She ruled the hearts of the masses on silver screen and probably was the first only female politician who has had men lining up to prostrate themselves at her feet. As ‘Amma’, the Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, Puratchi Thalaivi Amma J Jayalalitha has the utmost reverence and devotion throughout the nation especially in ‘South India’.
In spite of all charges of corruption and the related prison trips, she upstaged the opposition and kept her feet firmly planted in the male –dominated political arena of Tamil Nadu.
Amma, an incarnated goddess by her supporters and party workers, she was known for her battles throughout her life. However, the life is no more as the cardiac arrest took her away from this world forever.
Snippets of her journey from ‘Ammu’ to ‘Amma’
The silver screen
Born on February 24, 1948 in Mandya, near Mysuru, she lost her father when she as just two. Soon after the loss, she moved to Bengluru and studied at Bishop Cotton Girl’s High school for short period of time. Then her mother, Vedavalli took her to Chennai to provide her and her brother the best education and life ahead. However, later she became a small- time actress.
She was fondly called by her mother as Ammu, proved to be one of the diligent students. Besides being fluent in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English, she was also trained in classical music, western classical piano and various forms classical dance, including Mohiniattam , Manipuri, Kathak, and Bharatanatyam. She made her debut in movies as a child artist.
I think she was a complete actor — glamorous, beautiful, and up to date with the fashion. She had lead roles but still was a heroine of the masses.
MGR and politics
MG Ramachandran (MGR) who was her co-actor-turned politician is known for bringing her into politics. She was considered to be his protégée and soon after his death, Jayalalitha proclaimed herself his heir.
In 1982, she joined AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) which was started by MGR. However, in 1991 she became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. She wasn’t the first female chief minister the state had seen, she was the second woman chief minister after Janaki Ramachandran, MGR’s widow, whom she had outsmarted.
But then she fought back in 2001 polls and came back in power. She has been the Tamil Nadu’s CM thrice- from 1991 to 1996, 2001 to 2006 and then 2011 to 2016. Despite being convicted in the Pleasant Stay hotel case and TANSI land case in which she was sentenced one year of imprisonment, she came back in power again 2011.
“She is one of the strongest women we have seen in the political scenario in India. I used to be with her and had the opportunity to meet quite a few times personally. I was lucky to spend some time with her,” says Khushbu.
Sixty-year-old Rani, a house help and proud member of the AIADMK cadre, voice quivering with emotion, says,
I had joined the party when MGR was at the helm, but it was Amma who showed me how far a woman can go if she sets her mind to it.
Controversies in her life
In 2014, she was disqualified from holding office due to conviction in a disproportionate assets case for the first time in Indian history. She was sentenced for four years imprisonment and fined Rs 100 crore. However, she spent a few weeks in jail but was later acquitted by the Karnataka High Court and resumed office as CM on May 23, 2015.
She encountered heavy criticism for mishandling the Chennai floods in 2015 and was criticized for her photos on food packets stuck by her party members.
She has been under the radar because of her ailing health, but despite opposition raking the issue, she won the Assembly elections in 2016.
She was admitted to Apollo Hospital for her falling health on September 22. Unfortunately, on Dec 5th early morning , she got a massive heart attack and she was put on artificial life support systems but she breathed her last late night leaving millions of followers wailing. With the demise of Jayalalitha, probably one of the most charismatic leaders in Indian politics, an important era in Dravidian politics just ended.