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Amma?s there, everywhere

Thanks to Amma's omnipresence in poll materials, even the man on the street talks about her visit through his town.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2006 15:48 IST
GC Shekhar

More than two decades ago when she appeared on Tamil Nadu’s political stage Jayalalithaa remained Jayalalithaa — in fact the last extra ‘a’ was added much later for numerology.

As she addressed party meetings and later campaigned during the 1984 elections when MGR lay ill in a New York hospital, the AIADMK posters used to announce her only as "Selvi Jayalalithaa", that being her official name to date.

After MGR’s death in 1987 Jayalalithaa inherited not only his political legacy but also his title of “revolutionary leader” with just the gender changing from Puratchi Thalaivar to Puratchi Thalaivi. And that was how her partymen addressed her and during all subsequent elections only that title adorned the party's campaign material. So much so that even official invitations of the government and private institutions came to be prefixed with the title of Puratchi Thalaivi, more as a rule than an exception.

But post 2001, when she made a dramatic comeback to power, even the Puratchi Thalaivi gave way to the more reverential "Amma." It probably had to do with a grateful Jayalalithaa declaring that she would henceforth be like the mother of the people of Tamil Nadu.

Election 2006 has seen the complete evolution of Jayalalithaa as Amma. Every type of campaign material used by the AIADMK uses only the word Amma; one cannot even get a glimpse of Puratchi Thalaivi. "Amma, we're here because of you, you are here for the people," proclaimed one poster. It probably makes greater economic sense as well since Amma occupies less space resulting in lower printing costs.

Thanks to Amma's omnipresence in election materials and meetings, even the man on the street talks about Amma's visit through his town and government schemes get freely labeled as Amma's own schemes. "By repeatedly saying Amma did this and that the AIADMK is trying to mislead people as if Jayalalithaa gave away free cycles or flood relief from her own pocket and not from government funds," rued DMK activists at Cuddalore. "The very fact that the common man refers to our leader as Amma proves that he has a special place for her in his heart for all that she has done for the people," justified law minister D. Jayakumar.

The day is not far off when the mothers of state would be left wondering if their kids were referring to them or Jayalalithaa whenever they call out "Amma".