Besides transforming a composite statecraft to monitor carving of people’s future towards better and higher zones of realisation, politics is an enterprise that touches people’s hearts and lives. Among the world’s eminent and acknowledged women politicians, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Benazir Bhutto were all elected leaders who strove tirelessly to get it right for their respective people. Each one of them, as individual proponent of her national political agenda and cause, was indomitably capable of overcoming obstacles, including male rivals who sought to outwit her in the game of chairs.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May continue that enterprise to the best of their abilities to govern people, notwithstanding relentless opposition from political opponents and vested interest groups to their policy format and action orientation. In contrast to the above pre-eminences, late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa headed the governance of a federal state apparatus in India. Yet in the final analysis, she was rightfully treated and acknowledged as an Indian national leader. This was visibly reflected in her funeral, which was attended by President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief ministers of nine states, Union ministers as well as Opposition leaders, including
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and DMK leaders helmed by M K Stalin himself.
Eminent film personalities such as Rajinikanth and Vyjayanthimala were also present. It, however, came as a surprise to many observers that none with a noticeable impact from the Mumbai film industry made their presence on the sombre occasion to bid farewell to an iconic figure in India’s cinematic ambit. Jayalalithaa, a multi-lingual star who epitomised grace and vibrancy in her acting, dancing and dialogue renditions, was equally at home in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada and English, a phenomenon rarely seen in the industry. Tributes even came her way from countries as varied as France, USA, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The entire ceremony, alongside endless streams of mourners with tears streaming down, paying their last respects to Amma, were telecast live on national television. Indeed, scenes ranging from slow motion carriageway of her final remains, whilst people walked in tandem, to final burial moments at the scenic Marina beach were grippingly watched across India. As desired by her, Jayalalithaa was laid to rest in proximity of her ‘life-coach and mentor’, M G Ramachandran (MGR), who preceded her as CM of Tamil Nadu from 1977 to 1987. That public peace was maintained on an even keel amply symbolised the efficacy and smoothness in processes. Both the State Police and State Administration adopted seamlessly to cope with the untimely passing away of the great leader of our times.
As political observers have candidly pointed out, the historic animosity between the two frontline parties in Tamil Nadu—the DMK and AIADMK—pushed the Congress literally out of contention from the state’s power-play. Initially, this repressed prospects of industrial and rural growth. Whenever power shifted between the two major parties, the tenor of growth stood negatively impacted.
During her third term as chief minister, Jayalalithaa sought certain structural amendments at the TN Global Investor’s Meet of September 2015. She decided to create fresh investment zones and new flows from outside for financing those. Her Vision Document 2023 had a transformative dimension as the four-time CM followed her own impulses to revitalise plans for infrastructure driven long-term economic and social development. Her policies were factored to “shore up private sector confidence through the Tamil Nadu Infrastructural Board with a statutory structure and funding ability”.
Quite decisively, Jayalalithaa had her finger on the pulse of change and growth. As a political entity throughout her long career, she paid due diligence to women’s security and education and priorities linked to the girl child and took viable initiatives in these critical areas. She crisscrossed many universes extraordinarily in her 68 years. Through each pathway, passages and phases she switched, hers was solemnly quite lonesome a world.
Jayalalithaa had intimate access only to a caring but busy mother in the initial phase of her life, and MGR in the later professional and political regimen. Following MGR’s death in 1987, Tamil people whom she loved and cared became Jayalalithaa’s abiding (if not generic) world of choice, and she would live for and eventually die for. India as a whole accordingly acknowledges the existential truth that Amma and her people had an inestimable synergy and compact, worthy of emulation, nationwide.
Mohan Das Menon
Former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat