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Critics Flay Pricey Wedding For State Politician’s Son

September 6, 1995

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Even for a country accustomed to regal extravagance, the opulence of the wedding is astonishing: 200 truckloads of roses and jasmine will carpet a five-mile road for the bridegroom, who will ride a sandalwood carriage drawn by six Arabian horses.

About 300,000 guests are invited to a pre-wedding dinner prepared by 3,500 cooks at a 30-acre estate covered with tents lit by chandeliers.

The fireworks alone are said to cost hundreds of thousands dollars.

Indian newspapers have been calling Thursday’s wedding the most lavish the country has seen. Critics call it a gaudy and vulgar display of political power.

The bridegroom is the foster son of Jayalalitha Jayaram, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu who was a popular film star before turning to politics and winning the state’s highest office. The bride is the granddaughter of another famed actor, Shivaji Ganesan.

Opposition politicians say the affair will cost $32 million, and accuse Jayalalitha of paying for it with state government funds. She vehemently denies that.

For years, Jayalalitha was so popular that many of her supporters worshipped her as an incarnation of a Hindu goddess. Huge posters of her appear on many city streets.

But her administration has been plagued by allegations of corruption and by her own behavior, often described as haughty or arrogant. The lavishness of the wedding has further hurt her public image.

``Marriages may be made in heaven, but when they set about causing major upheavals on earth ... they are bound to offend public sensibilities,″ said an editorial in The Times of India.

Cardboard models of forts, temples and monuments have been set up along roads, which will be lit by lamps ever 10 feet. Trees will be illuminated with millions of colored light bulbs.

So much electricity will be needed for the wedding that a group of lawyers persuaded the High Court to order the state not to cut off power to hundreds of thousands of Tamil Nadu residents to make sure the ceremony is lit up.

So many people have been invited that the court also ordered officials not to block traffic on any of the state’s roads.

The court asked the government to prove it is not providing free electricity for the wedding. That issue has not been resolved.

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