The Jayalalithaa Cult
Jayaram Jayalalithaa, the powerful leader of one of India’s biggest regional parties, will have to remain in jail after a court refused to grant her bail Tuesday in a corruption case that has lasted nearly two decades.
But her supporters aren’t going to let her face be forgotten.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, a former movie star, has a cult-like following in Tamil Nadu, the state where she was chief minister until being forced to step down when the court found that she and three of her aides had amassed wealth beyond their known sources of income.
In the minds of many in the state and surrounding region, Ms. Jayalalithaa towers above everything else. In the southern union territory of Pondicherry near Tamil Nadu in March, her likeness was so huge it had to be held up by a scaffold.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was sentenced to four years in prison last month, has her main support base in Tamil Nadu where her image is ubiquitous. Upon hearing of her conviction on Sept. 28, these protesters held posters as they fasted to show their anger at the verdict.
Ms. Jayalalithaa is one of India’s most colorful and controversial politicians and first became chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1991. She led her party, the AIADMK, to a resounding victory in federal polls this year, winning 37 out of 39 parliamentary seats. This man in Chennai, the state’s capital, was one of those pleased by the result.
Popularly known as “Amma”, meaning mother in Tamil, Ms. Jayalalithaa centered her election campaign around the promise of an array of freebies, including blenders, goats, and even gold necklaces to her supporters.
In this photo, supporters of Ms. Jayalalithaa waved placards ahead of a public meeting in Pondicherry on March 27.
Ms. Jayalalithaa’s secretary, Bala Subramanium, said Sunday that “the court has been unfair to her.”
“She will always remain our leader,” he said. Above, supporters of Ms. Jayalalithaa celebrated her party’s federal-election victory on May 16.
Even before the court decided to refuse Ms. Jayalalithaa bail Tuesday, her fans were overcome with grief. In this photo, her supporters laid down to show how unhappy they were about the court verdict that found her guilty in September.
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