Remembering Jayalalithaa on her 1st death anniversary
A year back, former TN CM Jayalalithaa died on this fateful day leaving behind a divided party and several dejected followers. To commemorate her death, CM Palaniswami and Deputy-CM Panneerselvam led a silent procession to Amma's memorial at Marina Beach. Lamenting the state of AIADMK and TN politics after her death, they said "Nobody can replace Amma." Truer words have never been spoken before!
Jayalalithaa was a fighter who made spectacular political comebacks
Jayalalithaa was TN's CM for a record five times. After AIADMK founder MGR's death, Amma fought internal rivalry to become CM in 1991. Following her first stint, she faced corruption charges. Despite that, during 2001-2014, she became CM thrice. In 2014, she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case. But, she was acquitted by Madras-HC in a year, leading to her return as CM.
Champion of poor, Jayalalithaa was known for populist policies
Jayalalithaa was a messiah of the poor. Her government provided freebies like grinders, mixers and fans, benefiting about 2cr households. They distributed free laptops, helping about 3.5L students. But, Jayalalithaa's most popular scheme was 'Amma canteens', providing food to urban poor at low cost; this has been emulated by many states. She diversified this to Amma Bottled Water, Amma Pharmacies and Amma Cement.
Jayalalithaa challenged patriarchy, doled out women emancipation schemes
In conservative TN, Jayalalithaa challenged societal norms. She didn't allow her mentor MGR to dictate her actions. She said, "A woman should marry only if she wants to raise a family," not because she needs a man to support her. She brought many women-centric schemes. 'Cradle baby' to fight infanticide and all-women police stations to help women suffering domestic abuse, to name a few.
As a charismatic leader, Jayalalithaa invoked devotion from her followers
As CM and AIADMK supremo, Jayalalithaa wielded immense power as the "Amma" (mother) of TN. She kept her ministers at a distance, furthering her exclusivity. It was not uncommon for ministers to prostrate before her. Among her followers, she was venerated as a Goddess. Many of them professed loyalty by walking on hot coal or setting themselves on fire, if she faced electoral reverses.
Jayalalithaa's leadership style and charisma kept the party together!
Jayalalithaa's leadership kept AIADMK together. Amma's charisma and eloquent oratorical skills drew people. She was authoritarian in her approach taking strategic decisions like forcing rain-water harvesting during water shortage and cutting free power to save energy in the long run, earning her the epithet "Iron Lady." It was due to the respect she commanded that her followers didn't desert her despite corruption allegations.
One year on, why TN needs Jayalalithaa even today?
Since Jayalalithaa's death, TN politics has been clouded by uncertainty. First, Panneerselvam rebelled against the party. Then, after Jayalalithaa's close aide Sasikala's conviction, Paneerselvam and Palaniswami merged their factions. However, they removed Sasikala and her coterie, including nephew TTV Dhinakaran, from AIADMK. In all these machinations, TN's development has come to a standstill. Currently, TN needs a Jayalalithaa-like political leader. Who will that be?