A RAINY D-DAY: WOULD AMMA EMERGE A ‘BAAHUBALI’?

It was just six months ago when J Jayalalithaa, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, miserably failed in addressing the destructive rains and floods that wreaked havoc in many parts of the state including Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai.

Though Tamil Nadu was not the only South Indian state to face the rain aftermath then, with Andhra Pradesh also badly affected, the real worry was in Tamil Nadu – where Chennai saw the worst rainfall and flooding in 100 years. And the situation was not much different in many other parts.

To the scale that even Jayalalithaa’s ‘Baahubali’ avatar couldn’t save the state – even if Amma, as Jayalalithaa is affectionately called, tried hard to do – with her larger than life presence – on hoardings, on banners, on posters, on every sort of relief material including the food items.

‘Baahubali’ that translates to ‘muscleman or strongman’ is one of the most successful movies produced by the Indian film industry last year.

Last November-December, when Tamil Nadu was reeling under the miles high devastation of the flood aftermath, Jayalalithaa’s huge Baahubali hoardings cropped up, showing an all powerful Amma carrying a baby away from the horrors of the rain.

No need to say that was in bad taste – and attracted every sort of criticism and satire.

But that could not dim the prospects of a South Indian politics obsessed with film stars and personality cults.

Jayalalithaa has continued with her mission to make Tamil Nadu ‘Amma Nadu’, a state synonymous with her nickname. There are Amma baby kits. There are Amma canteens. A bottled water is brand named Amma. The list is long – Amma salt, Amma seeds, Amma pharmacies, Amma home appliances, even Amma cement and laptop – and this list is not exhaustive.

The way it has spread in Tamil Nadu in the last five years makes one feel that Jayalalithaa is going to rule Tamil Nadu for a long time, breaking the trend of consistent power transfer in the state, from AIADMK to DMK and vice versa, in subsequent elections.

We all felt so.

Many of us still feel so, even if there is a group that feels DMK has now fair chances to defeat Amma. Even some exit polls say so. If that indeed happens, the mishandling of the last year floods would be a major cause in this.

Tomorrow is the D Day when the results would be out.

And Tamil Nadu is again staring at massive rains. In fact, according to reports, Chennai received maximum rainfall in a day since 1995. Then there is a cyclone alert for Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and senior and junior level officials have been deployed to handle the aftermath.

But the million dollar question is – would voters give Amma another chance to ‘do or undo’ what she had done during the floods last year?

Another way to look at that is – if Amma wins the polls tomorrow – it would say Amma’s Baahubali act indeed established a connect with her supporters.

And that would further hasten the ‘Amma-fication’ of Tamil Nadu.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

’68’, AMMA AND TAMIL NADU: BAAHUBALI TO ‘AMMA’NADU

“68 is the natural number following 67 and preceding 69. It is an even number.” – that is what the Wikipedia page on the number 68 says. There is nothing much else on the page except some technical information that, for most, is like filling a page entry somehow.

And here comes this development in this time of need. The editors or writers of the page should take note of the dominance of the number ’68’ in Tamil Nadu now – to put some interesting stuff there (on the page) – as the number has become the most important symbol of a populous Indian state – with wide display today.

Today is the day when ’68’ has become synonymous with Tamil Nadu – a state of some ’68’ million people – a state, that in turn, gives feelers that it has become synonymous with J. Jayalalithaa, its chief minister since her sweeping re-election in 2011 and her comeback to the throne in May 2015 after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the disproportionate assets case.

Jayalalithaa had assumed the office for the third term in 2011 and since then her party AIADMK has swept every election in Tamil Nadu including the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014. And it is when her DA case is decades old and it was not the first time in 2014 when she was disqualified and barred from the political office. Something similar had happened in 2001 when she was barred from contesting the polls after she was found guilty in the TANSI land deal case which was overturned later.

When we see the political history of Tamil Nadu – it has been between these two parties – DMK and AIADMK – and time has been fair about listening to both of these parties.

But, it seems the Amma times are here to stay this time. It is being expected that AIADMK will be able to decimate every opposition in the upcoming assembly polls later this year.

And its echoes are already here – with the ascendance that the number ’68’ saw today.

Let’s see the colourful elements:

The first and the foremost things is the great coincident – Jayalalithaa at ’68’ has a Tamil Nadu of some ’68’ million people.

Tamil Nadu, (it seems the whole state), is celebrating Jayalalithaa’s birthday in a grand style – in an electoral year – (obviously we all can see through the acts and through the kaleidoscope) – but here we are talking about the colours.

AIADMK workers and supporters organized functions for ’68’ mass-wedding ceremonies across the state. The couples wore an interesting headgear with Amma’s photograph like a crown jewel.

At AIADMK office in Chennai, a ’68’ Kg cake was cut. Huge cakes were prepared in different parts of Chennai and in the state.

’68’ lakh trees were to be planted across the state. Reports further said that these saplings were to be planted in ‘6868’ temples across the 32 districts of Tamil Nadu.

’68’ medical camps were organized and blood donation drives were held across the state.

Special ‘poojas’ were performed in 122 temples across the state to pray for the long life of Amma. Special cow worship and cow donation drives were held. Women members of AIDMK performed a ‘pooja’ – carrying milk pots on head while visiting temples and praying.

All Amma canteens of Chennai served free meals today. Across the state, community lunches were organized.

Cleaning of water bodies across the state was carried out. South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce donated lamps.

It was announced that every girl child born today in every hospital run by the Chennai city corporation would be given a donation of Rs. 10,000.

An AIADMK lawmaker announced that he would ‘gift’ gold ring to every child born today in North Chennai.

Some AIADMK leaders presented before us adventurous shows of floating on water while praying for Amma’s long life.

AIADMK leaders and Jayalalithaa supporters made it a point to flaunt Jayalalithaa tattoos – with her face, name or taglines carved.

Distribution of Amma brand of products were done free of cost across the state – with Amma soaps, Amma shampoo and other products on display. Goodies like sewing machines, television sets, sarees, dhotis, school notebooks, etc., were donated liberally.

Rallies were held across the state with huge fireworks planned for the evening.

And this is when Jayalalithaa didn’t make any personal appearance today. She didn’t come out and say thanks to her followers and fans.

Amazing! Subtle! God like! The celebrations are expected to last till weekend. But expect the continued run in the context of the electoral symbolism of all these activities.

Jayalalithaa’s 68th birthday made Tamil Nadu – ‘Amma Nadu’. Jayalalithaa’s party has tried to scale ‘her cult’ from ‘momentous to monumental’ – from her ‘Baahubali’ incarnation during the Chennai floods of November-December last year – floods that had battered the whole state badly – killing over 500 people – rains and floods that are considered among the costliest natural disaster of 2015.

Welcome to the kaleidoscope the South Indian politics is – totally person centric – going to the extent even to erect temples and offer worship.

The number ’68’ had never things going so good – to offer so much – so much to brag about – so much to write about. The Wikipedia editors must take this into consideration and act immediately.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/