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Where loyalty trumps all

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“Three more years,” screamed Vanmathi, gesturing emphatically with her fingers and tapping her feet to drum beats outside AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden home on May 11 morning. The news of the former Chief Minister's acquittal had just arrived.
The Class 10 student said she can’t wait “to turn 18 and vote for Amma, the best leader.” Asked why she supported the leader, the petite teenager replied: “I don’t know. That is how it has been. She is the best, everyone else is a waste!”
Watching her proudly was her mother, a long-time party loyalist. “First it was Thalaivar (MGR), after that it has been Amma. We will be with them for generations to come,” she said.
A few metres away, a middle-aged woman’s loud, high-pitched rendition of the MGR super-hit number ‘Naalai namade’ (Tomorrow is ours), piercing through the noise of fire crackers, drew television cameras. Swaying mildly, she kept repeating the line for as long as the cameras hovered around her.
“Our prayers have been answered,” said a branch secretary of the party from Kancheepuram, who did not wish to be named. “It is enough if Amma’s name comes in the papers,” he said, placing a sack of coconuts on the pavement. “I had vowed to break coconuts if the verdict was favourable. I am so relieved now.”

Loyalty, in a sense, has been the hallmark of Tamil Nadu politics. A person’s political commitment is primarily judged, in political circles, by her steely resolve to stick to a leader no matter what he or she is accused of. So what if critics label their leaders corrupt, authoritarian or power-hungry? “None like our leader,” they will vouch, with unmistakable earnestness.
The radical Dravidian movement is conceived historically as a “people’s struggle” challenging those who enjoy privilege and power. However, Dravidian politics has over the years centred around personal icons, their followers and their loyalty.

This was evidenced in the slow and, in some cases, virtually absent governance in Tamil Nadu after Ms. Jayalalithaa’s conviction in September. The inauguration of the Metro Rail — a much-awaited addition to Chennai’s desperately wanting public transport system — was put on hold. Governance in many areas came to a standstill, as senior government officials admitted in private conversations.

Jayalalithaa acquittal: where loyalty trumps all - The Hindu
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