One Of The Last Leaders Of The Masses Falls: Rest In Peace Jayalalithaa

The inevitable has happened. One of the pillars of Tamil Nadu politics, Jayalalithaa, was declared dead yesterday at 11:30 PM by the hospital she was being treated in. That there was something wrong with her health was more or less clear from the day she was admitted to the hospital on 22nd September 2016. What followed over the time was a roller-coaster ride and finally the news not everyone was ready to hear came out. The void that she leaves will be impossible to fill. There could be political differences that one had with her or All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. However, one will accept that she was one of the last leaders of the masses of modern India. Number of people waiting to get her last glimpse is enough to prove that.

Politics anywhere starts from being about ideologies and usually ends up being about a person. History is replete with such examples. The future shall be no different. In a country as diverse as India, understanding politics, political ideologies and inclinations is as tough as predicting which side the camel is likely to sit. The politics of South India, especially Tamil Nadu, is even harder to understand. It revolves around personality worship, appeasement, gifting and showmanship. That is not to say that there is no talk of development, infrastructure improvement and other necessities of day-to-day-life. However, it is largely overshadowed by the promises and act of giving away gifts. In a largely two-party system, there is little scope that this system could change in the near future.

One of the stalwarts of this two party political system was J Jayalalithaa. More famous as ‘Amma’ or ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’, she was a protege of yesteryear actor-turned-politician Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran. Marudar had formed AIADMK after he was expelled from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Jayalalithaa herself being an actor of acclaim before she was taken by MGR under his wings and nurtured as a politician. That she was well read and had a presentable and easy going face only worked in her favour.

She was one of the few politicians of that time who had a mass following both among the elite and the commoners. Jayalalithaa soon rose to become a kingmaker and cemented her place among the party workers. Her easy to approach demeanour helped AIADMK reach women in droves and wrest their support easily. In a state like Tamil Nadu, her iron-fist rule and absolute control over the party set an example. And its cadres was something that left most politicians nearer to the national capital in awe.

But despite this advantage to her credit, she never tried to break out from the tried and test format of politics of Tamil Nadu. The format of gifts, of appeasement et al. Reports of disproportionate assets also marred most of the political career of Jayalalithaa. She was barred by the Supreme Court of India from holding the post of Chief Minister when the case against her was being decided. She was later acquitted and returned as the Chief Minister of the state. But despite a large following, she could never mobilise it to fight the deep-rooted corruption and caste system prevalent in the state. And this assumes importance because her guide was a proclaimed atheist who despised caste, creed and all that evil.

A question that would be troubling some people now would be what happens to AIADMK now? Will O Panneerselvam, the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, be able to fit into the shoes Jayalalithaa? And now that she is gone, there is bound to be a tectonic shift in the political balance of the state. One must remember that unlike MGR, Jayalalithaa named no definite successors. What is sure, however, is that both DMK and Panneerselvam have a mammoth task at hand.

We pray for your journey to the other side. R.I.P. Jayalalithaa.

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