Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jayalalitha's Political Theater

It had all the elements of a Tamil box-office hit: sobbing men, wailing women, lungi-clad youths consuming bug poison and a "heroine" afflicted with arthritis.
The sequence of events unfolded along very predictable lines. The "heroine" does the "disappearing act" at dusk. Crowds gather under a star-lit sky seeking her "return". The heroine responds. The following evening she is back on the stage. And with it the curtain came down on yet another act of what could be termed as childish prank that has now become part of Tamil Nadu politics, according to observes.
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam General Secretary Jayalalitha has a natural talent for acting, matched only by her alleged insatiable appetite for power. Whenever she finds herself in a politically uncomfortable situation she seems to simply "quit public life," but make a gallant comeback the very next day "under pressure from party workers."
This time around Jayalalitha did it on Dec. 18. She summoned the press to her residence in the evening and read out a prepared statement announcing her "retirement from public life." Citing her bone ailment as the "reason" for her decision, the AIADMK leader said that she had resigned from the position of the party's General Secretary and was "leaving station immediately" for an undisclosed destination.
Far from leaving Madras, Jayalalitha reportedly spent the night in the cozy comforts of her air-conditioned bedroom while crowds gathered outside demanding her "return to public life". Party stalwarts, including several former ministers, arrived at her residence late in the night only to be chased away by the watchmen who had been given "strict instructions not to allow anyone inside the house."
The following morning, hundreds of party faithfuls assembled at her house and began a "hunger strike" seeking her "return to politics." There were reports of youths consuming bug poison "unable to bear the shocking news" of her departure from public life. One youth attempted to set fire to himself outside her residence while another emptied a bottle of "bug poison." For some strange reason the youth who consumed the bug poison was said to have been found soon in an inebriated state and was taken to hospital.
Party "stalwarts," led by Deputy General Secretary S.D. Somasundaram, pleaded with a defiant watchman to let them in. Eventually Jayalalitha "relented." The party leaders were allowed to have a "darshan" of her late in the afternoon and were told that she had "agreed" to reverse her decision. It was nearing dusk when newsmen were again summoned to her house and a statement signed by her was read out to the press by Somasundaram.

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