The changing face of the AIADMK poster

N. Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on January 09, 2018

The hoarding at the Music Academy signal in Chennai. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

When J Jayalalithaa was alive, only her image dominated the hoardings and banners partymen put up whenever she went to any public function or party event, however few and far between they were. The ones celebrating her presence at the event through the hoardings were relegated to a small, almost invisible mention at a corner of the hoarding or banner.

Then, as much as the message and the image, what also mattered was who had put up the hoarding and where the hoarding had come up. Partymen either put up the hoardings to reaffirm their loyalty to amma or get back into her good books in case they had fallen out of favour. The most preferred point was near the Music Academy junction, which was the route Jayalalithaa would take if she were travelling from her residence in Poes Garden to the Secretariat.

After her death, for a brief while, Sasikala dominated the city’s hoardings-scape, in the form of ‘chinnamma’ – the amma’s trusted companion and hence legitimate successor to Jayalalithaa’s mantle. Following her conviction in a corruption case and imprisonment in a Bengaluru jail, Sasikala dropped out of sight and her nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, who was anointed party deputy general secretary just before Sasikala drove from Chennai to Bengaluru to surrender before the prison officials, got prominence in the hoardings, also because he was the AIADMK’s candidate from the RK Nagar constituency by-election, which was necessitated by Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016.

The AIADMK split into two factions, one headed by Dhinakaran and the other by O Panneerselvam, former Chief Minister, who rebelled against Sasikala and claimed that he had been forced to step down as Chief Minister, after a dramatic half an hour of meditation at the place where Jayalalithaa’s body was buried.

Since that moment, the AIADMK is no longer the party that it was, controlled by a supreme leader with an iron hand. It split into three factions – led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and TTV Dhinakaran – with the factions led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam now coming together. Panneerselvam has been accommodated as deputy chief minister and coordinator of the party, with Palaniswami a joint coordinator.

Panneerselvam, who maintained a low profile even when he stood in as chief minister for Jayalalithaa and for a brief period after her death, was prominent on posters when it was announced that he would be the deputy chief minister.

The hoarding that catches everyone’s eye at the Music Academy signal now, has, as usual, a prominent image of Jayalalithaa and her “two eyes,” referring to Palaniswami and Panneerselvam. In a party where posters and hoardings matter, there is no stronger message that can be conveyed to the party faithfuls than describing the chief minister and his deputy as the eyes of the departed party supremo. As the fighting with the Dhinakaran faction intensifies, the poster war also promises to intensify.

When Jayalalithaa was alive, you could see traffic cops in full strength on the roads only when she left her house. They would line the route on both sides, each one taking up position at intervals of 10 feet. Then they went missing. But in the last few days, the cops are back on the road, especially the one leading to the Secretariat. Is there a message being conveyed? One doesn’t know. But conversations with those in the government and outside almost always boil down to “what will happen,” referring to whether the government will last and, if so, how much longer. Things continue to be in a limbo as the two AIADMK factions engage in sabre rattling and a war of attrition. The DMK has petitioned Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao for the Assembly to be convened and the Palaniswami Government to seek a fresh vote of confidence. Tamil Nadu still does not have a full-time governor; Vidyasagar Rao, who is Governor of Maharashtra, has been holding additional charge for almost a year now.

Published on August 29, 2017

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