Published: 23rd May 2019
How SRM kingpin T R Paarivendhar finally conquered Perambalur
Arrested in connection with several complaints that his college was illegally taking capitation for admission, Paarivendhar has managed to register a massive victory in Permabalur
Numbers probably don't boggle the minds of Maths teachers the way it does most of ours. Then again, it's been decades since anyone called Indhiya Jananaayaga Katchi (IJK) — the patriarch of the SRM empire — a Maths teacher. On the cusp of being crowned the duly elected member of Parliament for the Perambalur constituency, Paarivendhar's mind-boggling numbers — at 4 pm, he is leading by a staggering 384,124 votes over the ADMK's Sivapathy NR and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that must be thinking of the karma of it all.
Karmic how? In the almost ten years since Pachamuthu (his original name before he officially adopted the title of Paarivendhar as his name for the rolls) started the Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) with a nondescript office in Ashok Nagar, his political journey has been lacking in sheen — and achievement. A drubbing in smaller polls and being ignored by the Dravidian majors led him towards the man on a mission, the one who people said had a 56-inch chest even before he became king - Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Paarivendhar was allotted the same Perambalur seat then. He stood. He campaigned. He faced a drubbing. He managed a deposit-saving 2,38,887 votes but that was still a good 2 lakh votes shy of the AIADMK candidate who eventually won. The Modi wave and a waving Modi could do little to help him get more.
Having started out as a Maths teacher in a high school, Paarivendhar's growth in the education sector was unparalleled, except perhaps by a contemporary of sorts, Jeppiaar. Both the self-styled education overlords had hitched their wagons to the enigmatic late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran and, if multiple accounts are to be believed, set up colleges on his advice. He believed it was the next big thing in a state that was just beginning to fall in love with engineering.
He couldn't have been more right.
After rapidly adding more and more departments — catering, medicine, arts — his behemoth of an institution that lay far outside the confines of the Chennai Corporation of yore, was Deemed worthy of being a University in 2002 (The status of being deemed-to-be needed some revision after plenty of fellow private varsities-to-be were rapped on the knuckles by the High Court last year).
But all of that was passe for Paarivendhar, whose empire grew. Transport, media, hotels, cinema, hospitals...the baron prospered in pretty much everything he and his group touched, except in politics. Something that he called his 'one true love' in an interview to a Tamil magazine.
And then came the crash in 2016.
The rumours that pretty much any sum in SRM was up for sale if the money was right had been so widespread that you should be surprised it wasn't on their official website. It was more of an eventuality that close to 109 parents filed a class action suit against the varsity with a deadly charge — they had paid massive sums for medical seats and had been denied the seats they had laid their savings bare for. Plenty of name-calling and maneuvering later, the Chennai Police were left with no option but to arrest the then 75-year-old patriarch of the SRM Group.
Paarivendhar was pissed. His advisors in a tizzy. His party, the few but faithful, were in a rage. This was a state that continued till his eventual release on bail. Sources at the time spoke about how he had reached out to his poll-time ally for aid and he had been denied. Thy should have seen the signs after the PM had allegedly turned down repeated requests to throw open some of Paarivendhar's newest properties, like the SIMS Hospital.
Once the case was settled, Paarivendhar was back in his seat of power. As the talk turned to the 2019 election, he knocked on the doors of Anna Arivalayam and made them an offer they couldn't refuse.
He was offered the chance to stand on the DMK symbol (Rising Sun) in Perambalur. It was his shot at retribution. And he took the shot during a swing election that saw a DMK landslide.
No one cared about the fact that he stands accused of taking crores of capitation. No one cared that his media empire has the power to shape opinion like the Sun TV of the 90's. No one cared that his politics can change colour every cycle. No one cared that a Twitter account that is in his name stopped tweeting in 2014 and still has a pro-Modi banner as his cover picture.
Perhaps it was only fitting (for him) that Paarivendhar won.
People who know him will tell you he's not a man who likes losing.
Let alone twice.