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J. Jayalalithaa: She will always remain unmatched and a peerless stateswoman for generations to come
There are some who inherit a legacy and do justice to it and there are a very few who don't just pursue the legacy they inherited, but transcend it and create their own that supersedes the one they followed. J. Jayalalithaa comfortably leap frogs many in that list.

In a patriarchal world as ours, especially politics, it sure is a herculean task for the opposite gender to make their presence felt. One name that immediately comes to mind would be of Indira Gandhi who literally stomped all over in the grand old party to rein supreme.

Despite the presence of Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalithaa was the one who came closest to replicating Indira Gandhi. It would not be an exaggeration to say men literally shrunk their spine in her presence. Jayalalithaa towered over all on purpose, her party men cowed before her and there is no doubt that she enjoyed it. It perhaps was payback time after all that she had to go through from her initial years.

There were very few things that went the way she wanted to. Pushed into acting despite being a terrific student and then later forced into politics when she detested it, she hated anything she did, despite excelling in whatever she was obligated to do. Jayalalithaa charmed the silver screen notwithstanding the presence of several heavyweights. It did help, with MGR her mentor, the undisputed superstar of Tamil cinema then, making a special corner for her. That facilitated her not just in the movies but also got her cascaded into politics.

Classy, erudite and intelligent, her foray into politics was not easy, but she made use of the same characters to springboard herself into limelight. Jayalalithaa was a stickler to norms from her apprentice days in politics and that continued when she occupied the Chief Minister's chair too. Her maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha surprised several.

Many knew that she had arrived, though it was debatable if she sincerely wanted to make a career out of politics. Her mentor's consistent supervision did not sit well with her and she clearly did not see much of herself in politics. That changed when her mentor died. When she walked to sit beside her mentor and was kicked out, the fighter that she was realised that she would not accept be shamed. Just like her mentor MGR, who would have been happy had he been accommodated in the spectacle while the first DMK government was formed, but sidelined, fought for the biggest prize and won, his worthy ward Jayalalithaa too decided to take up the gauntlet for being humiliated. Men sneered, snubbed her but she rose like a phoenix defeating not just the opposition but also people within the party to rule the roost in 1991.

She behaved like an Empress oblivious to impress anyone around her. Her absolute disregard for humility, lack of courtesy and her total contempt for men made her look like an autocrat and the common man showed her the exit door with a humiliating defeat in the next elections.

In hibernation she realised her flaws and came back again to power this time wiser and a lot matured. She ironed out her flaws and hid her claws. Though M. Karunanidhi is always referred to as the wily and shrewdest politician to originate from the state, it is bemusing to know the number of times his calculations and strategies have gone wrong.

If he could not bring down his arch rival MGR during his hey days he found Jayalalithaa a stronger opponent and one who got whatever she wanted. She even managed to outsmart him while negotiating with coalition partners. In coalition, she knew given her attitude, it would be tough for her to continue for long and decided to make the party stronger. It is then that she decided to take complete control of the party dealing with any sort of factionalism with severe death blows.

As she slowly rose like a colossus others in the party made way and the state and her party saw heights of political sycophancy that was unheard of and the envy of many parties across the country. Party men tried to outdo each other to show their loyalty to her and she seemingly took great satisfaction in it.

The competition to "Worship" reached its zenith, while O.P. Panneerselvam the then minister took it to its extreme while he in an "economical" way pulled out his spotless white kerchief and wiped after the foot prints of the Chief Minister. He also deemed it fit to venerate the tyre of the car, his idol sat in and touched them in reverence in the direction of her feet. Little did others realise that he had passed the toughest test of loyalty in flying colours and was rewarded twice as the interim CM when Jayalalithaa was found guilty.

Jayalalithaa smartly in her next tenure turned towards the masses and started getting closer to them; with complete control over her party she endeared herself towards the masses. Her famed freebies to the downtrodden were received with thunderous cheers. With the party firmly in her iron grip she could pick and drop whoever she chose, for whatever reasons. There would hardly be a whimper, and if the whine reached her ears she would banish anyone without any explanation.

It would not be surprising to know that in a politically educated state as Tamil Nadu only a few in a hundred would be able to recognise the MLA's of the state. There were no heavyweights in Jaya's party; she remained the omnipresent one, so much so that the party AIADMK that her mentor MGR formed after his Mentor Anna could have conveniently been called All India "Amma" Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The title "Amma" stuck to her like a magnet and her charisma became overpowering, while the opposition seemed dumbstruck. In the 2016 elections, she hammered the opposition yet again single handedly, despite stiff opposition and won like none before. Not even MGR at his best got the results she got. She had comfortably outdone her mentor in deed as well as form.

If there were two things that made her tenure remarkable and comfortable for the people of her state, it has to be food and security. Her famed Amma Canteen concept, though derided at the beginning found favour with one and all, for only the hungry realise the value of food on time in a hygienic environment and at a cost that is negligible. It would not be presumptuous to say none went hungry in Tamil Nadu. Lakhs were indebted to her for that.

Security is another reason people of the state voted en masse for her. Common man could walk into a police station without the fear of intimidation or interference from any party; for she categorically ruled that no party member should walk the gates of a police station unless warranted. Jayalalithaa also can comfortably stake claim to many achievements during her term ranging from the death of Veerapan, Veeranam scheme, Mullaiperiyar and Cauvery victories and many more that put her on a very high pedestal in the hearts of her party workers.

Jayalalithaa would always remain an enigma as her personal travails will always remain a mystery as she hardly spoke about herself. When she did speak it was about governance or politics. Most of the information about her would be snippets gleaned or heard from others. A true nationalist, even she had to change tracks to avoid being framed as someone against the Dravidian cause. She had to even sidestep her close proximity to many in the saffron party to etch in the minds of the people that she worked for the entire spectrum of the society.

It would be a hyperbole to call her the perfect leader or even the tallest leader of her state, but what she achieved despite the stiffest opposition or even against her own wishes is nothing short of remarkable. To even think of what she could have done in a field of her interest and like, would be unfathomable.

Her deep intellect, uncanny shrewdness and her astounding domineering personality coupled with charisma and unmatched magnetism ensured she remained a darling to the masses. A persona that you could never ignore despite her flaws, her political history would remain etched in the loftiest parameters of Indian politics.

The fighter that she was, she fought for 75 days in the hospital. Like her other battles in her life that she lost, but only to win the war, she sure lost this battle too, and ended up glorious as she was. She will always remain unmatched and a peerless stateswoman for generations to come.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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