In Tamil Nadu, the first signs of change are visible on the walls of its capital Chennai. The beginning of a political alliance, the emergence of a new campaign or the posturing of an incumbent government—all play out on the graffiti painted on the walls, or the posters that that often cover it.
A couple of weeks before the election commission’s model code of conduct, (which asked the district administration to remove all political posters and banners) was imposed across the state ahead of the May 2016 assembly elections, the wall space was dominated by the achievements of the current chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s—Amma to her supporters—government. Strictly adhering to the brief issued by the chief minister to her party, the walls were painted with details of the various welfare schemes initiated by her government. The only thing punctuating the political propaganda were her pictures, most of which show her handing out freebies under a government scheme.
The “Brand Amma” is clearly the campaign strategy for the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as it hopes to win the state polls for the seventh time since the late 1970s. From the popular success of the unavagams, the canteens selling wholesome meals at a subsidised cost, to the baby kits for young mothers, cement bags, packaged water bottles, the free laptops distributed to students, bags of salt, seeds, boards outside vegetable shops, pharmacies and movie halls, “Amma” firmly stamped her presence on practically everything.