The one ‘man’ in Dravida maya, Bharat Ratna JJ — Kumar Chellappan


Tuesday, 06 December 2016 | Kumar Chellappan | Chennai

Just like late Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi was described as the only ‘man’ in her Cabinet, in the same way Jayaraman Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK leader and six-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is the apt person to be described as the one and only ‘man’ among the Dravidian politicians for whom women are decorative pieces.

Jayalalithaa, who was the numero uno in Tamil films was the undisputed empress in Tamil Nadu politics. She might have been introduced to politics by former Chief Minister and AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran, but she outclassed MGR and brought laurels for the party founded by him which the latter himself could not do.

This writer met Jayalalithaa for the first time in 1998 when most of her time was spent in the special courts in Chennai set up by the DMK Government led by M Karunanidhi. She was standing trial in nearly a dozen corruption charges filed against her by arch rival (or her eternal enemy?) Karunanidhi.

During 1998 to 2002 she fought all the cases except one with determination and courage. Though the special courts had convicted her in two cases, she fought it up to the apex court and came clean. One of the cases, the disproportionate asset case filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy turned out to be a game spoiler for Jayalalithaa’s dream run. But she came out of that case too with the Karnataka High Court setting aside and quashing the 2014 order of the Bangalore special court which had sentenced her to four years imprisonment and a fine of O. Panneerselvam100 crore. The appeal filed by Karnataka Government against the Karnataka High Court order is still pending in the Supreme Court.

Despite these setbacks, Jayalalithaa had always bounced back with vigour.  No one in Tamil Nadu had given her a chance in the 2001 Assembly election when returning officers rejected her nomination papers from all the four constituencies. There was no visible anti-incumbency factor against the then DMK Government led by M Karunanidhi. But when results were announced it was Jayalalithaa who had the last laugh. Karunanidhi is yet to understand the reason behind that defeat since there were no Kanimozhi, A Raja and the Maran Brothers to embarrass him at that time.

In 2004 Karunanidhi forged a rainbow alliance and decimated the AIADMK in the Lok Sabha election. Though he thought of repeating the feat in the 2006 Assembly election, he just scraped through and formed a minority Government which survived because of the outside support extended by the Congress. Things took a dramatic turn by 2011 when Jayalalithaa walked all over the Karunanidhi clan obliterating the DMK. She repeated the feat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and 2016 Assembly election, becoming the first Chief Minister after MGR, her mentor, to win two successive Assembly elections.

What made this lady different from others? Jaya stood out  from the conventional politicians in Tamil Nadu because of her power to grasp any topic under the Sun and speak with articulation on anything. When she entered politics, everything was against her. The Dravidians were notorious for their male chauvinism. She was kicked down from the cortege carrying the dead body of MGR by the latter’s nephew. “But the people of Tamil Nadu took me in their arms. I did not let them down,” said Jayalalithaa in one of her interviews. While she emerged as the Iron Lady of Tamil Nadu politics, the man who kicked her down from the cortege just disappeared from the scene.

For the people of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa was Amma (Tamil for mother). And she did not let them down. The series of welfare measures launched by Jayalalithaa for the poorer sections of society under the brand name Amma remain unparalleled in Indian politics. No other State in the country serve sumptuous breakfast, lunch and dinner each for Rs5. The Pioneer was the first daily to report that the Amma Restaurants would be the game changer in Tamil Nadu politics and later events proved it right.

In a Dravidian society, which swears by rationalism and hatred for Brahmins, Jayalalithaa, a strong believer in God as well as in equal opportunity for all, strode like a colossus. Every year during the Sabarimala season, more than a crore Dravidian devotees make it to the holy shrine of Lord Ayyappa seeking salvation from the Dravidian Maya.. That is Jayalalithaa’s main contribution.. She commanded unprecedented loyalty from the party members and activists. It is a treat to the eyes to watch tough looking leaders prostrating before Amma seeking her blessing and kindness.

The AIADMK may not be the same without Jayalalithaa.. But Tamil Nadu has changed, changed for the better because of this Revolutionary Leader who deserves a Bharat Ratna more than anybody else in South India.


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