People’s Puratchi Thalaivi
Tamil Nadu is orphaned by the passing of J Jayalalithaa, deified as Amma, after a prolonged period of hospitalisation. When the people’s Amma passed away, their world fell apart. It will take a long time for the people of the state to come to terms with her passing. The surge of the throng in an emotionally-charged atmosphere to have a last, yet lasting glimpse of their beloved Amma demonstrated the depth of the love and affection for her. Those who differed with her domineering brand of politics may not have adored her, but they too were in awe of her and her public persona. Her journey from an actress to a demi-goddess was arduous. Her forced eviction from MGR’s cortege won her the sympathy of many women and came as a turning point in her political career. The Tamil cinema cannot be thought of without the MGR-Jayalalithaa pair. The long-serving chief minister’s social welfare schemes and subsidisation of food, medicine and education reflected her genuine concern for the impoverished multitudes and augmented her aura as Amma. Her unrivalled popularity was unattainable to lesser politicians. Her emotional bond with ordinary people was special, not to say indecipherable. Self-assurance was one of the most important attributes in her. She never bowed down before anyone. She luxuriated in the attention and admiration she received and smiled a small smile to acknowledge obeisance. She took the court cases in her stride and refused to be overwhelmed by them. It is true that J Jayalalithaa was a self-motivated and self-made woman with lots of personality. But the creation of an extraordinary personality cult around her cannot be entirely explained without reference to her social and cultural background. No wonder she was not particularly enmoured of saying or doing anything against the Hindutva ethos despite heading a Dravidian party with its roots in atheism and rationalism, first propounded by the legendary Periyar.
G David Milton, Maruthancode