but doesn’t finish him off. Saul announces to his group that King Rat would now be Citizen Rat.


DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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