Photo Credit: Vikatan TV via YouTube
It is election season in Tamil Nadu, and barbs are flowing freely in all directions. On Tuesday, the opposition Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam took out full-page advertisements in newspapers with a poser for the electorate: “You would have seen the chief minister, on stickers, on banners or on TV, but have you seen Jayalalithaa in person?”
A day later, the DMK’s question seemed fitting. The Tamil Nadu chief minister did not make a public appearance on her 68th birthday, and yet her face was everywhere as her supporters, keeping up the annual tradition, indulged in characteristically over-the-top celebrations.
Chief among the devotees of the All India Anna Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam chief was party legislator MV Karuppaiah. He visited a government swimming pool in Madurai on Wednesday morning and floated in the water for nearly an hour with an AIADMK flag in his mouth. Clad in a T-shirt bearing Jayalalithaa’s face, the Sholavandan MLA emerged from the pool shouting “Long live Amma” in Tamil.
He had performed a similar act of devotion a few years ago when the chief minister was incarcerated in Bangalore in connection with a disproportionate assets case.
Other Jayalalithaa supporters appeared keen to ensure she left an indelible mark on their lives. In Chennai, nearly 1,000 party workers got “Amma tattoos” on their forearms.
AIADMK workers had planned elaborate celebrations in the build-up to the special day. Thousands of women had taken out a milk pot procession in Madurai on Monday. In keeping with the general numerical theme, 68 special medical camps were organised and an initiative to plant 68 lakh saplings was launched across the state. A 68-kg cake was cut at the party headquarters in Chennai. And earlier in the month, 68 couples got married at a ceremony, with most of them wearing headbands with Jayalalithaa’s face on them.
AIADMK cadres had also announced that a gold chain or a gold ring would be given to every new-born in government hospitals on Wednesday. In addition, the Chennai civic corporation had decided to open a fixed deposit account of Rs 10,000 for every girl born in government hospitals in the city on Jayalalithaa’s birthday.
The government-run Amma Canteens served free food to mark the occasion, while the AIADMK made it possible for every well-wisher to convey their greetings. The festivities will continue till the weekend
Here are some other highlights from the birthday celebrations: