Jayalalithaa, Mayawati and Mamata could individually hold the key to govt formation, if not pitch for the PM’s chair themselves, given the number of seats each is targeting in her state. A look at how they are going about their objective of a larger role in Delhi.
It was December 31, 2012. J Jayalalithaa was just back from the ceremony swearing in Narendra Modi, a self-confessed friend, as Gujarat chief minister. At a meeting of the party general council, an AIADMK minister got up to suggest Jayalalithaa was the ideal prime ministerial candidate. She went on to tell the meeting her party would not align with either the Congress or the BJP. In the year since, Jayalalithaa has largely been silent on Modi, congratulating him on his elevation as BJP campaign committee chief but making no comment when he became the party’s PM candidate.
As farfetched as it may seem outside, “Prime Minister Puratchi Thalaivi Amma Dr J Jayalalithaa” has a resonance inside Tamil Nadu. Posters and advertisements announce this day after day. One has her in front of Parliament, another has the President inviting her, and a third has Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse bowing before her. The most memorable vignette had Finance Minister O Panneerselvam standing reverentially behind her on budget day, clutching a suitcase with her photo, with Parliament in the background.
The AIADMK campaign has taken a shriller pitch around Jayalalithaa’s 66th birthday, celebrated Monday, with loyalists and fans playing on the date, 24, and the number 66. The government-run Music and Fine Arts University is holding a 66-hour festival; the health department is organising 660 medical camps; and Jayalalithaa planted the first of 66 lakh tree saplings February 21. The PR department has placed LCD screens and photo exhibitions across the state to extol her government; the department of Tamil development last week organised a seminar on Tamil e-books; the transport department held a blood donation drive that has reportedly entered the Guinness Book with over 50,000 participants — all linked to her birthday. The AIADMK has organised kabaddi matches, festivals, seminars and personality development classes. Enterprising businessmen have turned social workers feeding the needy.
A well-known fan, Chennai mayor “Saidai” S Duraisamy, has undertaken an expansion of “Brand Amma”. He has launched Amma Canteens for the urban poor, followed by Amma packaged drinking water. In the budget …continued »