Tableaux add a unique texture and feel to the Republic Day Parade and over the years they have become an inevitable part of the parade. But tableaux also court controversies. On Monday West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed regret that the state’s tableau was not picked for the parade in New Delhi.
However, the spotlight this time is on Tamil Nadu. During the Republic Day parade in Chennai, 24 of the tableaux by various state departments had photographs or cut-outs of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. On the face of it there’s nothing new about such displays of sycophancy. From water to cement and from food to public schemes, the AIADMK has named many after its leader — Amma.
The DMK, the main Opposition in Tamil Nadu, also covered the state with its leader M Karunanidhi’s photos when it was in power. However, what’s different in this case is that Jayalalithaa is not holding office and has been convicted by a court.
The tableaux give credence to the state Opposition’s claim that Jayalalithaa still wields the real power, even after her conviction — that O Panneerselvam is just a namesake chief minister acting as her proxy. For the AIADMK also this is clear — Jayalalithaa, who is a lifetime general secretary of the party, is the ‘people’s CM’.
This subservience to the ‘invisible CM’ is also clear in the response given by Sivakasi MLA and minister in state government KT Rajenthra Bhalaji to a media house: “Amma may not be the CM now. But the present government is being run with her guidance. After all, she is our leader.”
There’s nothing new about personality cults. The infamous examples that come to mind are North Korea, China and the erstwhile USSR. North Korea has the Kims, China has Mao Zedong and the former Soviets had Joseph Stalin. But what’s different about Tamil Nadu’s brand of sycophancy is that it immortalises its leaders when they are alive.
Moreover, the message this eulogising of a convicted person, especially on Republic Day, sends is not in line with the occasion celebrated. The AIADMK’s sycophancy is cocking a snook at the people of Tamil Nadu and the nation’s justice system.