Defying all the experts and most opinion polls, Jayalalitha has created history by winning the current Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. She is the only politician after her mentor M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) who has been voted back to power consecutively and it took the people of Tamil Nadu 32 years to put an end to the ‘yo-yo’ culture of elections where they voted for the two Dravidian parties alternatively. Jayalalitha’s victory is even bigger than MGR because he fought his last elections in 1984 from a hospital bed in USA and for a state where people literally worship their actors, there was definitely a sympathy wave for the man. But, this was not a case with Jayalalitha who was fighting anti-incumbency but in spite of that she recorded a historic win with the vote share of AIADMK going up to 41% from 38.40% in 2011.
The 2016 elections would have been a cake walk for Jayalalitha given the lack of credible opposition in the state and the decent work that she has done during her stint. However, the floods in Chennai and nearby areas gave a breather to the opposition who were looking for reasons to attack Amma’s otherwise good tenure. AIADMK and its supremo drew a lot of flak for poor management during the Chennai floods and people were visibly disappointed because of the lack of help from the government. Rubbing on to their wounds were the followers of Amma who in a sick and blatant display of sycophancy, pasted posters of CM on the flood relief material. DMK through its mouthpiece Sun TV hit out at Jayalalitha by playing the images of victims crying for help. Apart from the floods, closing of few industries, the rising debt were also issues plaguing her rule. So, how did she manage this feat?
“What does an old man know about his children? Only a mother knows what her children want?” said one of the supporters after Jayalalitha’s win. Though even at an age of 92, Karunanidhi won his home seat with a record margin of more than 68,000 votes, he couldn’t convince the voters outside that he is the best man to govern the state. Now Jayalalitha is also not in the best of her health but she seemed a better and a ‘young’ option when compared to the wheel chair bound Karunanidhi in his nineties. Many say that had the DMK, projected his son Stalin who was all out in the state campaigning, there were chances that they would have emerged as a formidable opposition. However, I believe that the cult which Jayalalitha enjoys and the charisma she has, Stalin could have never matched! Also, the taint of 2G and other corruption charges hasn’t peeled off yet.
Jayalalitha’s social welfare schemes were a runaway hit and contributed a lot to her victory. Out of the various schemes, Amma Ungavam (Canteen) were the most talked about. These canteens which serve Idli at ₹1, Sambhar Rice at ₹5 and Curd Rice at ₹3 were immensely popular among all sections of the society. From workers to students and corporate employees to women, they all lined up at the Ungavams. Apart from these, Amma Baby Kit, Amma Cement, Amma Seeds and Amma pharmacies also served as an icing on the cake. A lot of these schemes were targeted at the women who constitute about 2.1 crore of the population. From marriage assistance to four grams gold (which she has promised to raise to eight grams) and promising prohibition to scooty; she won the women vote easily.
Interestingly, Tamil Nadu for the first time witnessed a four party contest with DMDK and PMK also contesting and ideally, this would have made the elections even tougher. To be fair, even I was mighty impressed with the speeches of Captain’s wife and the comparatively young Ramadoss who was quite good as the Union Health Minister and was expecting that both parties will win some seats. However, both the parties lost miserably and couldn’t manage a single seat. What was surprising was that even Vijayakanth and Anbumani Ramadoss lost. This only helped the two Dravidian parties and the supposedly king-makers turned out to be paupers.
Jayalalitha is one of the most successful politicians in the country and her rise to power has been nothing but extraordinary. After the death of her mentor and AIADMK Chief MGR, the party was split into two with MGR’s wife Janaki becoming the Chief Minister for a short span and leading one fraction of the party. However, her government was dismissed by the Centre following a lot of drama and it saw the rise of Jayalalitha. For someone who shared a deeper and emotional bond with MGR, she was called a ‘prostitute’ while she stood near the dead body of his mentor continuously for 2 days. In 1989, DMK supporters pulled down her saree in the Tamil Nadu Assembly when a visibly upset Jayalalitha vowed to return to the Assembly as the Chief Minister which she did and that too more than once. She has fought many battles and the fighter in her has always emerged as a winner. She went to jail in the disproportionate assets case but returned back victorious after being acquitted by the Karnataka High Court. She has been the one who has truly carried forward the legacy of MGR and kept the party alive.
The cult and blind following which Jayalalitha enjoys is unmatched and not even our otherwise famous PM Narendra Modi enjoys it. Her journey from a film star to politician has been stunning. She has emerged as a mother figure (Amma) for the people of Tamil Nadu. She has done a lot of good work for the state and I am sure she will continue to do so. The reclusive and media shy Amma, addressed just 22 meetings in the last two months in the run up to elections. People say she cannot walk properly now which was visible when she came out to vote. Her new tenure will of course see less of her with the team driving the state affairs. But can it go on like this forever? Though it’s too early to say anything, it’s less likely that AIADMK will be back in 2021 given the double anti-incumbency it will be facing. Also, Amma’s health remains a concern. As a Jayalalitha fan, I would like her to retire gracefully and that too when she is in power and not when she is voted out by the people. But an important question is that who after her can drive the party?
All the best, Amma. Lots of good luck and best wishes from a fan!