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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 51 New Delhi December 10, 2016

Jayalalithaa Is No More

Sunday 11 December 2016, by SC



As we go to press, Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa Jayaram, 68, is no more. She passed away at Chennai’s Appolo Hospitals on Monday night (December 5). She was admitted there on September 22 with fever and dehydration, and breathed her last at 11.30 pm on December 5 after numerous complications in her condition followed by cardiac arrest on Sunday evening (December 4).

Jayalalithaa was a remarkable personality. A brilliant student, an accomplished film star, she entered politics under the influence of her mentor, one-time superstar and former Tamil Nadu CM M.G. Ramachandran. But she herself rose in politics after MGR’s demise and in fact had to fight every inch of her way, and in the process demolished the patriarchal mindset prevalent in the State’s politics.

None would dispute her administrative acumen or her excellent articulation in English, Tamil and even Hindi. (She was listened to with rapt attention whenever she spoke in the Rajya Sabha where she functioned as a vocal member in the 1980s, and she made a mark in the Upper House with her mature statements on such issues as atrocities on Tamils in Sri Lanka.) But it was her welfare politics alone that endeared her to the masses as the Tamil Nadu CM (and this helped her to overcome the negative features embodied in the serious charges of corruption against her for which she had to even undergo imprisonment) whose testimony is borne out by the extraordinary outpouring of grief among the common masses in Chennai after her departure. Her immense popularity was comparable with only that of her mentor, MGR. In this respect she was indeed a strikingly rare figure in the present political firmament in the country.

Meanwhile today marks a month since the PM announced demonetisation of high denomination currency. Although the avowed purpose was to fight corruption and black money and thereby break the backbone of terrorism, actually it is the working people who have had to bear the maximum burden of this measure and it is they—from construction workers to daily wage-earners—who have been worst hit everywhere. Howsoever much the PM seeks to reassure that this was a “temporary” hardship (“short-term pain”) for the public at large that would soon lead us to “long-term gains”, it needs to be stressed that the common people’s patience is fast wearing thin. Only the rulers at the Centre are unable to comprehend this.

As for Jayalalithaa, she is understood to have conveyed her support to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerji’s crusade against demonetisation, as Mamata herself pointed out after Jaya’s death. This too provides fresh evidence of her empathy for the common man (currently groaning under the consequences of the sudden withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes from the market).

December 8 S.C.

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