‘Bhakti cult’

Print edition : September 30, 2016

ADORATION of “Amma” (Jayalalithaa) has virtually turned into a bhakti cult. It manifests itself in various forms—from AIADMK Ministers and legislators prostrating themselves at Jayalalithaa’s feet or installing a series of colourful hoardings describing her as “Mother Cauvery”, “Warrior for Social Justice” and “Epic Heroine”, to pujas, yagnas, rituals, mass prayers and sacrifices, as was done by her Ministers for her return as Chief Minister in the wake of her resignation from office after she was sentenced to jail in the disproportionate assets case on September 27, 2014, by the Special Judge of the trial court in Bengaluru ( Frontline, June 12, 2015).

If the Ministers and MLAs had until then called her Tamil Nadu’s “permanent Chief Minister” (nirandhara mudhalvar), they christened her makkalin mudhalvar (people’s Chief Minister) after she lost her office following the court order. For instance, S.P. Velumani, who was Minister for Rural Development in Jayalalithaa’s absence from September 2014 to May 2015, announced on January 6, 2015, that “as per the guidance of Makkalin Mudhalvar Honourable Puratchi Thalaivi Amma [revolutionary leader], I am proud to participate in this regional conference of State Rural Development Ministers”, at Thiruvananthapuram. Velumani’s prepared speech in English was laced with descriptions of her as a “visionary leader” and “Puratchi Thalaivi Amma” in the presence of then Union Minister for Rural Development Chaudhary Birender Singh and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

AIADMK Ministers become rapturous reciting their prefatory poems extolling Jayalalithaa during discussions on grants to their respective departments. On August 8, 2014, the then Handlooms Minister Gokula Indira described Jayalalithaa as “endless rain from the sky”, “the milk of brightness from the circular moon”, “the flower with fragrance”, “the divine feet which protects the Tamil land and the Tamil dynasty”, and a “historical leader” who “smashed the efforts” of people who tried to deny the waters of the Cauvery and the Mullaperiyar rivers to Tamil Nadu.

Velumani, while replying to the debate for grants for his department, praised her for giving “an integrated good governance of the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas”. He went on to call Jayalalithaa “Annapoorani for providing Amma canteens, Amma drinking water, Amma salt and Amma pharmacies”. He described her as “the Dravidian leader” whom the directions (east, west, north and south) worship because she comes up with an achievement every day. On August 12, 2014, Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam called her “the divine daughter who never slept”, a “scholar in three types of Tamil’, “the mother-bastion who protected the honour of the Tamil race”, and so forth. With each adulatory epithet, the House would echo with the thumping of the desks by AIADMK legislators.

But what took the cake was AIADMK MLA A. Ramu’s claim, on August 2, giving credit to “Amma” for Hillary Clinton contesting the United States presidential election. Ramu said the “turning point” in Hillary Clinton’s career came after her meeting with Jayalalithaa in 2011 in Chennai. “Hillary Clinton not only understood Amma’s administrative skills but was mesmerised by her proficiency in English,” he said. “Today, Hillary Clinton’s name is inscribed in golden letters as the U.S. presidential nominee. It happened because of Amma and I want to record this in the Assembly,” Ramu said ( The Hindu, August 3, 2016).

T.S. Subramanian

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.


R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor