I am not a political aficionado though am raised in 2 states that are considered to be the feather-bed for political potboilers. Yes, my affiliations are random and anything intriguingly watchable is my forte. But, if it’s about Jayalalithaa, then I will have the Pandora’s box open for numerous anecdotes.
Jayalalithaa was a combination of enigmatic qualities – talent, charismatic, gutsy, controversy child, courageous administrator, a power hungry leader who is obstinate, eccentric and autocratic. Yet, the love and respect that accentuated from people of Tamil Nadu clearly made a statement – she was the powerhouse behind AIADMK’s routing success amidst titanic rivalry.
The most impressive strata of Jayalalithaa’s resume was her impeccable transition from films to politics. Yes, she was a MGR protege all through but to have held her own in a man’s world amidst eyes of vengeance and ceasefire is a testimony to her character. After MGR’s death, Jayalalithaa and AIADMK were orphaned. The future looked bleak especially since the party divided between MGR’s family and Jayalalithaa. Stories of how she withered away a hostile AIADMK after MGR’s demise is a story to be read and told. The resolute and adamant could only have seen the storm off, and Jayalalithaa stood tall. She made AIADMK a force to reckon, with pleasant and unpleasant notes across acute political waters.
Jayalalithaa’s political avatar was no less animated and was plenty of drama. Tamil Nadu’s legacy of tentacle politics plus Jayalalithaa’s debonair made the cat fight even more interesting. She had her ups and downs but adjacently, her popularity soared.
A top notch actress in 60s and 70s, 28 films with the mercurial MGR and his greatest protege (personal and professional), heralded AIADMK flag after MGR’s unceremonious death, 6 terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, jailed for corruption and propaganda of wealth, her addictive and curious relationship with Sasikala Natarajan, spitting venom with DMK chieftain M Karunanidhi, undisputed political aura that eclipses a failed personal life, a lady of a single mind and self possessed persona. And, remember – her last successive victory in 2016 (first ever by AIADMK since MGR in 1984) just established her as the greatest messiah of the AIADMK clan.
My most visible moment of Jayalalithaa was her BBC interview with Karan Thapar. She battled fire with fire, provocative questions were brutally shot back, allegations were retorted with data and personal questions were dodged skillfully. “Chief Minister, it was a pleasure speaking to you today”, quipped Karan Thapar, extending himself to shake hands. “It was not a pleasure speaking to you today. Namaste”, Jayalalithaa responded.
Life moves on and so will AIADMK. There will be ruffled feathers but someone will take over the mantle albeit chaos. But the big shoes of Jayalalithaa will never be filled. And perhaps, AIADMK will miss the audacity of Amma.