The pastel shades of grey and white of their Alma Mater, has, over the decades, morphed into different hues in Tamil Nadu’s political landscape. A landmark in Chennai and a much coveted school, renowned for its academic excellence, having once notched up the first seven State Ranks at a time when this distinction was based on the overall performance and not individual subjects, Don Bosco, Egmore, has had a steady stream of scions of the rich and famous.
Run by Salesian priests, DB, Egmore was not ‘marks-ist’ but focussed on holistic education, evident from its enviable list of the Who’s Who in just about every profession. In the world of Sports – from the Amritharaj Brothers to Viswanathan Anand, Armaan Ebrahim to Dinesh Karthik. In cinema – the likes of Arvind Swamy & Vishal. In medicine – almost all the top specialists have one thing in common – the DB tag. Then you have media barons like Kalanidhi Maran & Sashi Kumar Menon. So how could politics be left behind? The school was a fertile breeding ground of leaders, what with, as the Don Bosco Past Pupils Association President Ashwin Rajagopalan pointed out, its opportunities to take the stage and to plunge into community service through a robust Road Safety Patrol and Scouts apparatus, among other extra-curricular activities.
2019 saw three alumni in the hallowed precincts of Parliament. While the DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran is into his third innings from the Central Chennai crease, Karti P.Chidambaram and D.M.Kathir Anand from the Congress and DMK, romped home from Sivaganga and Vellore. Back in the late eighties, one remembers the then Congress Union Minister P.Chidamabaram’s son Karti’s fiery inter-house debates in the AV Hall, not to forget his victory over P.H. Arvindh Pandian, now an Additional Advocate General at the Madras High Court and the son of the then Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker Late P.H.Pandian, for the School Pupil Leader post. It was arguably the only school election that was reported in newspapers! Interestingly, all the Pandian brothers – Arvindh, Manoj, Vinodh & Naveen used to be ace sprinters and take turns to collar the Champions Trophy at the Annual Sports Day.
That all the three MPs hail from powerful political families is common knowledge. While Dayanidhi Maran is carrying on the legacy of his father – Former Union Minister Late Murasoli Maran with aplomb, Karti is actively nurturing what was for long his father P. Chidamabaram’s constituency. Kathir Anand too is comfortably perched in his father Former Tamil Nadu PWD Minister Durai Murugan’s turf. To oft repeated salvos on dynastic politics, Karti’s retort has been quite combative. “Just because Rohan Gavaskar is the son of Sunil Gavaskar, did the seamers bowl any slower to him?”
The three MPs aside, DB Egmore could potentially have 7 MLAs too. Most of them have a tough fight on their hands. The star candidate, of course, is the affable and soft spoken Udhayanidhi Stalin. Udhay, as he is known to his friends, is from the 1994 batch of DB. The son of DMK supremo M.K.Stalin, he has been fielded from a DMK bastion – Chepauk, a constituency that his late grandfather and former Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi had represented several times.
Udhay’s junior Dr. N.Ezhilan is from the 1997 batch. The son of academician Dr.Naganathan, better known as the brain behind the DMK’s colour TV scheme in the past, Dr.Ezhilan faces actor turned politician Khushbu Sundar of the BJP at Thousand Lights.
The grandson of former DMK General Secretary and Minister Prof K. Anbazhagan is also in the fray. A.Vetriazhagan is Dr.Ezhilan’s immediate school senior and is fighting from Villivakkam.
Former Rajya Sabha MP and AIADMK Legal Wing Secretary P.H.Manoj Pandian has thrown his hat in the ring from Alangulam. The former Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker late P.H. Pandian’s son is from the 1989 batch and is pitted against former Social Welfare Minister & daughter of former Law Minister late Alladi Aruna.
Raja Kumar, from the 1991 batch, who had made his debut in politics with Vijaykanth’s DMDK in the past, has switched to Kamal Haasan’s MNM and is contesting from Erode. The oldest DB past pupil is Ramesh Kondal Swamy from the 1983 batch, battling it out at Madhavaram on an MNM ticket. And the youngest is S.Amirtharaj from the 2001 batch, the Congress candidate at Srivaikuntam.
Whatever be the outcome of their shot at the hustings, you can expect the DB bond to translate into a reunion of sorts between these contestants. To soak in their ‘strength through hardship’. Or as every DB boy would sing:”Virtus In Arduis.”
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor, Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7 and an alumnus of the 1991 batch of Don Bosco, Egmore)