//Picture imperfect: Now, Amma is Annapoorani

Picture imperfect: Now, Amma is Annapoorani

JAYA MENON,  Indian Express,  Thursday, February 23, 2006 at 0134 hours IST

CHENNAI, FEBRUARY 22: From mother to goddess was a smooth transition for AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa. Ensconced in Fort St George she perhaps did not know about her status upgrade. But all she had to do was to take a walk in Vridhachalam in Cuddalore district to know that her supporters had plastered the walls with posters of her as Goddess Annapoorani.

The posters have the Tamil Nadu chief minister seated in lotus position, holding a golden pot of rice in one hand and a ladle in the other, a street metaphor for the hand that apparently feeds the starving millions in the state.

But here’s more. Not content with merely depicting their Amma as a goddess, some enthusiastic partymen have also covered Virudhunagar town with posters showing Lord Hanuman carrying the two-leaves election symbol of the AIADMK—with the ubiquitous party chief’s face nestled in between.

However, the new addition to the pantheon has not delighted everyone. Vinayagar V Murali, president of the Federation of Hindu Organisations, is furious that the posters ‘‘showed a mere mortal as the Almighty Mother who provides nourishment to the entire mankind’’ and has demanded that the perpetrators of the act be expelled from the party.

And Murali has a less divine agenda in mind. If Jayalalithaa fails to concede to the Federation’s demand, he warns, it will petition the Election Commission to bar the AIADMK from contesting elections ‘‘for hurting the religious sentiments of the majority of the people’’.

The Brahmin Seva Sangam, has also demanded ‘‘stringent action against the erring partymen’’ in view of the chief minister’s oft-repeated statement that everybody is equal in the eyes of the law. A few days ago, posters in Kanchipuram depicted Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi with chains around his hands and an angry Jayalalithaa looking on. Following protests, these were removed.

Some years back the depiction of Jayalalithaa—apparently her ‘‘divinity’’ straddles all religions—as Virgin Mary evoked strident protests from the Christian community, forcing the AIADMK leader to issue an apology and order the immediate removal of the posters.