In that long stretch between Royapettah and Thiruvanmiyur, about 12kms by road, Chennai had turned Amma-town. Every nook and corner through the away, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalaithaa is looking down at you. Scores of posters, banners and cut-outs are put up, restricting vehicular movement. Cut-outs were erected just outside people’s homes much to the city’s chagrin. And yes, we counted. There were more than 1000 flex boards, (banners not counted) all for the AIADMK’s customary General Council meet. Not kidding, here is a video.
We travelled through the 12km-stretch to give you an idea as to how the city looked on Thursday morning. From Poes Garden onward, all the way to Thiruvanmiyur, posters adorned the road. Amma is everywhere you look, on the right, on the left and even on the road dividers. Most of these flex boards and banners are put on the footpaths which making it impossible for the public to walk on them. The footpaths were shut with wooden barricades.
Every few meters, there were police personnel guiding people which way to take as several roads were either blocked or jammed-up with traffic. Two grand arches were made welcoming the leader at Madhya Kailash and Adyar making vehiclular movement extremely slow. In the entire stretch, there were about five tall cut-outs of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa which were up to 3 floors high.
The party’s General Council and Executive Committee meet was a grand affair in many other ways. It was CM Jayalalithaa’s first public speech after the devastating deluge, and she hadn’t addressed party cadre in a long time. But if the cadre at the Sri Ramachandra Medical Science and Research Centre were left mesmerized by her presence, many Chennaiistes were left angered at the obstruction giant-sized Jayalalithaa were creating.
There was also social media outrage over a party event being made such a grand affair even as the city was reeling under the impact of the recent floods.
And if the posters were not enough, the whole meeting was an exercise in self-aggrandizement. Of the 14 resolutions passed during the meet, 9 were ones praising Jayalalithaa. Jayalalithaa’s speech focussed on preparations for elections and also her government’s actions during the Chennai floods.
“All elections cannot be faced with the same strategy and I will take right decision at the right time according to the current political situation,” Jayalalithaa declared.
Clarifying that Chennai floods were not because of delay of discharge of water from Chembarambakkam Lake, Jayalalithaa said, “It is false to say that there was a delay in opening the Chembarambakkam reservoir. Water was released in correct proposition and flood in Adyar happened because of the heavy rain and water from the adjoining areas drained in the river.”
The DMK, as expected, received its share of animosity from the leader as she blamed them for running a false campaign against her government over the Chennai floods.
“The image of the party is severely dented, thanks to the floods and the treatment of students in the state on the liquor issue, and they are desperate to revive the image the party,” says Professor Ramu Manivannan of the Political Science department at Madras University.
“As a political scientist I also feel that the nature of communication has changed. Earlier, there posters were a communication to the leader hailing her, now the communication is about the leader directed at the people,” he adds, “and this means that the party is worried about its comeback.”