April 14, 2021
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Chennai Corner

Supporters of Amma are thrilled with L.K. Advani's blog about the feasibility of a " non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister" after the 2014 general elections

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Chennai Corner


National Aspirations

The BJP and some leaders like Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray are hugely upset with L. K. Advani's recent blog that a non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister supported by one of these parties is "feasible" after the 2014 general elections. But not so AIADMK leaders. On the contrary, they are thrilled because they feel that in his prediction is implied that their puratchi thalaivi — CM J Jayalalitha — will play a prominent role in the choice of the next PM. According to an AIADMK leader, “Many of us even strongly believe that Amma herself could emerge as the popular choice post-poll.” It’s no secret that amma nurses national aspirations and in fact told her cadre at her birthday celebrations in February that the only gift she wants from them is 40 Lok Sabha seats.

However, her first outing to make an impact on the national political stage started with a bang but ended with a whimper. In fact, she got upstaged by another woman CM, Mamata Banerjee, whose every sneeze causes pneumonia in the UPA government. Jayalalitha was basking in the limelight initially after announcing that she and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik would back former Lok Sabha Speaker, P. A. Sangma as a Presidential candidate because he was a tribal. The theatrics enacted by Mamata and by Sangma himself (who lost to President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee) led to it being virtually forgotten that the first backer of the former Lok Sabha Speaker was Jayalalitha.

Wiser after the experience, Jayalalitha’s backing of BJP’s Vice-Presidential candidate Jaswant Sangh, who lost to Vice-President Hamid Ansari, this week was relatively low-key. Jayalalitha gave two reasons for putting her faith in him as a candidate after he called on her: “The first is my personal regard for Jaswant Singhji. Our association goes back 28 years. I have known him since both of us were colleagues in the Rajya Sabha in 1984,” she said. Her second reason, she said was because, “In a true democracy, there has to be an opposition. Simply because the candidate put up by the ruling dispensation appears to have a winning chance does not mean that no else should contest... That is why we are making our opposition known and felt.”

Thick Skin

But to be a national leader, she will have to develop a thick skin because she’s not going to get reverence or sycophancy of the kind she is lavished by AIADMK cadre. Yesterday’s Parliament session shows that even someone like L. K. Advani can make remarks that can rile leaders like Sonia Gandhi and create an uproar in Parliament. So Jayalalitha will have to get used to tolerating DMDK leader Vijayakant’s cutting remarks as a practice exercise for the national stage and not let him get to her. This week she took him and the Hindu which published his remark on August 1 that Jayalalitha was running her government through statements — in an allusion to her being in her estate at Kodanadu since June 21 (she came to Chennai briefly to cast her vote for the Presidential Poll on July 19) — to court for defamation. City public prosecutor M.L. Jagan filed the defamation complaint on behalf of the CM before the principal sessions court seeking punishment of the publisher, printer and editor of the Hindu under section 500 and 501 of IPC and Vijayakanth under section 500 of IPC. In her defence she dubbed Vijayakant’s charge that nowhere in the world had a CM taken such a long break from office as being “totally fallacious, defamatory and without basis”. Her petition underlined that while she did take a break in Kodanadu, she discharged all official and constitutional duties, even on Sundays, from there. Incidentally, on August 6 she flew out of cool Kodanadu back to hot Chennai after being given a warm send off by AIADMK cadres. In January, she had filed a defamation case against Tamil magazine Nakkeeran for publishing a cover story about Jayalalitha eating beef and also against the Hindu for translating it and carrying it the next day. On January 7 irate AIADMK supporters had attacked Nakkeeran’s office and burnt copies of the publication.

Barbaric Ritual

About 10 children (some as little as five years old), were allowed by their parents to get their cheeks pierced with steel rods for a temple ritual at the Thiruveedhi Amman temple in Korukkupet. This barbaric ritual happens in the month of Aadi every year, except usually adults take part in it. Child right activists were aghast when they saw pictures (carried by the Times of India) of children sitting in a row, silent (because one cannot speak with the rods in their mouths), and the excruciating agony of the piercing mirrored in their eyes.

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