Forty-five is a nice age. Neither too old to be written off nor too young to be considered immature. When Tamil Nadu’s ruling party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), turned 45 on October 17, it could not be taken in either sense.
But the usual high decibel celebration was missing. Beautiful bouquets, huge rose garlands, VIP cars, sky high banners and posters on the Avvai Shanmugam Salai in South Chennai, plates of laddoos and loud fire crackers and of course loudspeakers heaping praises on its leader Jayalalithaa, were all missing.
Jayalalithaa, who would always celebrate the party’s anniversary in style and take the cadres by storm, too, was absent on Monday. On respiratory support for the past three weeks at the Apollo hospital in Chennai, Jayalalithaa could not make it to the party office to invigorate her cadres.
For a party that had evolved and revolved around Jayalalithaa over the years, this is new. As a woman, who fought her rivals, right from the beginning of not just her political career, but even as an actress in the 70s, and endeared herself as the epitome of human gestures, her presence had always energised the cadres.
Every year on October 17, clad in a simple sari wrapped around her shoulder and with her make up in place, Jayalalithaa would garland the MGR statue inside the party office. It was a routine for Jayalalithaa to speak to the cadres from the balcony inside the party headquarters. Whistles and fire crackers could be heard as she waved and displayed the party's symbol.
There were days when the AIADMK czarina had skipped the anniversary celebrations, like when she was away in Kodanad or busy with official work. But this time, her illness has been a let down for the inner strength of the party and cadres. Every senior leader, including her loyalist O. Panneerselvam, ministers Edappadi K. Palanisamy, party presidium chairman Madhusudhanan, looked grim. Everyone only wished speedy recovery for their ‘puratchi thalaivi’ or revolutionary leader.
The grand gala celebrations and the sweets were missing. Many of the caders have vowed not to celebrate Diwali this year, if their Amma is not back home to greet them. "My leader is my god. She is everything to me. If Amma doesn't greet us, not just the party's 45th anniversary, even I decided to avoid celebrations," says Selvi Selvakumar, a party cadre from T Nagar in Chennai.