J. Jayalalithaa, the charismatic six-time Chief Minister who ruled the political arena and Tamil cinema world alike for decades on end, died at the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai late on Monday night.
The 68-year-old breathed her last at the ICU of the hospital at 11.30 pm where she was admitted on September 22, despite efforts to sustain her revival,
A political veteran, Jayalalithaa achieved a historic milestone on May 19, 2016 when she led the AIADMK to a spectacular successive term on her re-election, a feat that was earlier achieved only by her mentor M.G. Ramachandran. A darling of the national media, Jayalalithaa was hailed as an astute administrator and a shrewd politician, but her critics accused her of behaving like a monarch.
Buried, not cremated
A sea of humanity bid a tearful adieu to Jayalalithaa who was laid to rest right next to her mentor MGR on the majestic Marina Beach, even as impassioned cries of “Amma” filled the air.
The sea breeze and the 21-gun salute marking state honour triggered further spells of crying and chest-beating by party cadres shouting Puratchi Thalavi Amma (revolutionary leader) as they watched the ceremony on giant screens.
About two lakh people were near the burial site and the total number of people who turned up to pay their last respects to the “Iron lady” at Rajaji Hall could have been around six to eight lakh. The crowd swelled so much at times that the police had to use mild force to keep things under control.
Her brand of politics
Freebies galore and populist schemes under the popular ‘Amma’ brand became the hallmark of Jayalalithaa’s tenure as Chief Minister, helping her steamroll arch-rival DMK in this year’s Assembly polls.
New key players
While O. Panneerselvam has been named as the new Chief Minister, it is still not clear as to who will lead the party. Jayalalithaa was both the Chief Minister as well as the General Secretary of the AIADMK. However, speculation is rife that her close aide and confidante Sasikala has been calling the shots in the party for some time now.
On Saturday, Jayalalithaa's long time aide appeared all set to take over the mantle of AIADMK General Secretary with party leaders and state ministers urging her to assume the post, asserting that she alone will now be able to lead the party.
The death of J. Jayalalithaa is indeed a turning point in Dravidian politics. She was one of the few leaders who fought her way up in the party to consolidate her position. Despite her star status and proximity to the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late MGR, nothing was served to her on a platter.
Her death highlights a major lacuna in the way Indian political parties function. Several political parties in our country, especially at the regional level, are known not to have a clear succession plan. They are helmed by mostly one person throughout his or her life and post that person, the picture is unclear. Another issue is the thick veil of secrecy maintained around a leader’s health. People have every right to know what has happened to their leader....