AIADMK Supremo sets second record
Venkat Raman –
Although the electoral victory of Jayalalithaa and her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly elections held last month was a foregone conclusion, it was a wakeup call for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), and its respective leaders Muthuvel Karunanidhi and former actor Vijayakanth.
Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK won 134 seats, enough to claim majority in the 234 State Assembly. Results for two seats were withheld following complaints of bribery. Irrespective of the outcome, she is secure in her position as the Chief Minister.
Tamil Nadu does not have the Upper House (Legislative Council) and hence she can expect uninterrupted rule for the next five years.
Jayalalithaa also scored another record set by her mentor and fellow actor M G Ramachandran (MGR) by winning two consecutive terms, a rare feat in Tamil Nadu.
No doubt, she won by a depleting majority, compared to 1991 elections in which AIADMK secured 164 seats on its own and a whopping 225 seats with its allies, but given factors like anti-incumbency, divided opposition, confusion among leaders of various parties and the corruption charges that she faced 18 months ago, it was a public endorsement of her leadership; or as some of her adversaries put it, “the alternatives are worse.”
Jayalalithaa also broke the chain of alternation that afflicted Tamil Nadu politics since 1991; defeating Mr Karunanidhi was no mean task.
The Assembly elections have also sealed the fate of Congress Party and Bharatiya Janata Party, although the former improved its performance by one seat over the 2011 elections.
The election results proved exit polls wrong.
A beaming Jayalalithaa seized the opportunity to address her people.
“I am overwhelmed by the resounding victory given by the people. My party and I are indebted to the people of Tamil Nadu,” she said.
Ascribing her historic win to her alignment with the people and belief in God, she said, “My people have stood by me. This election has upheld true democracy, shattering to pieces the campaign of lies of the DMK. This election has put a permanent full stop to the family rule. After 1984, no ruling party in the state has been able to win an election and form the government for a successive term,” she said.
Prayers and Vows
It is common belief in India that God always answers prayers and that public appeal never goes unheeded. Millions of people prayed in Temples, Mosques, Churches and other places of worship for the release of their favourite leader when she was arrested in September 2014 on charges of concealing assets. She was later acquitted of all charges, got re-elected from Dr Radhakrishnan Constituency in North Chennai securing 84% of the votes polled.
Known to be extremely religious and superstitious (she added another ‘a’ to her name on the advice of a numerologist about 20 years ago), Jayalalithaa reportedly engages with an array of astrologers and priests who recite religious hymns every morning before she commences her meetings and ministerial duties. She is also reported to follow Hindu customs with religious fervor.
Jayalalithaa commands implicit obedience and unquestioned authority over her ministers and bureaucrats, which in fact has made her the envoy of even leaders with great following such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ministers do not hesitate to fall at feet in public as one would surrender to God. They wait in patience at the doorstep of her palatial home in Poes Garden and of the Secretariat every morning to have her ‘Graceful look and Benediction.’ Minister Panneerselvam, who took over the mantle of Chief Minister when Jayalalithaa was under a legal cloud in September 2014 (that was the second such occasion for him), he was seen sporting an unshaven face, seated at the edge of the chair, praying for the leader’s returned.
Far from the insanely dedicated coterie of people in her cabinet and administration, Jayalalithaa is a revered leader of the teeming millions in Tamil Nadu. She is affectionately addressed as ‘Amma’ (Mother), a merciful woman of maternal love and a passionate Chief Minister.
And she has not let them down. Beginning with ‘Amma Unavagam’ (Restaurant) spread throughout the State, providing a complete meal for Rs 10 (22 cents) and ‘Amma Marundhagam’ (Pharmacy) to ‘Pannai Pasumai Kootturavu Kadai’ (Farm Fresh Cooperative Store), the Amma wave is complete. Almost everything bears the ‘Amma Sticker,’ including rice, sugar, salt, spices, vegetables and fruits), sold at prices far less compared to privately owned supermarkets.
A majority of women in Tamil Nadu would swear by their ‘Amma’ and say that she is their ‘Goddess of Deliverance.’ Such is their craze that hundreds of thousands of women were on ‘fast until death’ or ‘fast until release’ when Jayalalithaa courted arrest two years ago; some of them were prepared to march towards the High Court in Bangalore where she was convicted and demand her release.
The following was my parting comment as I left her Chennai home following an interview in July 1991: “You have the makings of a leader so popular that you would one surpass your mentor MGR. People of Tamil Nadu have always shown their allegiance to charismatic people.”