Sitting around 2184 Kilometres away from Chennai, here in Delhi, it is really tough to understand the sea of emotions pouring in the coastal state of Tamil Nadu after the sad demise of their beloved ‘Amma’.
However it is astonishing to note that this is all for a lady who once had the caliber and authority of chairing a meeting in Chennai and scripting the fall of the Central Government. Distance was never an obstacle in Jayalalithaa’s destiny!
Born in present day Karnataka (erstwhile Mysore State), she ruled the politics of Tamilnadu, which shouldn’t be considered less than a miracle in identity based politics of Southern States.
She was an epitome of Women empowerment long before a northern leader mugged up and repeated the phrase on loop.
In 1982 her first political speech was centered on unity of Women ‘Pennin Orumai’ and her government pioneered in introducing women only police stations.
Today thirty four years later, with Mamata Banerjee in East, Mehbooba Mufti in North, Vasundhra Raje in West and Jayalalilta in South, ruling different Indian states in all the four corners of India, women have remained second to none in Indian politics
While Vasundhra and Mehbooba come from a political family lineage, Jaya and Mamata have struggled and fought hard to reach the top echelon of their respective political careers.
The common thing between Jayalalithaa and her other three contemporary women leaders, is the history of assaults that they have to face during their early political careers. Former CM of another northern state UP, Mayawati was threatened of rape and murder in the infamous Guest House Kand in Lucknow, Mamata Banerjee was injured in an attempted murder during her rally in Hazra Crossing whereas in a similar unfortunate incident Jayalalithaa once had her clothes pulled and barged out of Tamil Nadu Assembly in a torn Saree and sworn to not to come back until the dismissal of DMK government.
However all of these iconic ladies later on became CM, each for repeated times and gave their opponents and oppressors a taste of their own medicine.
An MTR’s protégé, Jayalalithaa’s life history has gone through many shades of black, white and grey.
My first memory of Jayalalithaa is of 1997, when I first heard of her after a raid in her Poes garden residence which recovered 800 kg silver, 28 kg gold, 750 pairs of shoes, 10,500 sarees, 91 watches among other such valuables.
She holds a Guinness Book of World Record for hosting 1,50,000 guests on the wedding of Shashikala’s biological and her foster son. Rightly considered as one of the most expensive wedding of its time, the incident also gathered much criticism and unwanted attention for Jayalalithaa.
In 2014 she became the first incumbent CM to be disqualified from holding office in a disproportionate assets case. Ironically when she first became CM in 1991 she had refused to accept government salary and was taking a token amount of INR 1.
She herself cited availability of ‘other mass resources of income’ as the reason for not taking up the salary.
Nevertheless her political competency, leadership and sheer courage are certain qualities that have given her a remarkable position in state and national politics.
During all those years of turmoil in her political career, she never even once had any public outburst. Be it anger, sadness or much joy, everything was well hidden behind a straight smiling face. Although those close to her know well how behind that entire serene and calm aura was a tough, resilient lady who was equally feared and respected by officers and party workers alike.
She was widely known for picking up any unassuming worker from the ground level of the party and making him or her MP candidate for the party. The escalations to Ministerial posts and high party portfolios were mostly based on loyalties and ground work instead of lobbying. This was one of the reasons why leader queued up to literally lay on the feet’s of Jayalalithaa at any opportunity provided.
As of today, Jayalalithaa was AIADMK and AIADMK was Jayalalithaa. There is no other acceptable visionary leader in the party. The upcoming events in politics of Tamil Nadu may work as a remarkable learning for some northern leaders such as Mayawati and Mamata in more than one sense.